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Scott Hastings (sort of) mentions during last night's broadcast...

For those who couldn't make it to last night's game (a win!) against the Toronto Raptors, but watched it on Altitude TV, you might have heard Scott Hastings' comment in the middle of the third quarter referring to criticism thrown George Karl's way. Hastings comment went something like: "I know there're are some web sites out there criticizing George, but people forget that the Nuggets are off to their 5th best start in franchise history." Hastings was responding to a Julie Browman report on the Nuggets possibly being the first 50-win team to miss the playoffs. And then Chris Marlowe pined in about how 50 wins would be "amazing" considering the Nuggets have been without Nene and Chucky Atkins for most of the season - quoting Coach Karl himself.

In fairness to Hastings, he did also reference the home loss to the Indiana Pacers back in November, as an example of the type of games that come back to haunt you later if they're not taken seriously at the time. And I'm sure he said "I gotta be honest" a couple times while explaining that point, but I don't remember for sure.

While I understand the Altitude staff taking up for the coach - and certainly don't expect them to be on my side of this debate - I must point out their usage of selective memory and revisionist history.

The injury defense: I will concede that the Nene loss is a really tough one and has definitely hurt the Nuggets this year, but he's the team's fourth-best player and was grossly out of shape in the Tournament of the Americas last summer and earlier this season (prior to the cancer ordeal which we're all grateful he seems to be recovering from). Nene being overweight wasn't Coach Karl's fault, obviously, but he and his defenders are stretching a bit when they assume Nene would have produced 10 more wins for us, or whatever they're thinking. And even though I hate picking on Atkins again, I must remind my readers that he's a career 41.5% shooter, and hasn't exactly been a win-generator wherever he's been in the NBA. If the Nuggets wanted to win more games by establishing an outside threat, they should have been starting J.R. Smith since December. Moreover, the Nuggets three best players - Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby - have played in almost every game all season, something a few other Western playoff teams can't say about their three best players (such as the Spurs, Rockets and Lakers).

The 5th best record in franchise history defense: Did someone not notice that the Nuggets have generally been mediocre or just downright awful since joining the NBA 31 years ago? The franchise has only produced three 50-win seasons and 9 playoff series wins in this time span, and under Karl hasn't produced a playoff series victory during his tenure, in spite of having a roster that is essentially tied with the franchise's most talented rosters ever (1976-77, 1984-85 and 1987-88). And I'm being kind when I say "tied" as, after all, Danny Schayes and Blair Rasmussen aren't making up three-fifths of the Nuggets starting roster this year!

The 50 wins would be an amazing accomplishment defense: As noted in Woody Paige's column on Wednesday, the Nuggets were talking 60 wins when the season started. While I never believed for a second that would happen and don't fault Coach Karl for not getting us to the 60 mark, the Nuggets are currently on pace for 49 wins (and have been able to pad that pace somewhat thanks to the last two walkover victories), are four games behind the division leader, Utah, and are in the 9th spot in the Western Conference Playoff race. Furthermore, I maintain that the Nuggets don't have a single "big win" all season - i.e. no wins at San Antonio, at the Lakers, at New Orleans, at Boston (like Utah did last night when they crushed Boston), etc. The Nuggets are on pace for 49 wins only because they're 16-1 against sub-.500 teams at home.

To recap, if the Nuggets could have played around their injuries to turn those personnel losses into opportunities for others (see Smith, J.R.), maximized the relative health of their best three players, won a few road games against superior competition, and won half the games they dropped to bad teams, they would probably be on pace for 55 wins (my pre-season projection) and a 4th seed, instead of 49 wins and a 9th seed. Now THAT would be an "amazing accomplishment"!