Notebook: Gregg Popovich has high praise for Nuggets
San Antonio Spurs coach lauds Denver's team-oriented success
Seven NBA teams have won at least 50 games this season.
Six of those teams were represented by at least one player at the NBA All-Star game, with the Denver Nuggets (54-24) being the lone exception.
“(Denver) is a great example of executing the strategy and the system that the coach wants to employ,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said before facing the Nuggets this week.
“I think more than any other team, they exemplify a group of guys accepting roles, whether it be minutes or their roles on the court and how they play in relation to the other players on a consistent basis game after game after game.”
How team-oriented are the Nuggets? Consider this: 11 of the 15 players on Denver’s roster have led the team in scoring in at least one game this season.
The balance is a by-product of coach George Karl’s share-the-wealth uptempo system, as well as his ability to convince a group of talented young players to check their egos at the door for the good of the team.
With Denver in position to secure the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and set a franchise record for victories in a season, Popovich believes Karl would be a deserving choice for NBA Coach of the Year.
“In my mind, it’s hard to think of anybody who has done a better job,” Popovich said. “You don’t find ‘superstars’ on the team. He’s gotten them to play for each other, be responsible to each other and understand that they are better as a unit than they are with one guy doing his thing. That’s not going to work.”
Despite 1,128 career wins, a .599 winning percentage, 21 consecutive non-losing seasons and 21 playoff appearances (soon to be 22), Karl has never been named coach of the year.
That could change when the award is handed out in the next few weeks.
The Nuggets did not practice Thursday, but point guard Ty Lawson spent some time at Pepsi Center to receive treatment on his injured right foot.
Lawson, who leads the team in scoring and assists, has missed eight of Denver’s past nine games with a plantar fascia tear, but appears close to returning to the lineup.
Karl said Lawson probably would have played Wednesday against the Spurs had it been a playoff game, but he would rather see his point guard get another day of rest and go through at least one more shootaround.
“I’m pretty sure he will play against Dallas (on Friday),” Karl said.
Nuggets reserve forward Corey Brewer has scored at least 20 points in three straight games, matching the longest such streak of his career.
Brewer scored 28 points off the bench against San Antonio, hitting 12 of 25 shots in 34 minutes.
“He has no conscience,” teammate Wilson Chandler said with a laugh. “He gambles on defense and he takes bad shots, but it works.”
Added Karl: “Corey is a just a mad man. He made some shots and got to the rim in the fourth quarter. He was very important to us offensively.”
With a one-game lead over Memphis and a two-game cushion over the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver’s magic number for clinching the No. 3 seed is appropriately 3.
If the Nuggets win three of their final four games, they secure the third spot. Even if they go 2-2 down the stretch, either the Grizzlies or Clippers would have to win out to overtake them for the third spot; Memphis plays host to Los Angeles on Saturday.
NUGGETS AT MAVERICKS
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: American Airlines Center, Dallas
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Shawn Marion
F Dirk Nowitzki
C Chris Kaman
G O.J. Mayo
G Mike James
DENVER: Ty Lawson (plantar fascia tear) is day-to-day; Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Julyan Stone (knee) are out.
DALLAS: Elton Brand (calf) is day-to-day; Rodrigue Beaubois (hand) is out.
The Nuggets have gone 7-3 on the road against Dallas the last five regular seasons, however the Mavericks still own a home record of 21-8 against Denver since the 1997-98 season . . . Denver is just 5-4 at home against Dallas since the 2008-09 season, and 10-8 since 2003-04 . . . The Nuggets are 12-7 against the Mavericks in head-to-head matchups since the 2007-08 season, not to mention 16-6 when including the postseason . . . Denver has posted multiple wins against the Mavericks only four times in the last 16 seasons since 1996-97 . . . Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is the last Nuggets opponent to record a triple-double (34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at Dallas on 3/29/10) – he was one of only three players with a triple-double against Denver during the 2009-10 season.