George Karl’s Denver Nuggets won 57 games last season. Shortly thereafter, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year. And not long after that, he was fired, speeding the usual timetable for such doom by at least a year during a spring when 50-plus game winners Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro also were fired.
ESPN has hired Karl, who in a recent teleconference call previewing the season discussed a wide range of topics. Here are five pertinent questions the network’s new commentator was asked and answered:
Q: As you well know, there are 13 new coaches this season. What’s behind all these changes?
A: When you have three coaches that won 57, 56, 56 get dismissed and move on, it’s just difficult to understand. You have nine new coaches that have never coached an NBA game. And I’m not saying that there’s not nine qualified assistant coaches that couldn’t have become good head coaches. But I just think the whole puzzle right now, it’s too much. It’s too much change.
I can’t deny there’s a lot of coaches, including myself, that are trying to understand why this is happening.
Q: Is this the year the Clippers finally own L.A.?
A: They’re the celebration of L.A. right now, and they deserve to be. That organization for most the last 20 years has been maligned for doing not very much or anything at all. They went out this summer and probably knocked a grand slam. Their team has energy and karma right now.
But people forget: They won 16 games in a row, didn’t lose a game in the month of December last year. Everybody thought they were there last year. But they’re a young team as far as winning in the playoffs. Whatever they do in the regular season, they’re going to be graded on how they perform in the playoffs.
Q: You coached him in Denver: What about Golden State adding Andre Iguodala?
A: There’s probably not a better team for Andre than Golden State as far as his personality. Andre loves a team to play as a team. The only thing he has had problems with in his career was when teams wanted him to score 20 points. Golden State doesn’t need to him score 20 points. They need him to do everything that he does at a high level.
I like Golden State a lot. Their room for growth is out of sight. I think Golden State is going to be playing for home-court advantage come April.
Q: What must OKC do to get back to the NBA Finals?
A: My big thing is [Russell] Westbrook’s health. They haven’t replaced [James) Harden and Harden has probably become the No. 1 playmaker and they miss the playmaker that makes the team happen. I wish they would win more games because they were a team rather than just so much offensive talent with Durant or Westbrook or the three ball. They don’t win enough games playing as a unit, with unity and harmony.
Q: Can Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio lead the Wolves to the playoffs?
A: They’re one of the more interesting teams this year. I love how Coach Adelman gets his team to play as a team. Their offensive efficiency will be good. I know that because that’s what he’s done everywhere he has been. The question to me is defense. Will the defense get to the point where they can win games? I don’t think they’re going to become the Chicago Bulls, but they have to have more of a defensive dimension and attitude so when they’re not making shots, they go out and get dirty and tough-minded and win a game by making stops …
I think they can make the playoffs at 45, 50 wins. I think they’re talented enough to do that. But it is going to be an incredible fight for those last couple of spots in the Western Conference.
NBA Short Takes
A debut to remember
So if this is what tanking for Andrew Wiggins looks like …
Philadelphia rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams made an unforgettable NBA debut in Wednesday’s stunning upset that ended mighty Miami’s 15-game regular-season winning streak.
Here’s what the No. 11 pick in last summer’s draft did by the numbers with a performance that approached an incomprehensible quadruple-double:
• 22 points: Most by a 76ers player in his first NBA game since Allen Iverson scored 30 against Milwaukee in November 1996.
• 12 assists: Second most by a player in his first NBA game, behind only Buffalo’s Ernie DiGregorio’s 14 in 1973-74.
• Nine steals: A record for an NBA debut. They also tied a franchise record held.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to start your NBA career,” Heat superstar LeBron James told reporters afterward.
You’re not at Butler anymore
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens officially graduated from college to the NBA with Wednesday’s season-opening loss at Toronto, which will be the first of many in a transition that he contractually has six years to make.
“Believe me, Brad Stevens is a smart guy,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “He’ll learn the NBA coming from college. It took me a while to learn the difference coming from assistant coach in college to the pros. It seems like 30 years ago, but you do learn the nuances and the personality of the NBA. If you’re a college coach and you have time, you’ll figure it out.”
You heard it here first, folks (OK, well maybe not). Charles Barkley on the season ahead: “Paul George is the next big superstar in the NBA.”
Wolves Week Ahead
Sunday: at New York, 6:30 p.m. (FSN+)
Monday: at Cleveland, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Wednesday: vs. Golden State, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Friday: vs. Dallas, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
The NBA’s next great point guard teamed with Kevin Love and both went old school in a soft drink commercial featuring Irving’s “Uncle Drew” character and Love’s “Wes.” But they’ll oppose each other Monday in Cleveland.
"It’s kind of crazy. i would think he’d be coaching." — Wolves forward Corey Brewer on his coach in Denver last season, fired 57-game winner and Coach of the Year George Karl.