So I'm perusing PtR during lunch today, as is my wont this July, and I run across this article, courtesy of dfjmed. My immediate thought was that this move would end badly. But, it's the Clippers - of course it'll end badly. It's what Sterling and Dunleavy do. They are the NBA version of Major Kong - the only question is how big the explosion will be.
The theme of this NBA offseason has been the rich getting richer: Lakers sign Artest, Celtics win the Sheed sweepstakes, Cavs trade for Shaq, Magic getting Vinc Carte, and the move that started the arms race, the Spurs' trade for RJ. Despite what experts might think of these moves, at least fans of these teams know their front office made an effort to improve the roster.
Tangent Land: Here are some musical selections (Parliament and Rage) to help ease your trip through my ramblings.
That brings me to the discussion item of the day:
Disclaimer: This is a critique of Karl's coaching ability only and not of the person. I don't know this man. He's seems to have a great relationship with his kid, Coby. He has handled his cancer surgery and treatment with aplomb. He does local PSAs about Shaken Baby Syndrome. And yes, I know he played for the Spurs during his NBA career. But let's be real here, folks, the man is NOT a good coach.
Since I live in Denver, I've had the privilege of watching this man work the sidelines since January 2005. However, until this last year, I didn't realize how mediocre he'd become. He's had previous stints at Seattle (RIP) and Milwaukee, where he had success. He's a coach who (supposedly) preaches defense and bleeds North Carolina Blue. Yet, he was also at the helm of one of the biggest upsets in NBA history.
This led to one of the most indelible images of the NBA in the last 20 years, so I'm not complaining. Plus, it gave more media attention to Dikembe Mutombo, who has the second greatest voice of all times behind this man, the great James Earl Jones.
These Sonics were 63-19 in the regular season and universally regarded as one of the favorites to win the championship. Granted, this was in the midst of the Jordan years, but that stacked mid-90s team with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton only made it to the NBA Finals once. What does that say about the coaching. Sorry to pour salt on the wound, Sonics fans. May the FSM hold Stern accountable for that craptacular mess.
We'll skip over the Milwaukee years because, seriously, who wouldn't.
Now, we're in Denver. Although the weather is FANTASTIC, the Denver Nuggets have ranged from average to crappy throughout their history. (Side note: Nate and other Nuggets fans, feel free to rebut in the comments.) There have been some exciting players (David Thompson, the Skywalker), and the Doug Moe teams of the 80s with those exquisite rainbow uniforms, but overall, they haven't done shit (3 conference finals in the last 30 years). Karl is hired, mostly because Kroenke likes him, Vandeweghe doesn't know any better, and retreads are a way of life in the NBA. The team starts making the playoffs, but gets booted in the first round every year, several times by our beloved Spurs. The defense Karl supposedly preaches is NEVER on display and then the Nuggets trade for Allen Iverson in December 2006, with Karl's blessing. Because teaming Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, two players who need numerous touches and want to be Da Man, is soooooo gonna work.
Tangent Land: I remember this trade distinctly, since we were in the midst of numerous snowstorms that crippled the city for over a month. Residential streets in Denver had ice up to a foot thick and Iverson didn't get to his first Nuggets game due to the weather. (Happy now, rikiddo?)
As it becomes more apparent that Karl is not performing like he should, the infamous FireGeorgeKarl.com site comes online and creates a shitstorm, complete with lawyers. It becomes DenverStiffs.com, based upon the legendary Doug Moe quote that the franchise has been full of "stiffs" for over 30 years. Blair Rasmussen, anyone? Even Nuggets fans, who are used to mediocrity, were calling for Karl's firing!
Which brings us to the 2009 WCF. I, like all Spurs fans, really dislike the Lakers. I was hoping that the Nuggets could prevent Kobe from getting another ring, because if we're all being honest, once the Celtics lost, we all knew the WC rep was going to win the chip this year. When the Nuggets almost won Game 1, I thought they had a chance to win the series. But noooooo, apparently Karl doesn't even bother to draw up an inbounds play. Seriously, it's the PLAYOFFS! AGAINST THE LAKERS! AND YOU DON'T HAVE AN INBOUNDS PLAY?
So even though Chauncey punks Kobe with an off-the-back pass, you play him so much during the playoffs, that the only non-knucklehead on your roster loses steam towards the end of the series. You then get totally embarrassed in Game 6, to the tune of 119-92, AT HOME. You couldn't motivate your guys to win at home? REALLY?
So, your front office pulls off a coup, trading AI for a floor general like Chauncey, so you don't have to coach, and you screw it up by not having the most basic of plays - the inbounds. Even my limited experience, dating back to 5th grade girls basketball, shows that no inbounds plays means individuals running around like Mike the Headless Chicken!
Where does that leave us? Hopefully, with an appreciation for what Pop has wrought over the years. Although we all have questioned some of his lineups, at least we all know that his goal is to win. Nothing else matters. What other coach would have an All-Star caliber player like Manu come off the bench? What other coach would bench his best 3 players in a meaningless December game because only the playoffs matter? What other coach (and Front Office) would mold his team to match Timmeh, because he realizes that as Timmeh goes, so go the Spurs? What other coach would think to start Bonner? (Okay, that last question was totally to address the "What's Pop drinking?" comments and to solicate wine recommendations.)
So, as I've examined the coaching situation in Denver, I feel blessed that I'm a fan of a such a great team. This is an organization that is committed to winning (Thank you, Mr. Holt, for opening the purse strings this offseason. I'll be buying some more T-shirts now.) and for that, I'm grateful. It's nice to know that the fans and the coach have the same goal - to win a championship! Now begins the Summer of Hope. 5 in 10!