The Nuggets have fired Brian Shaw as head coach, which won't help much
The Denver Nuggets have apparently decided that six weeks is too long to wait. Brian Shaw is out as the team’s head coach, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, following a disastrous 2-19 stretch of play. That stretch became infamous on Friday night, when several Nuggets reportedly broke a team huddle by chanting “six weeks,” an apparent reference to the time left in the 2014-15 NBA season. Respected assistant Melvin Hunt will take over this mess on an interim basis.
As we discussed at length on Monday, the Nuggets have embarrassingly failed twice in their attempts to rejoin the Western Conference playoff bracket in the two seasons since former coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri left the team in the spring and early summer of 2013. Karl and Ujiri no doubt noted that the 2012-13 Nuggets peaked at 57 wins, and a combination of stasis, bad luck, bum injuries and the exodus of Andre Iguodala doomed Shaw’s coaching career from the start.
The former championship guard and Los Angeles Lakers assistant did himself no favors by attempting an offensive approach that included multiple post-ups for a team lacking a low-post scorer for a goodly chunk of his initial season. Though Shaw led the Nuggets to an 18-20 start in this campaign, the team’s recent swoon and the widely-reported huddle break made the gulf between players and coach too large to ignore.
Shaw’s attempts to downplay the “six weeks” chant were also rather embarrassing. From the Denver Post’s Chris Dempsey, who covered Nuggets practice on Monday:
"I said, probably three or four days ago in practice, that we hadn't won a home game in six weeks," Shaw said. "Which dated back to Jan.14, against the Dallas Mavericks, was the last time we won a home game here, which was six weeks ago. So, the comment that the players made when they got together and said '1, 2, 3, six weeks!' was the players saying 'this is the end of the six weeks, we're going to get a win tonight on our home court and break the six-week losing spell on our home court.' Not six weeks that it's the end of the season.
"Now, coincidentally it does happen to be a little over six weeks from then, that it's the end of the season. But I think our players and the Denver Nuggets as a whole were misrepresented in how that was reported."
On Monday, while Shaw spoke with local media, Nuggets players peered over to media while they huddled up and gave the "1, 2, 3, six weeks!" to make sure the media heard them.
The Nuggets will not be an easy rebuild. Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari will all make eight figures next season, and while the team should have cap space in the summer of 2015, they’re not alone in that regard. Lawson has hardly been a leader this season, clashing with Shaw while missing practices. Earlier this season he was also cited for DUI. Faried is a well-heeled complementary player at this point, and Gallinari has not been the same contributor since his ACL tear. The team will have several extra first-round draft picks to glom onto in the coming years, but outside of the ability to swap picks with New York in the 2016 draft, none figures to be a boffo pick.
Hunt is an NBA lifer who has moved his way up from the video room, but it is unclear as to whether or not the Nuggets would want to retain him following what will be a 23-game tryout which will begin on Tuesday night against Milwaukee. The Nuggets couldn’t even handle Shaw’s firing properly – the team canned him on the day of a game and a day after a practice that Hunt could have truly used in order to prepare himself for his big chance. The infamous “six weeks” huddle happened on Friday night and was reported Saturday morning, long before Shaw’s lethargic Nuggets fell to a Pelicans squad that was working without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday on Sunday evening.
Former Suns and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni could get another chance to take on the same Nuggets franchise he coached in 1999. D’Antoni won just 28 percent of his games during that lockout-addled season, as he’d not yet fully embraced the all-out fast break style he later brought to the Phoenix Suns.
Shaw had lost control of his team, he never ran plays suitable for the players he’d been given, and it was clearly time for him to go. With that in place, Denver still fields an uninspiring roster that will be hard to break up unless the team is ready to give away players for pennies on the dollar. Denver is a long way away from making an impact in the West, and though this coaching change was needed, no amount of upheaval in that realm will make the Nuggets relevant again anytime soon.
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is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops