Can Karl’s Nuggets Run To Glory?

HANG TIME, Texas — Break out the oxygen tanks for the thin air in Denver. Start ironing the extra rubber onto the soles of those sneakers.

George Karl wants the Nuggets to run. And run and run and run.

Does anybody have leftover programs and posters from when the nutty professor Paul Westhead tried that route in Denver back in 1990? Do you remember his Nuggets averaging a league-high 119.9 points per game? Oh, and giving up 130.8? How about the night they surrendered 107 points in one half to Phoenix, which is still an NBA record?

Talking to Scott Hastings on KKFN in Denver, an unabashed Karl says his plan for getting his Nuggets out of a three-year funk of being bounced from the playoffs in the first round is to pick up baton from where Mike D’Antoni left off with his “Seven seconds or less” offense in Phoenix.

“I’ve never seen it be that successful in the NBA, but I think the big thing for us is, who is going to commit to playing fast? We talked about it and last year we did a good job at it, but there’s no way I want to slow down. I want to try to prove the world wrong — that you can run and win in the NBA, and you can win big if you keep running. The problem is, can you run for 82 games every minute, every possession of every game?”

While putting the pedal to the metal can certainly inject a level of excitement and enthusiasm to an arena, Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie reminds with the cold hard stats that it has never been a path that has led to a championship.

Recent NBA history says that the answer to this is no — or, at least, you can’t run every minute, every possession, every game and actually win a title. Of the 52 teams that have made the conference finals since 2000, only 14 have played at a top-10 pace (using Basketball-Reference.com’s pace metrics), while 29 have played league-average (15th of 30/14th of 29) or slower.

Karl’s belief is that an all-out commitment to running is the best way to take advantage of the open court talent of his newest addition Andre Iguodala. But it should be noted that Iggy’s transition game and most of the best running attacks in league history have come off the defense.

It’s also interesting to remember that Karl had his most successful seasons in Seattle when he got the Sonics of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp to trade in many of their wild-and-crazy ways and clamp down on defense.

This is not to say we’re against revving up the offense. Some of the most joy NBA fans have had over the past decade were watching Rick Adelman’s Kings, Don Nelson’s Warriors and D’Antoni’s Suns make the scoreboards spin like slot machines. However, the Warriors were a routine first-round out, Sacramento made it the conference once finals and D’Antoni’s Suns, twice.

We’re looking at fun. We’re looking at points. We’re looking at entertainment. But as far as the Rocky Mountain Hi-Test Offense being the path out of the first-round for Karl and his Nuggets, we can only hope.

30 Comments

  1. ThisIsWeak says:

    Up tempo will win the crowd….But Slow and steady win the race, and the ring.

  2. Denver fan says:

    the nuggets are really good on defense (javale macgee, kenneth faried, wilson chandler, andre iguodala, timothy, corey brewer, ty lawson) and they can win a championship play up tempo. there are differences betweeen the nuggets and the suns. the suns didnt have a true center and amar’e doesnt like playing center (he was so happy when tyson chandler came to the knicks), and the suns was never a good defensive team. d’antoni was all about offense not defense. the nuggets have players that are great one-on-one defenders (iguodala, corey brewer, wilson chandler) and they have good help defense. the nuggets are going to go deep in the playoffs this year if they can stay healthy.

    GO NUGGETS

  3. TTKIN says:

    You want to tell me that Denver will do a better job of running than Miami and OKC? Iggy and Lawson are good, but theyre not better at running than Durant, Westbrook, and Lebron James.

  4. zgillet says:

    So, what Karl is saying is: I know this has never, ever worked for anyone before, ever… but I have a GOOD feeling this time.

  5. Uptempo says:

    Adelmans Kings were robbed of that conference title. It worked so well that someone had it rigged to fail. Prove ‘em wrong Coach K!!

  6. erwin says:

    yes indeed they’re all young gun that will perfectly fit for nuggets squad..perhaps if their big man can perfectly develop a defensive mechanism they go for a championship run..so dont stop coach run.. :)

  7. op says:

    I think if any team in history, has a chance to win it all it will be Denver(not now but in 3-4 years), because they have all the tools, and if they continue to develop chemistry like the last 1 1/2 season, they can romp all others with run, run, run…Sounds crazy but it’s not it stratosphere, it can be done…..

  8. Victor Manoel says:

    I love the Nuggets and see them winning a title running would be a realized dream.

    And about defense? The Nuggets have potential to be a good defensive team, with Iguodala and McGee leading the way (and does anybody remember Kobe saying Gallinari played a really good defense over him in the Playoffs?).

    Beyond that, they’ll sure have a good defensive transition: can you remember how fast JaVale McGee can run to denfend his own basket, when with the Wizards? Shaqtin’ A Fool showed it us! :D

  9. JD says:

    I hope to gawd they finish with a better record regardless of their offensive style because, as a Laker fan, I’m beginning to feel guilty about continuing to knock them out in the first round! George Karl deserves better!

  10. Noah says:

    This is news? They’ve been running for years. The 7 seconds or less rule was in effect last year.

  11. D.Rob50 says:

    Has Karl ever won a chip NOT running an up tempo game? Nope but gotta try something new.

    Spurs, lakers, celtics, heat, mavs…. Slow, “boring” and usually 1 player breaking down the play. Think of all the teams that have lost in the finals. I can’t think of 1 that used an up tempo game… Nets with J.kidd maybe?

    however….. The ratio of teams playing slow ball verses an up tempo is skewed a little. Usually only a couple of teams each year play fast. Look at the Spurs and Bulls the last 2 years. Spurs are playing fast these days and Bull a running slow. Both had injury concerns but still finish their conferences with the best records. Twice in a row!. When healthy it’s about versatility, both teams can slow down or speed up. Rose was injured this year so versatility was gone even though they played great all year without him. Last year, Manu and Tim both had injuries, versatility gone cos those guys play slow ball so they lost in the first round even though this year they smashed the griz without manu.

    Playoffs are less about 1 style over another but about versatility to play both… actually many. Something Karl doesn’t have with this current team.. Check out 76ers, all of a sudden they have tones of it.
    Go Spurs! Go Patty Mills.. AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!

  12. Bob M says:

    An up tempo offense in the aging West isn’t an awful idea. They have some nice tools to work and, it appears, the best option for this Nuggets team. Will they run to glory? I don’t think so, they are too young and inexperienced. Plus, pure running teams can’t keep it together when playoff D comes into play.
    This will be a fun team to watch, but the West is stacked with excellent talent, coaches, and teams.

  13. Lakers 2013 says:

    Good Defence is the key playing the running game, if they focus on D, they can force turnovers, get steals, deflections and rebounds and run, get in the lanes and finish strong. I hope they succeed at it, its very exciting to watch a team score 6-9 points in 12 seconds.

  14. Silver says:

    not even fair to mention the kings not winning. clearly the 2002 kings were one of the best teams in nba history. and its been proven 2002 was rigged.

  15. nba fan says:

    playing fast is good for denver but when the playoffs comes around the game slows down

  16. David says:

    Nuggs gon win it all!! ye baby. ty ty pushin them guys don the court and mickey gee finishin at da rim yeaaaa

    Yes but in fact the more pertinent matter is that of defense and ensuring fastbreak opportunities through turnovers. And of course rebounds. No second chance points for the opposition.

  17. Da Baws says:

    Very athletic team. If they played with breakneck speed with a hint of discipline they can go places.

  18. Amitpal says:

    The only reason the suns couldn’t win a championship cuz they didn’t have a good center. They never had a center that can block shots and rebound. Nuggets have that. Plus nuggets should be a good defensive team with all the atheletes they have. Only question who’s going to close the games. Who’s there late game closer and there post up player win they r missing shots.

  19. Cord says:

    They have a real push PG in Lawson and they have a boatload of shooters so they should be really fun to watch if they stick to this philosphy and try to outgun the more methodical teams.

  20. scott the magician says:

    theyre young and they can run. but they will never win star-less

    • dattebayo says:

      Considering there are a lot of stars in the league and only one team wins the trophy, there are many teams that do not win with star players either :P

      God I hope the Lakers All-Star Quintet will get bounced out of the playoffs so fast, Kobe won’t even be to blame Pau for not playing well even though he did and Kobe did not :D

  21. ahmed says:

    i cant wait for next season
    nuggets have better team
    their only problem that they dont have a bench player that he can score

    • BIGMatta23 says:

      Dre Miller, Fournier, Chandler, Randolph, Mosgov and Q Miller will all give solid minutes. Chandler should and could avg 15+ off the bench…so ahh, I disagree.

  22. steppx says:

    Can we PLEASE stop referring to nerd stat guys like Ball Dont Lie as they were gods or really had any meaning at all. Stats matter in baseball, not hoop. Second, Karl has always emphasized defense…..unlike Westhead or Nellie or D’Antoni none of whom ever thought about defense (well, dantoni did a little). IF you run, then statistically your defense might look weak……..but the Nuggets figure, especially with Iguadola added, to be very very effective defensively. This is a pretty lame article actually.,

  23. charles says:

    Like many things, it’s about the talent you have. Nuggets have a talent that happens to have the athletic ability to run and be successful running. The 1990 nuggets couldn’t say that. Sacramento could have said it under adleman but they didn’t have the point guard that nuggets have. They never had a guard as good as Iglueda. They have high motor guys, athletic freaks, and fantastic transition guys. Furthermore, high offense doesnt mean bad defense. It means a DIFFERENT KIND OF Defense. One that is focused more on trapping defense and also enticing the opponent to shoot quickly rather than using the full 24 second clock. Yes nobody has done it at a championship level game, but i don’t know if anyone has had a team so filled with talented, athletic, high motor guys.