Posts Tagged ‘Josh Kroenke’

Nuggets Put The ‘Rocky’ In Mountain Way

 

The old baseball axiom about the best teams having strength up the middle, that’s the first image that comes to mind with the (ahem) new-look Denver Nuggets.

The second image has more to do with a fishing pier and a filet knife, and someone methodical de-boning a flounder.

In the span of a single month, the Nuggets essentially have had the backbone of their organization removed. Masai Ujiri, George Karl and Andre Iguodala weren’t merely the catcher, middle infielders and centerfielder of a Denver team that won an NBA-era franchise record 57 games and earned its 10th consecutive postseason appearance. They were, respectively, the NBA’s Executive of the Year, its Coach of the Year and one of the league’s very best two-way players.

All assets, all gone, with nothing in return.

Ujiri headed back to Toronto a month ago, rejoining the team with which he got his start as the Raptors’ replacement for Bryan Colangelo. Karl was fired days later in an alleged dispute with team president Josh Kroenke over JaVale McGee‘s playing time, Karl’s desire for a contract extension, both or neither.

And now, with free agent Iguodala’s imminent departure to Golden State for a four-year, $48 million deal reported Friday, what’s left in Denver is less an overachieving ensemble cast than a doughnut team with no one filling the hole.

Last season, the Nuggets turned the absence of All-Stars or MVP candidates into a positive, becoming one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts success stories that happen occasionally in this star-driven league. But another first-round ouster, its ninth in 10 years and at the hands of the sixth-seeded Warriors, apparently devalued what Karl and the team did to an extent that they came to be seen as replaceable.

“Very stupid,” Karl called it, in Kroenke’s presence, on his way out the door.

The quest already has begun, with Tim Connelly as the Nuggets’ new general manager and former Indiana lead assistant Brian Shaw, after years in waiting, as their new head coach. Now they can search for ways to plug the holes left in their performance by Iguodala’s departure, which won’t be easy. Monta Ellis? Carl Landry? Andrei Kirilenko? Good luck with that.

Consider: Denver allowed 100.5 points per 100 possessions with Iguodala on the floor, usually hounding the opposition’s best scorer. That would have tied for seventh best, in terms of defensive efficiency. When Iguodala sat down? The other guys averaged 105.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com’s stats site. That  would have ranked 23rd.

So even if Iguodala frustrated some fans with his shooting (especially 31.7 percent from 3-point range), his effectiveness at the other end of the court frequently made up for it. And there was more, according to the Roundball Mining Company blog on ESPN’s True Hoop network:

What Iguodala did well was incredibly important for Denver as he finished a spectacular 76 percent of his 206 shots in the restricted area and finished third on the team in assist rate at 22.4, behind only Ty Lawson’s 30.2 and Andre Miller’s 32.2 marks.

The next highest mark for a player who played significant minutes was Danilo Gallinari’s 11.2 mark, followed by Wilson Chandler’s 8.3. The mark of Evan Fournier, someone now expected to see a dramatic increase in minutes, was a bit better at 15.5 but still fell well short of Iggy’s.

So now Denver must find someone to replace not only Iguodala’s finishing at the rim (for comparison Kenneth Faried, who many will probably point to, finished just 62 percent of his shots there), but also his passing.

Finally Denver will have to find a way to replace 2779 minutes, a number that led the team by 266 minutes over Lawson and ranked just outside of the top 20 in the league. Fournier will pick up some of those minutes but Iguodala also played a lot at small forward where Gallinari now will moss most of the season.

Yes Andre Iguodala did some things that hurt the Nuggets but his loss is a big one.

No one’s loss is big, particularly in the past 24-48 hours, compared to the headlines and wailing generated by Dwight Howard‘s defection from the Los Angeles to Houston. But one of the West’s most exciting teams from 2012-13 has gone through (and partly put itself through) a wringer. And the accompanying soundtrack this season could end up sounding like this.

Report: Nuggets Hire Brian Shaw



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Cross Brian Shaw‘s name off the list of available coaches on the market this summer. The Denver Nuggets have reportedly tabbed the Indiana Pacers’ assistant as the man to replace NBA Coach of the Year George Karl on the bench in Denver, according to The Denver Post.

Shaw has been rumored as a candidate for basically every opening that has popped up this season. But he finally settled on the opportunity that awaits with the Nuggets:

“I can’t express my appreciation enough,” Shaw told The Denver Post by phone Monday evening. “It’s been a grind to say the least, but I’m just very appreciative of the opportunity to lead this team. … It’s been years, 11-12 interviews I’ve gone through. And I’ve felt I’ve been prepared by the best of the best. You know, everything that’s worth something, a lot of times you have to wait for it. I feel like I’ve waited and paid my dues.

“I feel honored and privileged that (Nuggets executives) Josh (Kroenke) and Tim (Connelly) have put faith in me that I’m the guy they want to grow with going forward.”

Shaw, 47, spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach under Frank Vogel with the Pacers. He spent six season as an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson discussed Shaw on Episode 122 of the Hang Time Podcast last week and suggested that it was only a matter of time before Shaw found the right spot.

Shaw takes over a Nuggets team that won 57 games and was 38-3 at home last season and boasted not only Karl as coach of the Year, but Masai Ujiri as the league’s Executive of the Year. Ujiri left for the Toronto Raptors after the Nuggets’ were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors. Karl was fired earlier this month.

Perhaps most interesting with Shaw’s hiring is what sort of system he will employ with a roster built for an up-tempo attack and his background with the triangle that the Lakers used to win five titles under Jackson. He made it clear to The Post that whatever system he runs will be all his own:

“Although I played in the triangle and coached the triangle, I also played in a lot of systems, so that’s not something I’m looking to bring to the Nuggets and try to implement,” Shaw said.”I’m going to look at a lot of film of things the team did well, running was one of them. And I’ll continue to build on things they did well and get more of a feel for the personnel and what I think will be conducive to everybody’s ability.”

Nuggets’ Move On Karl A Major Gamble

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MIAMI – In the end, it was just the way the Nuggets do business.

Just as with their now former general manager Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets’ refusal to even contemplate a new contract for their now former coach, George Karl, led to their decision Thursday to fire Karl after nine seasons. And so, a team that was seeded third entering the Western Conference playoffs in late April, and which sported the reigning Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year, now has neither in the space of six weeks.

The ripple effects remain to be seen.

The Nuggets have to re-sign forward Andre Iguodala, for example, a free agent this summer. Asked Thursday how Karl’s ouster would affect his decision, Iguodala texted, “Good question. Need some time to let it sink in.”

The Nuggets’ 33-year-old president, Josh Kroenke, the son of team chairman Stan Kroenke, is taking a major gamble by firing Karl and his 1,131 career wins, which ranks six in the history of the league. Karl has gotten a lot of heat locally for the Nuggets’ inability to go very far in the postseason on his watch; though the team made the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons there, the Nuggets only advanced past the first round once, when Denver made the Western Conference finals in 2009.

But nationally, Karl remains highly respected, not only for his part in making the Nuggets a relevant NBA franchise again, but in how he has stoically dealt twice with bouts of cancer, the last of which caused him to miss most of the second half of the 2009-10 season and Denver’s first-round loss to Utah. It is hard to see, outside of somehow convincing Phil Jackson to come to the Mile High City, how Kroenke is going to find a better coach than Karl.

Karl kept winning while the Nuggets used the first half of the 2010-11 season working out a potential trade for Carmelo Anthony, the team’s superstar who wanted out. And after Denver moved Anthony to New York, the Nuggets kept winning—though, again, they did not get out of the first round that season.

This season, Karl won Coach of the Year honors after Denver posted a league-best 38-3 home record, and looked like a major contender in the west. The Nuggets had won a franchise-record 57 games this past season, but their first-round defeat at the hands of sixth-seeded Golden State shook the organization, and Karl never recovered.

Afterward, Denver simply would not discuss a new contract for Karl, who had a year remaining on his current contract and a series of one-year team options following that. The 62-year-old Karl, one of just one of eight coaches in NBA history with more than 1,000 victories, wanted the security of a new deal, especially with Ujiri, with whom he’d worked well the past two years and trusted, leaving last week for the Raptors’ GM job—and more than doubling his salary in the process.

The team had also been slow to reward Ujiri, viewed around the league as the driving force behind Denver getting such a huge haul for Anthony from the Knicks, skillfully pitting the Knicks and Nets against one another as their offers for Anthony increased.

Going forward, management was uncertain that Karl would accede to its increasingly urgent request to play some of the team’s younger players. Karl had opted to start rugged center Kosta Koufos this season instead of high-flying JaVale McGee, whom Karl did not believe was as consistent defensively as the less-regarded Koufos.

But the Nuggets had given McGee a four-year, $44 million extension last summer, and believed he was the team’s center of the future, having traded the veteran Nene to Washington in 2012 for McGee.

Karl was “pushing” for a new deal, a source said Thursday—“in his mind, not unreasonable. He felt he needed to have it. The uncertainty of Andre Iguodala, the uncertainty of when Gallo (forward Danilo Gallinari) would be back (from his ACL tear, suffered late last season). He felt like after 10 years of proving himself as a coach, he deserved it. They just didn’t feel that.”

Karl’s representatives and Nuggets management had been talking for weeks, including several discussions held during the Chicago pre-Draft camp in April. The more Karl pushed, the more “reluctant” the Nuggets became to discuss a new deal, the source said.

Josh Kroenke was up front with Karl. He told Karl he didn’t want to put him in the position of having to order him next season to play the young guys if management felt that was the way to go, knowing Karl would balk because going young would certainly impact his win-loss record. Yet management remained firm that it would not give Karl an extension.

“It came down to the point that they realized, if they couldn’t get anything done (with Karl), was there any point in going forward?,” the source said. “Josh was very direct, very honest. He was very, very clear every step of the way.”

But, in the end, Kroenke opted to clean house, leaving himself alone atop the team’s power structure—though he is not expected to take control of basketball operations, having just been named president of the NHL’s Avalanche as well; Stan Kroenke owns the Avalanche.

The Nuggets have already reached out to Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw, asking for permission to speak with him about their vacancy, according to CBSSports.com. Josh Kroenke is also a big supporter of his team’s assistant GM, Pete D’Alessandro, and may well elevate him to GM to replace Ujiri.

Big (Man) Issues To Address

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No offense to Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely or Bismack Biyombo, the biggest of the big men drafted in the top 10 of Thursday night’s Draft, but they are not the biggest name international post players that we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the coming weeks.

Sure, without a summer league to watch them perform in that makes it a little tougher to track their immediate progress, and there’s no telling when we’ll see Valanciunas in his Raptors uniform.

But there are two other NBA bigs that will have our undivided attention as we head into an uncertain July. Nuggets center Nene and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol are the headliners in a free agent class whose star power and depth pales in comparison to the flashy class of 2010 (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, etc.), a group still awaiting word on a new collective bargaining agreement before they can begin the process of deciding their futures.

As promising as that international crop of big men from the draft is supposed to be, and Valanciunas is considered by most the best long-term big man from the 2011 class, none of them will be as valuable as either Nene has been and could be to the Nuggets or Gasol has been and could be to the Grizzlies.

We are talking about two low-post anchors for Western Conference playoff teams, as opposed to long-range projects that no one is sure will be impact players in the league anytime soon.

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‘Melo doesn’t want to talk to Nets

SAN ANTONIO — Carmelo Anthony didn’t exactly dispute reports that the New Jersey Nets were given permission by the Denver Nuggets to negotiate with him, he just doesn’t believe that’s the case. David Aldridge first reported the latest twist in the ‘Melo Sweepstakes on NBA.com.

“I haven’t talk to anybody, [general manager Masai Ujiri] or [owner Josh Kroenke] or any other teams,” Anthony said Sunday night after a lackluster performance by him and Denver in a loss to the Spurs. “So for that speculation to be thrown around out there, that’s false.”

‘Melo added that he has no desire to talk to another team, noting the Nuggets still dish out his paychecks. He claimed not to know anything about a proposed meeting with the Nets, which reportedly would include a personal pitch from New Jersey billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

“I don’t want to talk to nobody,” Anthony said. “I’ll let the front office handle that type of stuff. That ain’t my job to be talking to New Jersey, Lakers, Dallas, no one. That’s not my job to do.”

And if given permission?

“I still won’t step into something like that,” ‘Melo said. “I have seen a lot of people go through that. For me to sit here and say I want to talk to them or Masai and Josh gave them permission to talk to me, I think that’s false. If that was the case then I’m pretty sure I would have got a phone call.”

Should that phone call come, Denver’s 26-year-old franchise player said he still wants no part in being personally involved in any trade talks. As has been the case lately, ‘Melo virtually guaranteed being in a Nuggets uniform for the foreseeable future — Wednesday against Oklahoma City, Friday against the Lakers and Sunday against Indiana.

So what about the option of staying in Denver fore the entire season before weighing his options? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote that ‘Melo hasn’t taken the ongoing CBA talks into consideration.

When asked about the possibility of Anthony waiting until after the season to address his future, the person familiar with his strategy told CBSSports.com that he has not factored in the prospect of a hard cap and salary rollbacks in a new CBA. Such an outcome in the labor talks would make Anthony’s three-year, $65 million extension — thought to be a driving force behind any trade that would compel him to sign it before the Feb. 24 deadline — a moot point.

Nuggets coach George Karl said he hasn’t been given an update on Anthony by Ujiri.

“I have not talked to him since Friday and I’m sure if there was anything that would have drastically changed, he would have called me,” Karl said.

As for the team, Karl did evoke a slogan that’s been tied to ‘Melo since trade speculation exploded last summer.

“We just got to keep our focus and keep fighting through our drama,” he said.

It doesn’t figure to end anytime soon. ‘Melo was asked if dealing with this at every stop is a drag.

“It is. I get tired of answering the questions. I live with it,” he said. “I wake up in the morning, keep my head high, be professional and answer the questions as y’all ask them.”

Mixed Signals In ‘Melo-Drama

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While everyone else on the planet believes that Carmelo Anthony is headed to the New Jersey Nets any day now, Anthony remains skeptical that a deal is imminent.

In fact, Anthony doesn’t seem like a man convinced of anything right now. He’s waiting to hear from Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke before he gives all these rumors anything but a roll of his eyes.

All these mixed signals do, though, is set Anthony up to be the fall guy in a debacle that could play out much like “The Decision” did for Anthony’s good friend LeBron James, with Anthony playing the unsuspecting villain this time.

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About Last Night: Message Delivered

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Paul Pierce‘s late night Tweet said it all.

“It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis.”

After taking apart for a second straight time the team that is supposed to be your biggest rival, what else would you expect Pierce or any of his Boston Celtics teammates to say?

They’ve exposed the Heat twice in the season’s first three weeks. Like we mentioned the other day, the Heat have problems at point guard … and apparently in a few other places when it comes to dealing with some of the league’s other elite teams, particularly those with elite point guards.

You thought we were making this stuff up after the Utah Jazz rallied from a huge deficit for a stunning overtime win over the Heat Tuesday night. And then last night happened and the Celtics’ Big 3+1 showed us all how it’s done.

Rajon Rondo shredded the Heat’s league-best defense yet again, doing whatever he felt like doing (literally), whenever he felt like doing it, as the Heat watched in amazement as the Celtics cohesive machine the Heat hope to be some day.

“They simply out-executed us and carved us up and exploited us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after yet another humbling defeat. “And it paralyzed us.”

That’s what we all saw:

Pierce (25 points), Ray Allen (35 points) and Kevin Garnett (16 points and 13 rebounds) thrived against a Heat defense that is simply ill-equipped to stop them. While the Heat scrambled to keep up with Rondo (16 assists), both Pierce and Allen were busy destroying them on the perimeter.

Garnett, meanwhile, (with a nice assist from Big Baby Davis and Shaquille O’Neal) owned the paint against a Heat frontline rotation led by Chris Bosh that is in need of a lift.

Maybe next time the Heat will realize that committing either James or Dwyane Wade to guard Rondo is exactly what the Celtics want them to do. Once they do it, the door opens for Rondo to play his role as the ultimate set-up man for his Hall of Fame teammates.

The Heat keeping talking about the process and how they should have it all figured out in time for the playoffs, and that’s a noble approach when you realize that their greatest obstacle on the way to the championship parade they had planned for the summer has already figured them out.

ANTHONY, NUGGETS LUMP LAKERS

The Celtics weren’t the only ones delivering messages last night.

Carmelo Anthony told TNT’s David Aldridge that he was happy in Denver (“happy right now” were his exact words). Maybe we should all start listening to him now. The Nuggets pulled the upset at the Pepsi Center, handing the Lakers their first loss (118-112) of the season behind Anthony’s 32 points and 13 rebounds and a monster effort off the bench from J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson.

The Nuggets outscored the Lakers 33-19 in the fourth quarter, showing the sort of finishing kick that big time teams show against a superior foe. George Karl is still touting his team as a contender in the Western Conference, we’re just not sure if Anthony is buying it or even interested in a purchase in Denver.

One sliver of hope remains.

There are clearly more organizational change on the horizon in Denver.

That much is clear now that Josh Kroenke has taken over for his father as the team’s president and Masai Ujiri has cleaned out the last of the old guard, Bret Bearup, earlier this week.

According to the Denver Post, Bearup was the in-house member of the staff stirring the pot on some of ‘Melo trade rumors. So his departure is seen by some, including Anthony, as a good sign for Nuggets in their pursuit to change Anthony’s mind about fleeing the scene in free agency:

“That’s a step. I think that was a big step, not just for Josh (Kroenke) and Masai (Ujiri) but for the whole organization – for the whole league to know what they’re doing here, to make progress,” Anthony said. “Positive (step). They made some changes obviously for the better of the organization. That’s their decision.”

Anthony is still speaking in a distant tone about the Nuggets, which has to be troubling for Nuggets fans. But a win over the Lakers without Chris “The Birdman” Andersen and Kenyon Martin is a huge statement about what type of team the Nuggets could be when those two stalwarts return to the lineup.

The only lingering question is whether or not Anthony will be around when everyone gets healthy. A question Anthony answered in classic fashion.

“TNT loves drama, don’t it?”

WORN OUT WARRIORS NO MATCH FOR BULLS

There’s no sense in pounding on the Warriors this morning.

The Bulls did enough of that in their 120-90 rout of the worn out Warriors at the United Center. The Warriors were playing their fourth game in five nights (and they didn’t have David Lee).

We’ll spare you any more of the gory details and get back to the matter at hand, courtesy of the TNT crew:

‘Melo Looking For Change

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For Nuggets fans wondering what it might take to keep Carmelo Anthony in mile-high blue, now might be the time to start worrying.

The way he spoke to my main man Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports after Wednesday’s season-opening win over Utah, there doesn’t appear to be much George Karl and the Nuggets can do to change Anthony’s mind about the All-Star wanting a change a scenery.

In his strongest statements to date on the subject, Anthony seems resigned to the fact that these are some of his final days in Denver:

Anthony actually considers these Nuggets more talented than the team he helped take to the 2009 Western Conference finals. But even that doesn’t seem enough to convince him to stay, despite the best intentions of Karl, Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and new vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.

“They want to sit down and talk, but my thing is it’s way beyond this year,” Anthony told Yahoo! Sports after scoring a team-high 23 points in the Nuggets’ victory. ”It ain’t got nothing to do with the new GM, Josh, the players. For me, I feel it’s a time for change.

“If I do nothing now, I’m never going to do anything. I feel like my time is now to make a decision if I want to leave or if I want to stay.”

You have to wonder how much longer this will go on.

The Nuggets clearly didn’t let the drama bother them on opening night. But it’s hard to imagine anyone sending out a stronger signal about wanting to be moved than what Anthony did here.

It’ll be sad to see them split. Denver is the only NBA home Anthony has known. The franchise was lost in the ether before he arrived and has been a steady playoff force since he’s come into his own.

Still, it’s hard to ignore his words.

Still Chasing ‘Melo

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – And you thought we were crazy for carrying on about Carmelo Anthony on Episode 26 of the Hang Time Podcast with Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears.

We are certainly not crazy.

Despite the relative silence on the topic in Denver, Anthony’s name remains the hottest thing going in the Tri-State area (both the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks believe they have a shot to land him).

We understand that you’ve heard all this before about the Nets and Knicks — Free Agent Summer 2010LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc. — and their supposed pursuit of a big fish or two to swim in the water surrounding those areas.

Seriously, every little move being made by the Nets and Knicks these days is interpreted as a means to acquiring Anthony, who has done his best to stay mum on his future since training camp began.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, two of the most well-respected writers in the business, have made it clear that their sources indicate neither the Nuggets nor the Nets have given up hope on something being worked out in the future.

– Mike D’Antoni‘s 11-man rotation in New York? According to Marc Berman of the New York post it’s all about showcasing young talent for a potential deal for Anthony:

D’Antoni first mentioned the 11-man concept in Milan. And as he left Paris, it’s still in play. D’Antoni said he wants to press and run so fiercely, he needs bodies. The skeptical view is no eight-man unit has stood out, and they are showcasing guys for a Carmelo Anthony trade.

“We can play a lot of guys,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to have to press, run and use more guys this year because they can obviously play.”

None of this news shifts the focus in Denver, of course, where the main issue remains Anthony’s desire to either remain with the franchise that drafted him or move on. There has been no definitive public statement touching that topic from Anthony or anyone associated with him.

But while we’ve been down on the Nuggets here at the hideout (nothing malicious, mind you, we just feel like they as presently constituted they do not strike us as a contender in the Western Conference anymore), there remains cautious optimism surrounding this team in Colorado.

And the caution and optimism all hinges on the same thing, Anthony. Denver post columnist Woody Paige describes it here a recent passage from his mailbag:
I went to the intrasquad game in Broomfield the other night  and was very impressed. I told Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, the new kingpins of the Nuggets, “You take this team and add K-Mart and Birdman, and you’re better than you were two years ago. But you’ve got to have that guy sitting over there.” 

That guy was No. 15, Melo. J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Al Harrington and Chris Andersen coming off the bench are stronger than an on-time rent check. Talk about energy, offense and a new, improved Lawson. I talked to both Andersen and Martin. They’re both antsy, but are doing the right thing. The Nuggets need them after Christmas, down the stretch and in the playoffs, not now, not at the beginning of the season …

George Karl is slimmer and healthier looking. He has been playing golf with his son. Carmelo and I talked briefly. He is handling all of this very well. Here’s what I get: He’d be happy to play for the Nuggets this season, despite all the talk, and the longer he spends with these players, the more he is convinced they have a chance to be very good once the full roster is available. The more he hears about a hard salary cap possibility, the more likely he will sign the extension.

The Nuggets have backed off all trade talks and are hoping he’ll sign. That deal with the Nets will be there next week, next month, in February, no matter what you might read. So if all fails, the Nuggets have that trade as a backup plan.

Harrington is going to be a big-time scorer on this team early in the season. Nene looks good. And Gary Forbes, the invitee, will make this team. Lawson will take another big step. And J.R. is J.R. But we have to see how the Melo thing plays out.

Don’t we all!