NBA At 2: Most Underrated Coach?
Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl made an interesting comment in the proceedings following, saying that if the Carmelo Anthony trade hadn’t gone down he likely would have waited until this summer to agree to the extension he has sought for some time.
I have to give a shout out to Mac & Doog on Mile High Sports in Denver. I’ve been doing their drive time radio show weekly for more than a year, and yesterday they had a line of questions that led to what you’re about to read.
I have a great deal of respect for George Karl, and absolutely believe is one of the top coaches in the league all-time. Like Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman, he lacks championship hardware, but sustained excellence also has to be a measure of a great coach and Karl absolutely demonstrates that excellence. He posted three 60+ win seasons as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, posted four winning seasons in five with the Milwaukee Bucks, and is building on three straight 50+ win seasons at the helm of the Nuggets, who were in the Western Conference Finals two years ago and might have made it back last season had Karl not been sidelined with cancer.
Unlike some prominent head coaches . . .well, one, in particular . . .Karl doesn’t get going when the going gets tough. Phil Jackson did a masterful job of ringing up championships while Michael Jordan was at the top of his game, then conveniently retired with his star, and didn’t come back to the NBA until he had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on his side. It’s a nice gig if you can get it, but George Karl has never been offered such a stable of Hall-Of-Fame talent. Great players, yes, but never the legends Jackson has had on his side.
Now, as the Nuggets prepare to enter what many thought would be a dark time in their franchise’s history, Karl is as optimistic as ever, and his team is already surprising people.
"It seems like the spirit of everything is moving in a very positive way for me," Karl told Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post. "And also, it’s kind of closure on a bad year, and hopefully starting into a great year and a great run. I thank the Kroenkes, Stan and Josh. Coaches don’t usually get two chapters. But the Melo chapter had a lot of excellent basketball, a lot of good wins. And now everybody is happy with the newness of what is happening."
Much like Sloan, Karl is an old-school coach. He’s not as gruff and grumpy as Sloan, but he does believe every player needs to be pushed. Great coaches push their players – even the great ones – to get better every day. Karl pushed Gary Payton, to the point of having legendary run-ins with his former All-Star floor leader, and Payton emerged as a better player as a result of the fights. Unfortunately, in Carmelo Anthony, Karl was up against a new breed of player, a breed that has a sense of entitlement and doesn’t respond well to being called out. Karl wanted Anthony to be a super star, not just an All-Star. He wanted Anthony to use his amazing gifts to become a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court, but instead Anthony cared little for the defense end and focused on being an elite scorer. We’ve already heard rumbles of discontent from the New York media about Anthony’s lack of defensive presence . . .they must not have watched many Nuggets games.
Not only is Karl not walking away from his team in their hour of need, he’s excited about the new direction and can’t wait to see how his new young charges will grow together.
"I think I have no problem with our team right now," said Karl. "I think we know the challenges and we have a respect for the challenge. We know that (whether it’s) Houston, Phoenix, there are going to be 2, 3 good teams not make the playoffs this year. I thought in the past sometimes we didn’t respect the challenge. And because of that, we’d get beat by a team we didn’t respect. … I hope everybody doesn’t think we’re going to be any good because I’m pretty confident we’re going to be (darn) good."
That’s George Karl, cancer survivor, who doesn’t back down from any challenge . . .truly one of the best coaches today and in NBA history. The Nuggets are lucky to have him, and fortunately . . .they know it.
Up Close: Roy Hibbert
The Indiana Pacers turned their season around in impressive fashion when Frank Vogel took over as head coach, and center Roy Hibbert is the focus of much of the team’s new offensive gameplan. He talks with HOOPSWORLD about why Vogel is the right man for the job, how the gameplan has changed, Darren Collison’s growth as a point guard, why he believes the Pacers can turn things around and do more than just make the playoffs, but make some noise once they get there:
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This Summer’s Top Free Agent?
These days it seems the national media is so caught up in looking at the distant future that they sometimes miss the bigger story that’s right over the horizon. Amidst all the talk of what players like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul might do in 2012, there is one big name looming this summer who’s being largely overlooked.
Zach Randolph has been the driving force behind the resurgence of the Memphis Grizzlies over the last two seasons. His arrival in Memphis helped head coach Lionel Hollins push the team from 24 wins the previous season to 40 last year, and with Randolph averaging a very typical 20.2 points and 12.8 rebounds this year the team is closing in on their first playoff berth since Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Randolph is currently eligible for a contract extension, and while some are saying he’s "upset" about not being offered said extension, that’s really not the case. In an extensive conversation with HOOPSWORLD Randolph recently took a very matter-of-fact approach to the question, saying he didn’t take it personally. The truth is, the Grizzlies are only hurting themselves by not locking Randolph in long-term now, before the inevitable bidding war begins.
The first team in line for Randolph’s services should be the Houston Rockets, who will move Yao Ming off of their cap this summer and have plenty of room to offer Randolph a huge long-term deal under the terms of the new CBA. Houston has been after every single big-name free agent to come along for the last two years and Randolph will be no exception. He brings precisely the front court presence the Rockets have lacked, and he would be an instant fan favorite. Do the cash-strapped Grizzlies really want to get into a bidding war with teams like Houston, who have money to burn?
Rudy Gay is The Man in Memphis. The Grizzlies made that clear when they signed him to a hefty five-year contract without even letting him test the waters of restricted free agency. As good as Gay is, however, he was never able to get the team as far as Randolph has taken them, and right now they’re playing their best ball of the season with Gay on the sidelines and Randolph carrying the load.
Does anyone really think Randolph is all that concerned about not getting an extension from Memphis? He’ll be the most coveted free agent on the market this summer, and the Grizzlies will be in a world of hurt if they lose him.
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