Last week we discussed the ridiculous and unfortunate schedule the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets have had to work through. The team was put together over the summer well aware of the idea that it was going to work as one of the NBA's great experiments, a rotating cast of talented characters moving along without a singular superstar to call its own, hoping to throw its wearying depth and enviable rotation at 29 other teams that wouldn't know what was coming. The versatility would lead to the unpredictability, and the team's fast past and Colorado's Denver air would lead to what might be the NBA's only true home-court advantage.
Problematically, the only "fast pace" surrounding these Nuggets comes in the form of the squad's NBA-enforced tour of the Americas — 18 of 25 games to start the season on the road, with four of the team's remaining seven contests in the 2012 calendar year scheduled to take place outside of Denver. A town which, as many prognosticators expected prior to the season, the Nuggets have worked up a 6-1 record in.
At his absolute low point, more than likely weary beyond the point of exhaustion; Denver's coach has had enough. He's not talking about a vacation or exile or even taking a game off, but he wouldn't mind making that most dramatic of changes to the NBA routine.
George Karl … timpani roll … might SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN OPPOSING TEAM'S TOWN AND NOT FLY WITH HIS TEAM TO THE NEXT GAME!
(We'll let you recover from this life-altering, deity-questioning, news. In the meantime, read Scott Howard-Cooper's report from NBA.com.)
"I don't think it'll ever go that far," he said. "I've thought about not traveling with the team on the late-night flights. I've thought about instead of getting to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning, I'll let my coaches have the morning shootaround. I'll sleep in in L.A. or I'll sleep in in Sacramento, get up at 7:30 or 8 o'clock, catch a flight. I've thought about that. But my energy level is getting better and stronger every year. I'm feeling healthier. I'm trying to eat better. People ask me all the time how am I doing. I'm doing a hell of a lot better than I was doing before I got cancer."
"The NBA is four to five games a week," he told NBA.com. "I think I can handle that the way I'm doing it now, but I also don't want to intensify my life any more. I would like to slowly cut whatever I'm cutting. Five or 10 percent of my intensity. I don't want the organization to be unhappy with me. I think my organization's happy with me, but I delegate a lot. I give it to my assistant coaches a lot more than I think most coaches do."
It's George Karl's voice that has to ring the loudest at the end of every pregame meeting, every sideline huddle, and every last-minute confab related to the Denver Nuggets' hopeful trip past the second round of the playoffs. He's the leader, and while the work of every helper along the way might make a larger impact — from the tape operators to trainers to assistant coaches — it's George that has to drive the point home. And, as we've seen for decades, Karl has done fine work in driving that last nail in.
So for the on-court CEO of sorts to decline to board another private flight in the wee hours after road games as he works toward May? It makes sense.
George Karl began his pro career hopping around in crop-dusters in the ABA nearly four decades ago. Just because his current gig provides planes with leather seats and southwest rolls with a low-cal remoulade and the ability to work through digitized game clips with his coaching staff as they jet into Portland, it doesn't mean the schedule isn't wearying and not in the best interests of the team.
Then again, this is the low point.
Respective to the modern NBA, I'm having a hard time recalling a road schedule as over the top as the one the Denver Nuggets have had to endure, at least to start a season. Other teams have been forced out of their arenas due to various non-NBA commitments, those rodeos and circuses still have their place in the indoor and sawdust-strewn realm, but 18 out of 25 games to start a season out of the bird's nest is absolutely ridiculous. And the squad still has more road dates to home warms to finish 2012 out.
Karl isn't exactly venting, he's speaking in pragmatic terms that we'd applaud even if the road and home numbers were reversed. Nothing about his admission has anything to do with his recovery from throat cancer in 2009. He's genuinely speaking on performer's terms — Karl has to be the guy drawing up the last out of bounds play of the evening sometime around 10 at night, in whatever time zone, and he wants to have a head on his shoulders around that point. George could be half his current age, and it wouldn't matter — he's not working with the same body and brain that his roster full of 20-somethings is.
It's a smart move, should Karl decide to go through with it, and something that would lend itself to team-building and a greater, fearsome, structure. The idea that the Big Boss isn't around, until [stuff] matters. That the parent is going to come in late to check on your room to see if it's clean, before you go to bed. That the plays have been sussed out. That you're ready to work, 25-year-old, once an ably rested head coach comes into town on a different flight.
Seems perfect. And scary, for a league that has to deal with a Nuggets team that will be playing two-thirds of its games at home once 2013 hits.