NBA Sunday: What’s Wrong With The Nuggets?
Entering the season, the Denver Nuggets were overwhelmingly favored to be one of the top three teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. However, through the club’s first 10 games, the team has only shown brief glimpses of being an elite-caliber team.
The Nuggets suffered a 20-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, their third-straight defeat, prompting head coach George Karl to imply the team is playing immaturely as of late.
“We’re searching, searching on both ends of the court, but I think San Antonio could have beaten almost everyone in the league tonight,” Karl said to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. “We were playing recovery all night long. But I don’t think it’s time to get crazy. We just need to find our confidence, play more serious, take each possession with a stronger attitude. We’re playing a little immature.”
At 4-6, the Nuggets currently sit 12th in the Western Conference standings. If the playoffs were to start today, the franchise would be on the outside looking in for the first time since 2003.
Fifth-year forward Danilo Gallinari has placed the team’s lackluster play squarely on the defensive side of the ball. The Nuggets have been routinely scorched on the perimeter, ranking as the league’s fifth-worst team in allowing opponent’s three-point field goals.
“We have to get back to playing Nuggets basketball, especially on defense,” Gallinari said. “When we play good defense and outrebound teams, we usually win.”
The other area, of course, is offensive execution. Three Nuggets who average more than 10 shot attempts per contest are currently shooting below forty percent from the floor – Ty Lawson (38 percent), Corey Brewer (38 percent) and Gallinari (34 percent).
Lawson, who recently inked a four-year extension with the franchise, admitted he’s still trying to find his rhythm on the court. Lawson is averaging a career-high 3.1 turnovers and his scoring is down significantly from last season.
“I just need to attack more. I slowed down a little bit,” Lawson said. “I’m just trying to find my rhythm.”
Denver is also playing without injured forward Wilson Chandler (hip) who was expected to play a key role in Karl’s nightly rotation this season.
The schedule for the reeling Nuggets doesn’t get any lighter over the next week with road games against the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves on the docket. The team will end the month on another road swing with contests against the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
Hakim Warrick Wanted Buyout From Hornets
The New Orleans Hornets recently shipped veteran forward Hakim Warrick to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for forward Matt Carroll. The Hornets acquired Warrick from the Phoenix Suns in the deal that also netted the team center Robin Lopez and a second-round pick (2014).
According to sources close to the situation, Warrick’s camp had been working on securing a buyout for the veteran over the past couple months so the forward could choose his next career destination. However, they couldn’t come to a separation agreement with the Hornets.
Warrick is set to earn $4 million this season, with a team option for the 2014 season.
From the beginning, it appeared Warrick didn’t fit Hornets head coach Monty Williams’ preferred style of play. After the Hornets’ preseason loss to Atlanta, Williams told HOOPSWORLD that Warrick needed to learn to play the team’s style.
“He has to keep working,” Williams said to HOOPSWORLD of Warrick back in October. “He has to keep working at it and he’s got to play the way that we play.”
Warrick has appeared in one game with the Bobcats, playing ten minutes while scoring five points and pulling down four rebounds.
Sacramento Kings Searching For Leadership
Sometimes a team’s struggle goes outside the nightly box score. For the Sacramento Kings, the struggle to start the season appears to be driven by a lack of locker room leadership rather than a lack of talent on the roster.
Following the team’s double-digit loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, veteran forward John Salmons called a players-only meeting to work out any underlying issues. The Kings have lost their last four contests by a combined 57 points and Salmons didn’t want things to spiral completely out of control.
“It’s still early,” Salmons said to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “We haven’t been winning games like we want to, so I just wanted to [meet as players] before it got too out of control, bring the team together and try to work some things out.”
It’s clear that Kings head coach Keith Smart is searching for an on-court leader to emerge for the team this season.
“I’m the number one leader on our team, but I can’t play,” Smart said. “I can’t be on the floor and do things. I still control the minutes and how [much] they play. And I think our guys still have an understanding of where we’re trying to go.”
“Kevin Garnett, he polices Boston,” Smart added. “Kobe [Bryant] obviously polices the Lakers. The leadership is there. Now the … right guys have to lead. Sometimes, you want your best players to be leaders and they’re just not there. But we still have a lot of guys with leadership qualities on our team.”
We will learn a lot about the Kings over the next seven games. The squad plays Brooklyn, Los Angeles (Lakers), Utah (twice), Minnesota, Indiana and Los Angeles (Clippers).
Quick Notes From Around The League
- According to an ESPN report, All-Star center Andrew Bynum may have suffered additional injury to his problematic knees while bowling. The Philadelphia 76ers have started the season 5-4 without him in the lineup.
- The Memphis Grizzlies are the league’s best team at 8-1 and the hottest as winners of eight consecutive games. Oklahoma City, Miami and New York have all been handed defeats at the hands of the Grizzlies.