Depth, youth could help Nuggets cope with compact schedule
It wasn’t long ago that Denver Nuggets coach George Karl was congratulating the Dallas Mavericks on winning the NBA title.
Soon enough, he will be looking to knock them off their championship pedestal.
The NBA officially announced Tuesday that the Nuggets will open the 2011-12 NBA season in Dallas on Dec. 26. It will be the second game of the season for the Mavs, who play the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.
“Dallas is a great champion,” Karl said. “I think there were a lot of people in basketball rooting for them, and I might have been one of those guys. We’ve had some good runs against them. Because of their experience, they’re probably going to be a little ahead of us. There’s obviously some advantages Dallas is going to have. We’ll see. It’s basketball. Anything can happen.”
With 66 games compressed into 123 days, Karl said the season is going to have “a personality that can’t be defined right now.” The Nuggets play 14 sets of back-to-back games, and they will play on three consecutive nights three times.
It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets respond to the demanding workload. Denver used its depth to an advantage during its late-season run to the postseason.
“I'm excited about our team," Karl said. "Our depth was a big factor last year in our success, and I think we’re going to be very similar this year. There are going to be games that you are going to substitute because of your schedule. There’s also going to be situations in the season that you can’t expect miracles.
“If you’re playing five games in seven nights against four good opponents, you’re just going to have to accept some losses because of the schedule and move on to another part of the schedule that’s pretty good to us.”
The month of March certainly would qualify as a “pretty good” part of the schedule.
The Nuggets will open a franchise-record nine-game homestand March 5 against the Sacramento Kings. The stretch ends March 21 against the Detroit Pistons. Denver closes the month with five road games, but only one of those games is against a team that made the playoffs last season (Chicago).
“Getting to that nine-game (homestand) is going to have an importance to the season,” Karl said. “Can we get there with an above-.500 record and keep our heads above water and get better? A good NBA team is constantly improving as the season goes on. We have to take advantage of it when it comes. Could we win all nine? That would be a great push into the final part of the season.”
The final playoff push won’t include the drama of facing former Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. That reunion will take place when the Nuggets play the Knicks in New York on Jan. 21. Because of the abbreviated schedule, Anthony will not play in Denver during the regular season.
“I think (the New York game) will be fun,” Karl said. “I know Melo will be ready and I know we’ll be ready.”