On the most recent episode of the Colorado Sports Guys podcast, we talked with Sandy Clough from 104.3 The Fan and Les Shapiro from 102.3 ESPN Denver about Brian Shaw's recent, and not so recent comments, in the media about his team. The four of us came to a consensus that Shaw's comments were likely wearing on his players. Perhaps we were wrong.
Wilson Chandler was a key member of the 57 win Nuggets. Last season he scored 13 points per game in 43 games (35 of which he was a key reserve that often finished games) on 46.2% shooting, including 41.3% from downtown. This season he's averaging 13.9 points on just 41.9% shooting, including 35.9% from downtown in 48 games - 44 as a starter. How is he feeling about the transition from 57 wins to 25 wins in 57 games?
"It's tough," said Chandler. "I could sit here and say a lot of different things ... like we don't have Ty, we don't have Gallo - we haven't had Gallo. It's the same thing Coach [Shaw] has been saying, we can make a lot of excuses, but we can't. A lot of teams in the NBA have a lot of things happen from one season to the next.
"At the end of the day we are still professionals and we have to find a way to win, even when it's tough," said Chandler. "Having guys in-and-out [of the lineup], having guys that haven't played, and having new lineups and not knowing each other on the court - that's tough, too. It is just a tough period from a lot of different angles, so we just have to try to stay positive and keep building."
Chandler wasn't able to play against the Nets as he was dealing with a knee injury, so you can add his name to the walking wounded. The guys out of the lineup against the Nets? Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, and JaVale McGee. That's a lineup that could have been expected to get a lot of burn this season. Oh, and I left off Nate Robinson, who was supposed to be the spark-plug off the bench. That's a whole heap of talent out of the lineup that needed time to develop together this season.
Instead we've been left with fast and furious lineup changes and have been left to wonder what could have been. Let's not kid ourselves, it was going to be an uphill battle anyway, especially without Gallo. But what has taken shape hasn't been pretty recently. We've heard Shaw take aim at the effort of his players, the professionalism of his professionals. Has Chandler been paying attention to what Shaw has been saying to the media?
"Me personally, I try not to read a lot of stuff in the media," said Chandler. "But a lot of people do. So a lot of stuff [Shaw] says is brought to my attention by people, like friends and stuff, because a lot of those guys - I'm not saying they want to start trouble or anything, but they like to keep up with their guys and see what's going on. A lot of guys I know follow the Nuggets and read ESPN or watch TNT. During a game [Jeff] Van Gundy [on ESPN] was talking about what Shaw said, so people you know watching the game text you, 'What's going on?' and stuff like that."
Have Shaw's comments in the press bothered Chandler?
"No," said Chandler. "I mean if he was saying things and they weren't true, then it'd probably effect me. But a lot of the things he said, in my opinion, are true. So, I can't get mad when someone speaks the truth."
Shaw has been very open this season with the media. You ask Shaw a question and he'll answer it ... and then some. But Shaw doesn't come across as a guy that says one thing to the media and another thing to his team.
"He's laid back, but he's pretty straight forward," said Chandler. "Most of the stuff he has said in the media I've heard. I can't say that I haven't heard it in the locker room. He's pretty straight forward when it comes to stuff like that."
Even though that's what I expected to hear, it was still refreshing to hear that Shaw has been on the same page with his team. Does that mean that Shaw should be so critical of his team outside the locker room? Well, he's trying to build a culture in Denver that he believes will help the team win. Perhaps Shaw's talk and actions will root out the weak and we'll see the survival of the fittest or rather the toughest inside the locker room.
Before the Nets win against the Nuggets, they were blown out by 44 points (124-80) in Portland by a Blazers team without LaMarcus Aldridge. The quotes from Paul Pierce after the game really stuck with me, he was policing his own team. To wit:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Paul Pierce on 40-point POR loss: "No way against any NBA team should we lose by 40 with the guys we got. That's a complete lack of focus."</p>— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) <a href="https://twitter.com/AlexKennedyNBA/statuses/438933816896663552">February 27, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Do the Nuggets do some player policing?
"Definitely," said Chandler. "We have some vocal guys. Like I said, it's a tough situation. Everyone is trying to stay positive. We have a lot of young guys that are playing that didn't play last year, so it's kind of hard to grasp that and take it as a building block. You have to treat some players different than others. You can't get on certain players or they'll get down on themselves, some players you can talk to any type of way and they'll take the constructive criticism."
But without Lawson, without Gallo, and without a clearcut leader, even with a healthy team, how far can the Nuggets players push each other?
"Paul Pierce has earned the right to be able to police his own team and call his teammates out, if that's what he deems necessary," said Shaw. "He's a player that has won a championship, that has been in the league for a long time, and that will probably be a Hall of Fame player. So the young guys on his team should respect what he said. There's definitely a pecking order on that team, you have KG, you have Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, they are veterans, they are extensions of the coaching staff on the floor. Our team is built differently, we have young guys, and I don't know if there is that same respect level if one guy was to call another guy out because they are all, kind of, on the same level."
And you could see what Shaw was talking about, in a sense, during last night's game. You have Pierce being covered by Jan Vesely. Nothing against Vesely, but that's where the team is right now. You have a player that could struggle for a contract next season covering a sure-fire Hall of Famer. So with some of what is going on, keep in mind some context, too. This isn't to say that once the team is healthy that everything is going to be fine, but there is some wear on the coaches and players at this point in the season.
"I think we're in a tough stretch with guys, mentally," said Chandler. "Sometimes when you're mentally drained you try to go hard, but you just can't get yourself there. We just have to get out of this funk that we are in.
"I think we'll fight out of it, we still have a lot of games left, and no matter what happens we just have to stick together as players and coaches. We have to support the coaching staff, which I think everybody does. And the coaches support the players, which I think they do. I just think [Shaw] wants to win and I think that's what it comes down to. When you want to win, you have to address certain situations and I think that's all he's doing. He's discussed certain situations and with me personally, I don't take that as anything harmful. He's not saying things that are not true and he's not trying to disrespect any of the players, he's just addressing the situation at hand."