Thursday, April 28, 2011

George Karl's Fatal Flaw

When Denver traded Carmelo Anthony to New York, I refused to write them off and at the same time described George Karl as an "outstanding" coach.

After learning more about him and watching his playoff performance against Oklahoma City, I'm going to have to downgrade him from outstanding to good.


The answer can be best summarized by the following statistics from the Oklahoma City series: Al Harrington (14 minutes per game), Timofey Mozgov (0 minutes per game).

That tells you all you need to know about George Karl and why he is 20 games below .500 in the playoffs.

He doesn't believe in the defending the paint, which is incredible when you consider his coaching history.

Of all people, George Karl should know how important it is to have a seven-footer in the lane who can block shots.

And two shot-blockers are even better.

Yet here we are, 17 years after Dikembe Mutombo swatted his Sonics, with the best record in the NBA, out of the playoffs in the first round; and George Karl is still fooling around with Al Harrington at power forward.

Harrington, never known for his defense, didn't record a single block in the series, averaged 1.2 defensive rebounds and was pretty much a non-factor in the lane defensively.

Mozgov playing center next to Chris Andersen would have been much more formidable, even assuming Mozgov went scoreless the entire series.

Harrington over Mozgov is basically a choice of three-point shooting over interior defense, a losing strategy if ever I saw one.

But this plays right into Karl's coaching philosophy, where he doesn't believe you need a seven-footer to win it all and also seems to have a lack of respect for non-scoring big men.

He asked who the seven-footers were for Detroit and Chicago when they won titles in the '80s and '90s, implying that they didn't have one; and you don't need one to win it all.

For the record, James Edwards was the seven-footer for Detroit; and it was Bill Cartwright for Chicago.

Luc Longley was the seven-footer during Chicago's second title run.

While neither could shoot the three like Al Harrington, each was effective at clogging up the lane and preventing easy buckets in the paint.

Longley is clearly the weakest of the bunch, but I'd take him over Al Harrington every day of the week and five times on Sunday when I need someone to stop Russell Westbrook from getting an uncontested layup or someone to secure a defensive rebound.

I'd also take Timofey Mozgov.

And unless George Karl wants to keep reliving "Mount" Mutombo nightmares from '94, he should start taking Mozgov as well, or anybody else who can defend the paint like Serge Ibaka did last night in a scene which looked too much like '94 all over again.

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