Karl Has High Hopes for Denver Nuggets
By EDDIE PELLS, AP Sports Writer
Monday, October 3, 2005
If the Denver Nuggets were good during George Karl's late run with them last season, imagine what they might do if he really gets a chance to coach them.
Karl opens his first training camp with the Nuggets on Tuesday and, with the memories of last season's 32-8 finish still fresh, he isn't shirking from the expectations that have naturally come Denver's way.
"This team is an extremely good basketball team," Karl said Monday.
The Nuggets enter training camp with essentially the same group that exited the playoffs last season with a 4-1 first-round defeat to San Antonio, the eventual champion.
Carmelo Anthony has lost 10 more pounds and looks to be in the best shape of his basketball-playing life. Power forward Nene also got in better shape and Kenyon Martin had knee surgery that should allow him to play pain free.
Denver added point guard Earl Watson, but he was the only major move for a team that finished 49-33 last season and turned things around when Karl took over as the permanent replacement for Jeff Bzdelik in midseason.
Karl said the Nuggets' fast finish earned them the right to come back with the same group, something both he and the players wanted.
So, flirtations with Nick Van Exel, Latrell Sprewell, a trade rumor about Paul Pierce and many other possibilities came and went.
"If you're not sure it's going to make us better, don't do it," Karl said. "That's the way most of the things that came over the table looked to me."
Still, as the Spurs showed the Nuggets in the playoffs last year, there is a gap between them and the league's elite. Even Karl conceded that, acknowledging Phoenix and San Antonio were at the top and the Nuggets were in a group of three or four teams still trying to get there.
Karl isn't shy about expressing them.
He wants to win a division title and feels the Northwest — with Seattle, Minnesota, Utah and Portland — is ripe to be won.
He wants to win a playoff series and he told the Nuggets on Monday that real playoff teams are the ones who advance in the playoffs, not simply get there.
And he has bigger goals.
"Fortunately, we have a depth of pool of talent that if we do some things right, we might be able to win a world championship," Karl said.
Aside from one trip to the ABA finals and a few more solid years from 1975-85, the Nuggets have never seriously thought about or contended for the world championship. Longtime followers of the Nuggets must have found it odd Monday hearing Karl talk about the team in a way few have ever talked about it before.
But the coach isn't kidding.
He is in his fifth NBA job. He is coming off an offseason scare — prostate cancer that was detected and treated. He says he's feeling fine and now, he has the team that could finally get him the title that has long eluded him.
"There are always roadblocks and always ways for teams to stub their toes and falter," Karl said. "But I think this team's in a really good place. The coaching staff is in a really good place. We're excited and energized. We have the possibility to move into the upper echelon."
Last edited by Eddy from Austin; 10-04-05 at 12:45 PM.
speaking of karl and the nuggets, i was watching the 1994 first round matchup, game five, nuggets @ sonics. that had to be frustrating for him. he's a better regular season coach than playoff coach. not saying he's bad, his teams beat some monsters in the 90's, 93 rockets (55 wins), 96 jazz (55 wins), the ummm, actually those were the only two 50+ game winning teams karl's sonics beat. never mind.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein - US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)
Here's picking the Spurs all the way
BY DAVID RAMSEY
DENVER - (KRT) - George Karl offered one of his signature smirks, the kind he flashes before saying something mischievous.
He was talking about the ridiculously blessed San Antonio Spurs. He has a plot, a strange one, to conquer the champs.
Here's my wild prediction for the upcoming NBA season: The Spurs will repeat as champs, and the Denver Nuggets, along with every other NBA franchise, can only hope for second place.
There. Add me to the list of millions of sports realists.
Karl, though, was smirking. A good coach never is bothered by reality.
"You know, I'm just hoping they have too many good players," Karl said as he surveyed the court a few minutes after the Nuggets' first practice.
"That can happen. You can fill up the bottle too much."
He has a point. Remember, the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers - crammed with Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton - roared into the season as an absolute lock to win the title.
One problem. The game is played with one ball, and the squabbling Lakers, more a corporation than a team, stumbled to a loss in the NBA Finals.
Still, there's an obstacle to Karl's hopes for the Spurs. The obstacle is named Gregg Popovich.
With Pop, as he's known to friends and enemies, running the show with his ferocious yelling and sinister stares, it's unlikely the Spurs will tumble to their doom because of squabbling.
Popovich, a graduate of Air Force Academy, reigns as unquestioned emperor of the Spurs and is blessed with center Tim Duncan, who doubles as the planet's best player and the best teammate. A nice combination.
The Spurs boast the best coaching, the best talent, the best chemistry and the best fans. Sorry, George, but that's a tough combination to conquer.
Sure, Denver has reason to dream big. The Nuggets won 25 of their last 29 regular-season games. Carmelo Anthony has dumped weight and gained wisdom. Kenyon Martin swears his aching left knee is sound.
Under Karl's smooth, expert direction, Denver could win 60 games and climb to its highest heights since the franchise's birth.
"I feel that the goal of the first 50 games is to establish that last season was no fluke," Karl said. "After that, the goal is to get to the top."
The first goal is reasonable. The second goal isn't.
Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe declined to risk the big gamble that might have pushed Denver past the mighty Spurs.
During last season's playoffs, San Antonio exposed the Denver's fatal weakness. The Nuggets are jammed with fast, physical players who can defend, rebound and play with the roaring intensity Karl demands.
The Spurs wasted them anyway. They surrounded Anthony, and the Nuggets sputtered.
Denver desperately needed a second scorer, preferably an outside shooter, to relieve the burden on Anthony. Problem is, the Nuggets still desperately need a second scorer.
Vandeweghe believes he filled the Nuggets gaping hole by re-signing Voshon Lenard. He thinks Lenard, who's 32 and coming off surgery to his Achilles' tendon, can sizzle defenses.
Lenard, the silent type, conducted a rare interview Tuesday. His headband, as always, was pulled crooked on his bald head.
"You know what I can do when I'm healthy," Lenard said.
We know. That's the problem.
Even when he's healthy, Lenard is a one-dimensional, no big-deal player. He's a superb 3-point shooter, and that's it.
The ball dies in his hands, and he couldn't have solved the Nuggets' problems five years ago, when he offered fresh legs.
He's not the answer, not even close, but give Lenard credit. He does have the correct goal for the season.
Avoid meeting the Spurs in the playoffs, he said with a slight smile.
© 2005, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Whatcha gonna do when Huxamania runs wild on you?!!
Last edited by mg06; 10-04-05 at 08:37 PM.
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