COMMENTARY | Coaches make the wrong call all the time. Occasionally, they will own up to their mistakes immediately afterward.
Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw took it one step further Saturday night by admitting that he got what he deserved when his strategy of intentionally fouling Houston Rockets star center Dwight Howard late in the game backfired.
While Shaw should garner kudos for his honesty, the remarks probably provide little solace for die-hard Nuggets fans, many of whom are still scratching their heads over the firing of George Karl after a 57-win season.
Against the Rockets, the Nuggets trailed by 17 at halftime and appeared to be on their way to a blowout loss. But the team kept the game competitive in the second half and were within 12 with just less than 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Shaw then implemented the "Hack-a-Howard" defense, and the notoriously bad free-throw shooter made the Nuggets pay by sinking 13 free throws in 18 attempts. Howard finished the game 17-for-24 from the line.
The Nuggets lost by 11, and in postgame comments, Shaw acknowledged that the strategy "goes against everything" he's about.
"I'm glad he made his free throws," the rookie head coach said. "It shows me to just be true to who you are."
Popovich famously made not one, but two questionable decisions toward the end of Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June. His didn't exactly own up afterward.
Shaw is not Popovich and Saturday's game is just an early regular-season game. But it's refreshing, nonetheless, to hear a pro sports coach tell it like it is.
Unfortunately, for Nuggets fans, such coaching mistakes, and double-digit losses to playoff-bound teams, are likely to continue throughout the year as Shaw develops his style and the team searches for an identity.
The Nuggets may have had a chance at a remarkable comeback against the Rockets if not for Hack-a-Howard. Guard Ty Lawson and forward Wilson Chandler were on fire, but their buckets were countered by freebies Shaw awarded to Howard with his coaching call.
While we haven't seen the last of Hack-a-Howard, which makes games unwatchable, it's fairly certain that we won't have to suffer through it during another Nuggets game as long as Shaw is the head coach.
Another noteworthy mistake Shaw made this season was his decision to bench Kenneth Faried for the first two games even though the high-energy forward said he was healthy enough to start. Shaw quickly reversed course when the Nuggets failed to break 100 points in either of those games.
The team has crossed the century mark in six of seven games since Faried was inserted into the starting lineup, winning four of those.
Andy Vuong lives in Denver and is a former Nuggets season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @andyvuong.
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- Denver Nuggets
- Dwight Howard
- Brian Shaw