Whether it’s youth, the selflessness of the players, or a collection of unique talents, George Karl – as he usually does – has made his team dominant to the tune of third best (51-24) in the Western Conference.
Karl may not have a superstar to rely on as he once did, but maybe he prefers it that way. Here’s what he had to say about the opportunity to coach such a willing bunch, from Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
“In the NBA, the amount of misery has been minimalized with this basketball team,” Karl said, grinning. “And it’s been fun from the standpoint that this is probably as coachable a bunch of guys as I’ve been around. They’re young, and for the most part they want to learn. They’re hungry to learn, and we’ve had success that says they are learning. So everything has kind of a win-win philosophy to it.”
“Coaching Gary and Shawn through their youthful days was a test, was an interesting experience,” Karl said. “I think the whole process of the (Carmelo Anthony) trade and coming back from cancer and all those years … it’s been 2½, three years now. Just how I work with (Nuggets general manager) Masai (Ujiri), how my staff works, how we’ve changed the philosophy of I’m not a dominating coach in practice.
“I’m basically only dominating in games. It seems like it’s working as well or better than it did before. Hopefully, it will continue.”
Andre Miller shared his perspective on what Karl has done and why it has been easy for the coach to teach the current group he has, despite the youth:
Veteran guard Andre Miller has observed Karl for years, and is in his second stint playing for him.
“He’s still out there trying to teach the young guys. This is one of the younger teams in the NBA, so you have to do a little more teaching than you have to do when I was here before,” Miller said. “You had a lot of talent here (then), and you just played on talent and just fast break. But we’re doing the same thing. I think it’s more of an unselfish team, unselfish atmosphere and I think that makes things a little bit easier for him.
“It’s always easier when a coach doesn’t have to deal with a lot of big-time, heavy egos, attitude issues and stuff like that. I don’t think we have that on this team.”
Apparently, Miller didn’t love his first stint with the team, when he played alongside Carmelo Anthony for three seasons. It sure sounds that way when he mentions having talent on the team in the past, while emphasizing “unselfish team”, “unselfish atmosphere” and “heavy egos” to describe what once was and what currently is. Simply put, he thinks the team is easier to manage without Anthony getting in the way of things with his need to score and his tendency to pay less attention to details on the defensive end.
Whatever the case may be (in terms of how they feel about the past), both Miller and Karl have made their mark on this promising team with experience and leadership. Their only issue now?
They are an amazing 33-3 at home, but remain the only top-five team in the West to have a losing record of 18-21 on the road. This will obviously be an issue if they can advance in the playoffs, as they will lose homecourt advantage, and that’s assuming they will maintain their position as the third seed. If the Nuggets want to truly prove that they can be a successful team in the postseason without the help of a star, they’ll have to figure out how to be more consistent away from home.
Onto other news from around the league: