“The Nuggets traveled to Philadelphia last night to face the woeful 76ers, a team aiming to accumulate as few victories as possible. The Nuggets got blown out. They’ve made a habit of being blown out lately and have in the process become an even bigger laughing stock than teams that are losing intentionally”
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From the outset of the current NBA season it was clear that the Philadelphia 76ers would be awful. Philly, which has the third worst record in basketball and a grand total of eleven wins, is a classic tanking team and has been from the jump. The Sixers and the Lakers and the Knicks and the terrible Timberwolves are all teams that are foregoing short term success in hope of securing the right draft picks and the salary cap freedom to improve for future seasons. “Tanking” is bona-fide strategy teams use for development in the NBA. It’s not something you see in other sports.
The Nuggets, famously, have long resisted the idea of tanking. The tact that team President Josh Kroenke has preferred to take is to attempt to develop and improve while trying to remain competitive season by season. At no point since he became involved with the management of the team has he allowed fans to get the impression that his teams would be bad for the sake of getting better. Instead they’ve just been bad.
The Nuggets traveled to Philadelphia last night to face the woeful 76ers, a team aiming to accumulate as few victories as possible. The Nuggets got blown out. They’ve made a habit of being blown out lately and have in the process become an even bigger laughing stock than teams that are losing intentionally. They’re the only team to have lost to the Knicks, Celtics, Timberwolves and Lakers this season, as CBS NBA writer Matt Moore pointed out in a scathing piece he published yesterday simply headlined “the Nuggets are a train wreck“. And in two of those losses the Nuggets were facing a team playing the second night of a back-to-back.
They’re completely discombobulated.
The Nuggets are so completely awful that it’s almost impossible to know where to point the finger. Are the players the problem? Maybe, but there are a number of talented players on the roster that other teams would love to have. Is the coach the problem? He’s certainly a big part of it. Brian Shaw has been forthright with the media to a fault and has thrown his players under the bus repeatedly. There’s little question that others are beginning to feel toward Shaw the same way Andre Miller did when he all but refused to play for Denver. Miller’s disdain at the time seemed to be sour grapes. After all, he was a favorite of George Karl and he wasn’t getting the same kind of run with Shaw. The Nuggets implied that Miller wasn’t buying in and that getting him out of town was like cutting a cancer from the team. But the cancer might have been Shaw then and it still might be now. Or is the front office the problem? Shaw seems to be a bad fit for the roster and the roster seems to be a bad fit for Shaw. It was Kroenke and GM Tim Connelly that made the decision to put this group together.
George Karl was fired because A) the Nuggets seemed to have reached their ceiling under him, B) because he made an unwise play for a contract extension and C) because of his reluctance to utilize young players – specifically Javale McGee. Karl looks like a damn genius now. There’s every possibility that had he never been fired that the Nuggets would still be a perennial contender – even if they still would not have gotten over the top. They certainly would not be as bad as they are.
Maybe when the Nuggets decided to move on from Karl and bring in Shaw they should have begun a campaign of tanking so that Shaw could have begun to develop a team that he could work with. Instead, they have just kind of hovered right around the mediocre mark and it seems that they are paying the price for it now. Brian Shaw is almost certainly going to be fired – even though the team continues to insist that he won’t. Coaches that lose the tanking teams time after time meet that fate in the NBA. He might not even make it all the way through this season.
Once Shaw is gone the front office will once again face the decision to tank or not to tank – to clear the decks and begin anew or to keep trying to win just enough games to keep the fans coming through the turnstiles at Pepsi Center. If they select the latter the only thing that makes sense may be to bring back George Karl.