This is one of those headlines I hate seeing.
It’s one of those stories that is really only sort of a story yet makes big headlines. But it’s worth noting here because of where we are in the Thunder’s season.
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, according to ESPN Dallas, told a Dallas radio station that he thinks his team has a slightly better chance of winning a first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks than the Thunder.
If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players,” Karl said. “They have two All-Stars who are really in their prime and have never won on the playoff stage. I just think right now our speed might have more effect against Dallas than it will against Oklahoma City.”
Excuse me for being slow to deem that statement as high praise by the Nuggets’ skipper. Karl “admitting” he’s five percent away from not giving a flip who his team faces doesn’t do much for me. Now, if he had said, ‘Whatever happens, we don’t want to see the Thunder. No way. No how,” then we’d be talking.
I applaud Karl for being frank on the matter. That’s rare for most NBA coaches these days not named Phil Jackson. But what he said wasn’t earth-shattering. Wasn’t even enlightening. We already knew the Thunder had horses that can run any team out of the gym.
The only thing that raised even a portion of my eyebrow was that Karl’s percentage has actually grown higher. That’s right, this isn’t the first time Karl has opened up about his playoff preference. I’ve been around the Nuggets for what’s seems like all week. I covered their game Sunday against the Lakers and covered the Thunder-Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday. Karl spoke at great length about the Thunder multiple times on both occasions. It was during Karl’s media session following Tuesday’s shootaround that he made similar comments to a group of reporters when asked who he thought was a better matchup for the Nuggets between the Thunder and Mavs.
I think they give different problems,” Karl said. “One day it’s 51 percent Dallas, 49 percent Oklahoma City. The next day it’s 52 percent Oklahoma City. It fluctuates for me.”
Ah, but then there was this, as Karl elaborated on his answer.
Dallas probably, I think, is the more difficult team only because of their experience,” Karl said. “They’ve been there. They know how to do it. I mean, 12 consecutive 50-win seasons is pretty amazing stuff. But Oklahoma City’s also very dangerous.”
OK, granted, those last two comments came before the Thunder beat the Nuggets in Denver and before the Nuggets turned around and defeated the Mavs one night later in Dallas. So I could see how Karl’s opinion might sway ever so slightly. But I wouldn’t read too much into how the Thunder might fare against the Nuggets in a potential opening-round matchup based on Karl’s statements. Denver is dangerous for the Thunder in many ways as well. You can bet nobody knows that like Karl.
I’d probably say let the game of basketball give us who we get by doing what we’re doing, trying to win as many games as we can,” Karl said.