No more has been asked of an NBA head coach this season than what the Nuggets have asked of George Karl. So why hasn't Coach Karl received a contract extension yet?
Like many of his players, George Karl came into the 2010 training camp on a one-year contract with the Denver Nuggets and a very uncertain future. But rather than gripe about his own contract, Karl was tasked with holding his fragile locker room together amid the colossal distraction known as the Melodrama.
As trade rumors persisted that threatened to infect every player on Karl's roster and despite injuries to key personnel - including Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen - along the way, Karl was able to guide the Nuggets to a very respectable 32-25 record before the All-Star break. One could argue that the Nuggets blew too many games before the break - notably the losses to Philadelphia, New Jersey, Sacramento, Charlotte and the Clippers - but if Karl has proven anything since Melo's departure (besides still not knowing how to run a @#$%& inbounds play...I mean, did you see the end of that Utah game??!), laying the blame for previous bad losses on this coach is a grossly unfair assertion.
In addition to the internal distractions that persisted in the Nuggets locker room from Day One of the 2010-11 campaign, Karl was forced to become the Nuggets' face to the media throughout the Melodrama. As we all know now, Nuggets owner/team president Josh Kroenke and vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri worked diligently behind the scenes to get a favorable deal done, leaving Karl on his own to address the media onslaught daily. Akin to how Melo himself handled the never-ending distraction surrounding his own future, Karl was able to be somewhat candid while remaining calm and focusing on games one at a time. Karl - who's notoriously not calm - became a father figure of sorts for a team on the verge of aimlessness at any moment.
As deftly handling the Melodrama wasn't enough, when Melo was finally traded - and took Karl's floor general in Billups with him - Karl was handed a roster that had just undergone an extreme makeover. Five players were out, and five new players were in. Overnight, the Nuggets went from a superstar-centric but undersized team to a balanced, deep and tall team lacking the traditional "star power" perceived by most to be essential in the modern NBA. But with the hammer of playing time available in his coaching tool box, Karl has been able to get the new players to mesh with the remaining ones to the remarkable tune of 5-1, including impressive victories over a once-hot Grizzlies team (before the new Nuggets even showed up), the Eastern Conference Champion Celtics and, incredibly, at Utah in a back-to-back dogfight. The lone loss was a gut-wrenching back-to-back affair at Portland in just the second game for the new-look Nuggets. Oh, and the Nuggets were up five points with 15 seconds in that one.
Almost two weeks removed from the dramatic conclusion to the Melodrama, Karl's Nuggets rank fifth in the always-competitive Western Conference playoff standings and there's talk in Denver of the Nuggets catching up with the Northwest Division-leading Thunder before all is said and done.
Regardless of how the season ends up, were it not for one of the best coaching performances of Karl's long career the Nuggets would be on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoffs right now and we'd be rooting for the Nuggets to lose games to improve our chances in the draft lottery. You know it, I know it and the Nuggets organization knows it, hence why Ujiri - in his post-Melo trade press conference - promised that Karl would be "rewarded" for his coaching effort to date.
It's time for Ujiri to deliver on that promise and give Karl the contract extension he deserves.
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