DENVER — Excuses are like Get Out of Jail Free cards. We all get one a year, and they come in handy when we need to save our jobs.
Sound a little backwards? Not to the Denver Nuggets.
It’s the policy they’ve been practicing for about a decade when it comes to dealing with George Karl, whose been paid more than his fair share of Monopoly money to never take the Nuggets past Go.
After nine years, the picture is becoming clearer: The Nuggets have been duped by a capable Casanova masquerading as a cunning coach.
When Karl came to the rescue in the middle of the 2004-2005 season and resurrected the team’s playoff chances, the Nuggets fell hard and fast. When he beat cancer a year after leading the team to the Conference Finals, the Nuggets’ fell in love with their sympathetic skipper all over again. When the rest of the league was fighting to acquire superstars, Karl fought for the little guy and said he could win playing team basketball.
How could you not love that?
Like Casanova, who eventually spurned everyone who gave him the opportunity to do so, Karl has slowly and aptly pulled the wool over the Nuggets eyes. If only he had proven to be as skilled at doing the same to opposing coaches.
Like Karl’s four NBA exes, all of whom have been emotional wrecks since breaking it off with their star-crossed lover, it’s time the Nuggets got a dose of reality: No coach in the NBA has lost more playoff games or made more excuses in the past nine years than Karl.
And that’s why you fire Karl — not because of this past season or the 92-88 loss to the Golden State Warriors that ended it Thursday night, but because of the past nine seasons.
Nine seasons is longer than any other NBA team has given Karl, and he’s accomplished less in Denver than he has anywhere else.
Karl came to our city with a .500 record in the playoffs, having gone 65-67 over the course of an impressive career. As the head coach in Denver, he has accrued a .355 playoff record, having gone 21-38 over a less-impressive tenure.
If not great, Karl was solid in winning eight playoff series over the course of seven years with the Seattle Supersonics. Winning two playoffs series over the course of six seasons spent exhuming the Milwaukee Bucks wasn’t too shabby either.
In Denver, it has taken Karl nine years to win the same amount of playoffs series as he did in Milwaukee. And these Nuggets are hardly those Bucks.
In fact, the Nuggets have remade their franchise to Karl’s liking almost every year.
After Karl’s first full season in 2005-2006, the Nuggets all but gave him free reign in terms of personnel decisions when they fired general manager Kiki Vandeweghe and didn’t replace him with a legitimate GM for about four years.
When Karl decided he wanted a second superstar, the Nuggets got him Allen Iverson. When he decided Iverson wasn’t a team-first guy, the Nuggets replaced him with Chauncey Billups, one of the NBA’s most selfless stars.
When Karl determined his relationship with Carmelo Anthony — and the small forward’s commitment defense — were deteriorating, the Nuggets engineered a trade that got him the young, hard-working core of players he’d always wanted. When Karl told the Nuggets not to mess with that core, they didn’t
So when the Nuggets asked Karl to win a few playoff series — you know, in return for the lengths the team had gone to accommodate him, what was his response?
Don’t be unreasonable.
In 2006, the third-seeded Nuggets were obviously upset by the Clippers because Karl didn’t have his guys on the roster yet. In 2007 and 2008, it was clear the Nuggets were beaten in the first round because the teams they played (the Spurs and Lakers) ended up in the NBA Finals. In 2009, it would have taken nothing short of a miracle for the Nuggets to down an even better Lakers team in the Conference Finals.
Plus, the Nuggets got to the Conference Finals in 2009. I mean, what else can you really ask for?
In 2010, there was no doubt Nuggets were upset by the Jazz in the first round because Karl was battling throat cancer. In 2011, the Nuggets fell to the Thunder in the first round because the they had the superstars that Denver didn’t (that was the year of the Anthony trade — duh). In 2012, the Nuggets were too young to beat the seasoned Lakers in the first round — double duh.
This year’s slew of postseason press conferences will feature some doozies, as well. But after nine seasons, Karl’s excuses are finally becoming less believable.
Um … well, we lost this year because we didn’t have Danilo Gallinari, our best 6-foot-10 player. And All-star forward David Lee, who the Warriors also lost for the series due to injury, would be considered what to the Golden State?
Yeah … but our fans didn’t show up the way Golden State’s did. Are you referring to the same Denver fans who helped the Nuggets to the best home record in basketball?
Okay … you want to know the real reason we lost? We were out-played! So then why would Andre Miller, who you have has consistently called the smartest player of this Nuggets team, also add that you were “out-coached?”
No hard feelings, George. If anything, this year was a nice swan song.
You proved an NBA team can win in the regular season without a superstar. But you also proved no NBA team can win in the playoffs without a halfcourt offense and no ability to defend the pick and role.
There have been some great times over the course of the last nine years spent stuck on Fleet Street — respectable property by anyone’s definition. But if the Nuggets have Park Place aspirations, the love affair between Karl and this team needs to become just that — fleeting.