George Karl to Los Angeles Clippers rumors heating up

USA TODAY Sports

Could the Nuggets really lose both Masai Ujiri (already gone) and George Karl in one off-season?

With Vinny Del Negro out as the Los Angeles Clippers' head coach, rumors have been swirling about various coaching the team has been interested in. Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo! Sports, reported on May 30th that the Clippers could possibly pursue Karl, but the team had yet to reach out to the Nuggets.

Well, Ramona Shelburne, of ESPN Los Angeles, isn't letting those rumors die out and in fact, they are intensifying:

Karl's status has become "unsettled" following the departure of general manager Masai Ujiri for the Toronto Raptors, two sources close to the situation said late Saturday night.

Karl, who was named the NBA's coach of the year following the Nuggets' 57-win season, is not in any imminent danger of losing his job, the sources stressed. But Ujiri's departure, coupled with Denver's disappointing first-round playoff exit, has shaken things up in Denver to the point that Karl, who is under contract for just one more season, could, incredibly, begin the season on the hot seat after winning the league's top coaching honor for the first time in his long career, instead of beginning extension talks.

The Los Angeles Clippers have had initial conversations with the Nuggets about Karl, league sources said, but have yet to officially request permission to speak with him.

The interesting note above: the Clips have had "initial conversations with the Nuggets" ... interesting indeed. Karl will be heading into this season on the last year of his deal and if the Nuggets are going to take a wait-and-see approach before extending him or perhaps not renewing his contract with the team beyond the 2013-14 season, it might be in the coach's best interesting to secure long-term employment elsewhere.

The Nuggets current roster is tailor-made for Karl's style. If he were to leave, the Nuggets would be in a bit of a scramble to find a replacement and who knows what that would mean for the players on this current squad. Could the team replicate the season they just had with a new coach?

Karl has been the one stabilizing factor since taking over for Michael Cooper in 2005. Coaches take a lot of heat in the NBA and Karl has been no exception - at least to the fan-base. He's definitely a part of this Nuggets family here on Denver Stiffs - meaning he comes under scrutiny, but we've all wanted to see him succeed. Think about all the different teams he has coached here.

Karl had the young Carmelo Anthony squads led by Andre Miller at point guard, he was given Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith as Melo matured and eventually Allen Iverson. A true gift came when Chauncey Billups arrived, and Karl has led the way in the post-Melo world and ushered in what looked like a new era in Nuggets basketball with Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Company.

Whether people want to admit it or not, we've been spoiled to have Karl here so long. He has been here for nine seasons and we've gone through on-court ups-and-downs and we've seen Karl change in the face of two cancer battles. Karl is an NBA lifer and a true gym rat. He's always gracious with his time and he's willing to talk about anything and everything basketball related. I can't tell you how many times I saw Karl get asked ridiculous questions this past season (I asked a few of my own) and watched him sort of look to everyone like, "Is this a real question?" and then engage the topic with honesty and sometimes humor.

Karl endears himself to people because he's a people person - in his own way. He's hard on guys because he wants them to succeed and fans and media members alike often wonder who is in Karl's Doghouse. He has gone about trying to win in his own way and on his own terms. That seems a bit like how he might live life too - he's got a bit of a rebel in him.

We've watched the eight first-round exits and had our disappointments with the coach and his team, but I'm not sure anyone takes the losses harder than Karl. He's passionate about the game and that's what you want out of your coach. He's old school, he's tough, and he's a bit misunderstood as well.

Karl has become the face the face of Nuggets basketball and it would be weird not to see him on the bench next season. With just one year left on his deal and the team facing a lot of questions with a new general manager set to come in (not sure who yet), maybe some changing faces, and no Gallo for perhaps the entire season (or at least February) this isn't the best set up heading in for Karl. If the Nuggets take a hit in the win department during the regular season (and it'll be near impossible to replicate 57 wins) Karl could easily be the fall guy. Not having an extension would be a hard way to enter the season, but the Kroenke's shouldn't feel pressure to grant an extension either.

Who knows what the new direction of the team will be and if Karl will be a part of it. And it sounds like there is a chance that Karl might not stick around to find out ...

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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