When the Nuggets were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs, many were critical of the coaching that unfolded before our eyes in regards to George Karl. Could this season's playoff travails be partly due to one unexpected missing source?
The events of last summer that transpired in the Nuggets organization were troubling to those in Nuggets Nation who witnessed it. The erstwhile Executive of the Year Mark Warkentien was on his way to having his contract not renewed by then owner (well - he still technically is) Stan Kroenke. Meanwhile an already dysfunctional Front Office situation (with Vice President Rex Chapman and "adviser" Bret Bearup) was mired in an "every man for himself" situation and very nearly nothing got done. Multiple botched attempts at trades were made - and veto's were handed down from above. A very late addition of Al Harrington (Wark's revenge?) did very little to improve the roster that was already panicked over the impending and seemingly inevitable departure of Carmelo Anthony. Then, in August, Wark was let go...
...and out the door with him went long time George Karl assistant coach Tim Grgurich. The Nuggets' father figure assistant coach.
Seemingly upset for what he perceived as an injustice done to Warkentien, Grg (as he is known) packed his bags and became a "coaching consultant" with the Dallas Mavericks. Relatively insignificant right? Assistant coaches leave all the time. No big deal. However, Grg seemed to play an integral part in speaking where Karl couldn't. Coaxing where Karl has bluster. Most importantly he was a close coaching confidant to both J.R. Smith and Anthony.
Where Wark was known to have close relationships with some players (he was known to shield Melo and J.R. from other elements in the Front Office) Grg was the guy who these player were able to talk to, and in some cases be coached by. J.R. in particular had a close relationship with Grgurich and seemed to miss his ability to communicate with him in the playoffs. Since I've been under the weather the last couple days, I've taken it upon myself to re-watch every game of the OKC series. It seems to me (in hindsight) that J.R. seriously missed Grg's calming counseling in both Game 2 and Game 5. I'm not saying that they would have won those games (particularly Game 2) yet it can't be understated that Grg was able to calm J.R. down when he was spiraling. It was very clear that Karl and J.R.'s relationship is such that there would be buffer between them.
What does this all mean? Well, I guess we can surmise that the right assistant coaches make a difference. As we watch the Dallas Mavericks march forward in the playoffs - it's a bit strange to see Grgurich walking out on the court with the other assistant coaches, counseling Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler much in the same way he did J.R. and Melo. You can see a tangible difference in the demeanor of both players as they listen to what Grg has to say.
What if the Nuggets had that as they played the Thunder? Would have been nice. In the meantime I wish Tim Grgurich the best of luck with the Mavs. I'm rooting for them (especially if OKC makes it to the Western Conference Finals).
On with the links!
Sources: NBA delayed hard cap in offer - Marc Stein, ESPN.com
Marc Stein reports that the owners latest proposal to the NBAPA included a "delayed" hard cap for three seasons down the road.
Los Angeles Lakers' very interested in Rick Adelman - Marc Stein and Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
In a report that is sure to make Denver Stiff's reader and frequent commenter Throwitdownbigmanthrowitdown's head explode - apparently the Lakers are interested in Rick Adelman for head coach.
It's Heat and Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals - Chicago Tribune
Well, it looks like the city of Cleveland's worst nightmare is coming true. I hope for a very competitive ECF this time.
Memphis rallying around Grizzlies' postseason run - USA Today
Flood-ravaged Memphis is rallying around the Grizzlies this post season. Make that the entire country outside of Oklahoma City. GO GRIZ!
Have a great morning everyone!