According to Grantland's Bill Simmons, who finishes off his three-part trade value column, there's "increasing buzz" that the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant if they were guaranteed to sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. That appears a longshot on multiple counts, since the Clippers seem all but assured of re-signing Paul, while the Lakers have insisted they're not considering the amnesty move on Kobe. Even if the Lakers take Kobe's $30MM+ salary for next season off their books, it would still be difficult for the team to fit a max contract for Paul under the cap. Regardless, the offseason figures to be full of intrigue in L.A., as always. Here's the latest from the City of Angels and other Western Conference locales:
Nuggets coach George Karl has officially won the 2012/13 Coach of the Year award, the team announced today in a press release. Karl beat out Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Mike Woodson (Knicks), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), and Frank Vogel (Pacers), who rounded out the top five.
Karl, who received 62 of 121 possible first-place votes, guided the Nuggets to a 57-25 record and a No. 3 seed in a competitive Western Conference. Although the team fell to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, its regular-season results, without a legit superstar, were impressive.
This year's Coach of the Year race was viewed as wide open, so I'm surprised Karl received more than half of the first-place votes. Besides the coaches who finished in the top five, Lionel Hollins (Grizzlies), Mark Jackson (Warriors), Tom Thibodeau (Bulls), and Kevin McHale (Rockets) were among the candidates worthy of consideration. Those four, along with P.J. Carlesimo (Nets), all finished in the top ten.
The Nuggets will hold a press conference at 12:30 CST today to formally present Karl with the award.
While the Nuggets' playoff run came to a disappointingly early end, the team is set up well fiscally for free agency, writes Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. Among the Nuggets headed for the open market this summer are Corey Brewer, Timofey Mozgov, and perhaps Andre Iguodala, who is a decent bet to exercise his early-termination option and get out of his contract for 2013/14. Here's more on the Nuggets and their plans moving forward:
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
Typically, a winning streak like the Nuggets' current 13-game run would be one of the NBA's biggest ongoing stories, but Denver's current stretch has been overshadowed by Miami's streak, which is up to 24 consecutive wins. That's probably fine with head coach George Karl, who is focused on getting his team a top-four seed and home court advantage for the first round of the postseason. Karl spoke to Sam Amick of USA Today about a number of topics, including his contract situation and how the team has evolved since the Carmelo Anthony trade. Here are a few highlights from Karl:
On turning into a contender so soon after moving Carmelo:
"I definitely think that the speed that we've built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games.
"And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that 'we're going to go with young players.' During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mozgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It's worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they're good enough, that's what we're doing this year."
On managing a deep roster and deciding on crunch-time lineups:
"I have no problem finishing any way I think I can win. Sometimes that ruffles the feathers a little bit of my players. But Corey Brewer is the guy who I think has played well enough to finish a lot of games. I don't do it all the time, and when I don't do it I think it's unfair to Corey, because even though (Andre) Iguodala and Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) are the high-paid dudes, sometimes Corey is the better basketball player. It's not right that we always give it to the guy who gets paid the most money. There should not be an entitlement that because you get paid the most money, that you should finish every game. But if you don't do it, then the agents are going to call and the players are going to mope and so you negotiate that. It's a compromise as a coach."
On whether his track record gives him more leeway with coaching decisions:
"I don't think there's any question that I don't think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we're doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you're not playing -- in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they're not playing, but we don't want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room."
On whether he's considering retirement:
"Well, I've got one year left on my deal here (after this season), with a three-year option. I don't think I think about retirement, but I don't think about the rat race of what's my next job going to be. It's not in the back of my mind, other than I'm going to probably finish my career -- hopefully I finish my career here in Denver. That gives me, again, more balance and probably a more secure perspective on coaching than most coaches have in this business because I think all coaches are always worried about their job a little bit."
The latest rumblings from around the Western Conference:
Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has been lauded for his moves of late, in particular his involvement in the Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum blockbuster that netted the team Andre Iguodala. Coach George Karl is also regarded as one of the league's best, and he spoke about the team's moves and how he expects to use a roster he described as "a big bucket of talent" to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. Here are a few highlights from the Q&A:
About the summer and the team's offseason moves:
"We just had a summer of constant positive momentum. The Olympics were great. And then you get (JaVale) McGee signed and Andre (Miller) signed, both really important to our team. All our young guys had good summers — (Danilo) Gallinari had a good summer with the Italian national team, Timo (Mozgov) was kind of a superstar for Russia (at the Olympics). And of course, the Iguodala trade was the (big) piece that makes us a better basketball team, though to get a good player you've got to give up good players. We'll miss Arron Afflalo. There will be some games in which we'll say, "I wish we had Arron out there." But in the end, we think we made a step forward, and hopefully a step to get into the top-eight teams in basketball, maybe a little bit further. Our goal in the next three to four years is to build this thing and make steps toward a championship."
On who will start at center:
"Training camp is going to tell me who plays. My idea right now is Mozgov would start with (Kenneth) Faried and JaVale would stay with (backup point guard) Andre Miller. But again, I don't (care) about starting lineups, and (the media is) already stirring the pot. It's all about how many minutes you play, who you play with, how well you play and how we play (when you're on the court). Kosta Koufos is in the mix, too. Let's make sure you understand that. In the last 15 to 20 games of the season, when Timo got hurt, Kosta not only played well but good enough to get us to the playoffs."
Regarding the way Iguodala fits into the team's system:
"I don't think there's any question that defense is what we need to get better at. I don't think we're a bad defensive team, but I don't think we're a top-notch defensive team. We gave away Kenyon Martin and some of the "A" defenders that we used to have, and last year we weren't good enough defensively. We get a guy who fits how we play — he's an athlete, loves to run, he's a play-maker, but also a top-10 defender in the game. So how we build our defense with a great defender who can (defend) point guard, shooting guard, small forward and probably power forward."
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Sunday night:
Earlier today, we relayed a report that the Nuggets plan to explore a long-term deal to keep Andre Iguodala in Denver.The 6'6 guard/forward is slated to have a player option after the end of this year, but during his introduction as a new member of the Nuggets, Iguodala was pretty clear on where he stands regarding his future. In addition to our earlier post, we were able to gather more noteworthy quotes from the former 76ers swingman (via Bill Ingram from HoopsWorld):
"We’re definitely already looking ahead and seeing how we can go forward and this not being just a quick stop for me, knowing this is a great organization. I got a lot of feedback from a lot of different guys, current players, former players, even other trainers about the organization, that this would be a great place for me to have some great years ahead of me and possibly ending my career here."
Iguodala also mentioned that he spoke to Carmelo Anthony about what playing in Denver would be like:
"(Anthony) said you would be a perfect fit for Coach Karl, you two would really gel with one another. Just small things like that. It got me thinking once the trade went through on a long flight back, looking at the team we have and how I can help the young guys grow. And, having some of my best years with Andre Miller is really one of the best opportunities that I’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of. I’m looking forward to it."
He added that he has been studying the Nuggets offense and has spoken with head coach George Karl about the expectations for the upcoming season:
"It was a really good conversation when we first spoke five or six days ago. The first thing when we spoke he spoke about what I needed to work on, which was great...he went straight to the things he thought I needed to do in order to get the most out of myself and help the team. Free throws was one thing, getting to the free throw line was another. Just being aggressive. That was something I took out of the conversation that I think will help us a lot, being up front and getting the most from each other."
Earlier this evening, an ESPN report (via the Associated Press) indicated that Stan Van Gundy is prepared to handle the rest of the season and playoffs without Dwight Howard. To make matter worse, forward Glen Davis hyper-extended his right knee today during the first quarter against the Cavaliers and did not return for the rest of the game. Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel tweeted that Davis is unsure about when he'll be able to play again this year, which currently leaves Daniel Orton as the only true big man on the Magic roster. It should be noted that if the Magic decide to find replacements for their big man rotation through free agency, the only playoff-eligible players at this point are those who have not already played in an NBA game this year. You can find tonight's other significant stories here: