Solid foundation helps ease transition for Nuggets

Karl says pre-trade players deserve big share of credit

Even the best remodeling jobs can’t succeed without a solid foundation.

New acquisitions Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari have made an immediate impact for the Nuggets as they charge toward the playoffs, but credit for the team’s late-season success also should be given the players and coaches who were in Denver before the Carmelo Anthony trade.

“You’ve got the veteran guys who have held this thing together with the coaching staff that probably aren’t getting much love right now,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I look at the guys that were here. The foundation of the reinvention and the success that we’ve had has to start with them.”

When the Nuggets traded Anthony and Chauncey Billups as part of a 13-player deal on Feb. 22, only nine players remained from Denver’s opening-night roster: Arron Afflalo, Chris Andersen, Melvin Ely, Gary Forbes, Al Harrington, Ty Lawson, Kenyon Martin, Nene and J.R. Smith.

Lawson has excelled as a starter, while Andersen, Martin and Nene are benefitting from the improved ball movement and faster pace that helped the Nuggets win 12 of their first 16 games since the trade.

“The window of responsibility that we gave (Afflalo and Lawson) early in the season, we were afraid that it was maybe a little bit too much,” Karl said. “They’ve proven that they can handle more.”

Said Afflalo: “We just expect to win. Before the trade and after the trade, we expect to win.”

That mentality can be traced to Karl’s first day on the job in 2005, when he took over a team that was 17-25 and guided it to a 32-8 record. He is quick to point out that the run of success has been a team effort.

The credits range from owner Stan Kroenke to the current front office duo of Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri to athletic training staff members Jim Gillen and Steve Hess to former assistant coach Tim Grgurich and former executive vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien.

“There are a couple guys who aren’t here that are still a big part of our staff,” Karl said. “Grg is still a big part. We miss him. He and Mark and I have been together for a long time.

“No one writes about how we’ve been an organization that has delivered pretty good excellence for a long time. Did all the craziness shake you a little bit? Yeah. But the foundation that’s been here helped us stay strong and stay together and stay with a belief that we’ll get this figured out.”

ETC: Afflalo (strained left hamstring) practiced for about 20 minutes Monday and is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game against Sacramento … Chandler (sprained left ankle) is probable … Karl missed practice Monday to have a blood-clot filter removed. The filter was inserted following his treatment for throat cancer last April … With a 9-3 record in March, the Nuggets are in the midst of their 24th consecutive winning month, dating to March 2007.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...