George Karl points to the future



Don't let them tell you any differently -- the NBA has always been loaded with "superteams." Shaq had Kobe, Duncan had Robinson, Jordan had Pippen, Bird had McHale, Magic had Kareem, Kareem had Oscar, Russell had Havlicek, Russell had Cousy, and Mikan had Slater Martin. Stars, all.

So there's nothing new going on in Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and New York right now. There is, however, something new going on in Denver. A team that runs, legitimately, 10-deep. A team with one "star," center Nene, who is only a "star" in the eyes of those who prefer their statistics advanced. And a coach who is loving every second of it.

In a must-read piece by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, Nuggets coach George Karl laments the fact that what could have been his most impressive coaching achievement was taken away from him, while looking forward to a "crazy fast" future in Denver:

At this time a year ago Karl was undergoing radiation treatments for throat and neck cancer. He took an indefinite leave while eating through a feeding tube and sleeping with an oxygen tank. His family inspired him to keep fighting, but Anthony inspired him to continue coaching. "I came back more than anything to make 'Melo and I better," Karl says. He wanted to have hard conversations with Anthony about the defensive improvements necessary to become a true superstar. Then in August, just before doctors cleared Karl to return, Anthony asked for a trade. Karl could not have those hard conversations and risk alienating his franchise player further. He asked himself why he bothered coming back at all.

Karl dreaded Anthony's exit, but point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) kept telling him, "We'll be fine without 'Melo."

Interesting that Billups, who was dealt to New York with the ball-stopping Carmelo Anthony(notes), was (and we're assuming Karl is the source here) looking forward to a 'Melo-less future in Denver.

And, it should be noted, that Karl (who took over the Nuggets six years ago) didn't have to wait until 2010-11 to have an end-all sitdown about Anthony's defense and ball-stopping ways, but that's a story for after Karl retires. And with the Nuggets coach signing a three-year extension, don't bet on that anytime soon.

The Nuggets? They've won five of seven since Anthony and Billups were traded, and they seem a lock for the playoffs.

The troubles start there, though, as Denver is battling back and forth with Portland for the fifth slot in the playoff bracket and the right to either play the Lakers or Oklahoma City in the first round. On paper, Denver may have the talent to match. But in a star's league, can depth overcome a top-heavy team like the Lakers or Thunder?

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