Former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has never shied away from saying what’s on his mind. The longtime NBA coach and reigning (though jobless) NBA Coach of the Year was let go by the Denver Nuggets last spring in a swift franchise upheaval that saw the team go from Western Conference contenders to first round losers; dumping Karl, Executive of the Year-level general manager Masai Ujiri, and all-around stud Andre Iguodala along the way.
Iguodala went on to join the Golden State Warriors, the team that defeated Karl’s Nuggets in the first round. You’ll recall that recently Warriors owner Joe Lacob revealed that Dre’s family let it be known that Iguodala was interested in Golden State during the first round pairing between the Nuggets and Warriors. An odd admission, to be sure, and one that didn’t go unnoticed by Karl as he spoke with KOA’s Dave Krieger recently (via Pro Basketball Talk):
Q: Do you think Andre Iguodala was Mark Jackson’s “mole”?
A: No question.
Q: Does that bug you?
A: I just think that’s media hype. I mean, that series was not a physical series. Everybody wants to be more aggressive with the guy kicking your ass, so . . . .
Q: The media didn’t say it. Jackson said it.
A: I thought Mark had a lot of tricks in that series that were bush- . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what they were. Almost high-schoolish. They were beneath the NBA level. And they might have worked. They might have motivated his young team in a good way. You know, he’d announce a starting lineup and start another guy. C’mon, man. You think we’re not ready for that?
Karl went on to praise the Warriors’ current batch of talent, including Iguodala, without crediting Mark Jackson.
Which is fine, but it’s also clear that while Karl and company may have been “ready for that” in terms of ducking the starting lineup machinations announced by Jackson concerning injured forward David Lee, the Nuggets were not ready for Golden State on the whole. Danilo Gallinari’s ACL tear shot a hole in the Nuggets’ attack just before the start of the playoffs, according to Karl, and ankle sprains to Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson (who is currently having a career year under new Nugs coach Brian Shaw) further put the 57-win Nuggets on their heels.
Then there’s the question of Iguodala.
It’s not as if Andre Iguodala was Mr. Nugget. The swingman was dealt to the team as a free agent to-be before the 2012-13 season, and while he appeared to fit into the team’s versatile running attack, his personal stats took a bit of a dive in his first and only year with Denver. That’s to Dre’s credit, as he sacrificed both shots and ball handling responsibilities in order to work as the team’s defensive stopper.
Calling someone a “mole,” though? That’s some pretty heady stuff.
Iguodala was fantastic in the playoffs against Golden State, upping his Player Efficiency Rating to nearly 20, while averaging 18 points, eight rebounds, 5.3 assists and two steals a game for the Nuggets. He made half his shots and shot a blistering 48 percent from long range, all while playing (to these eyes, at least) Andre Iguodala-styled defense.
Now, if he’s showing off for potential suitors-to-be in Golden State, fine. He’s still contributing All-Star-level ball for the Denver Nuggets while he’s doing it. And remember, the Warriors were not entering the 2013 offseason with cap space at that point – they had to rely on luck and a rebuilding Utah Jazz team to free up the sort of space it would take to sign Iguodala as a free agent. The chances of Dre going to the Warriors at that time were just about nil, unless he wanted to be a Warrior so badly that he was willing to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table to do so.
To call someone a “mole” because of this? That’s attacking the professionalism of a player, and basically accusing another coach of outright cheating.
There’s “speaking your mind,” and then there’s whatever the hell George Karl is doing right now. Pretty petty, and pretty daft, I’m sure you’ll agree.
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