Tag:George Karl
Posted on: April 15, 2011 3:02 pm

Thunder-Nuggets Preview: There will be blood

Posted by Royce Young

I. Intro:  No. 5 seed Denver Nuggets (50-32) vs. No. 4 seed Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

It's already being looked at as the "fun series" to watch. The young, athletic Thunder versus the young, athletic Nuggets. Some seem to be torn on the outcome which says one thing -- it should be a fun series.

Both teams underwent pretty serious transformations near the trade deadline. One was shipping out its star and replacing him with a gaggle of above average players. The other was shipping off one of its young pieces and replacing him with a championship tested big man.

At the time, it looked like the two franchises were headed in opposite directions. It looked like the Thunder were setting up to contend in the now, while the Nuggets were attempting to restructure for the future.

Except Denver kept winner and actually probably became a better team. In the end, we settled in on a unexpected series pitting division rivals against one another. Already the two teams are talking a little smack and already they've tussled. I get the feeling they don't like each other one bit. Did I say it should be fun?

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

Throw out the first two meetings because they don't count at all (Denver and OKC split 1-1 anyway). The teams that faced off in those first two games aren't the ones you see now. A lot changed.

And more than really any other series, we got the best taste of what to expect over the last couple weeks with this one. Not only did the Thunder and Nuggets play each other -- home and home, too -- but the games were important at the time. The Northwest Division title was still on the line.

OKC took the game in Denver 101-94, handing the Nuggets their first loss at home since the Melo trade and snapping a seven-game win streak. Then back in Oklahoma City a week later, the Thunder dropped the Nuggets 104-89 with a relentless defensive effort.

III. The Easy Stuff: Denver has no one to guard Kevin Durant

In the two recent games, Durant averaged 30.0 points per game on 45 percent shooting and really didn't get much of a challenge from Denver defenders. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari shared the assignment, but the Nuggets tried switching on every screen Durant ran off of.

What result was a bunch of mismatches with Durant catching Nene or Kenyon Martin one-on-one. That wouldn't be a problem, except Durant is taller than both and can shoot over anyone on top of driving past them.

OKC is 22-1 this season when Durant shoots better than 50 percent from the floor. Read that last sentence again. Really, without Ron Artest last year holding Durant down against the Lakers, that series might've been very different. The Nuggets have to find a way to check Durant, otherwise they'll have a hard time checking the Thunder.

IV. Secret of the Series: The three P's: Pace, Perk and perimeter defense

The Nuggets play at the second fastest pace in the league (95.6). They want to run. They want to get Ty Lawson, Chandler, Martin and everyone else out in the open floor.

Oklahoma City isn't opposed to running by any means, but the Thunder definitely want to keep the Nuggets off the highway. In the last game in OKC, the game was played at a pace of just 90.0, something that definitely favored the Thunder. In the halfcourt, the Nuggets struggled scoring against OKC's man-to-man defense.

To go with that, inside Kendrick Perkins gives OKC the ability to leave single coverage on Nene. That means the Thunder's perimeter defenders can hang on Denver's list of good shooters. The Nuggets want you collapsing and rotating everywhere so they can find a marksman open on the outside. OKC didn't afford Denver that, holding the Nuggets to just 10-30 from 3 in the last two games.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative : "He who scores most will win"

Why is everyone acting like this will be a high scoring, up and down series? The two games these teams played in the last couple weeks were won by the Thunder by an average score of 102.5 to 91.5. Oklahoma City plays some serious defense now. Since Perkins joined the starting lineup, the Thunder are only second to Chicago in defensive efficiency.

Obviously the Nuggets like to run and the Thunder aren't shy about it, but if these games are 120-117 like everyone is acting, Scott Brooks might throw up. Kendrick Perkins most definitely will. (You know, from the running.)

This series will be more about stops and rebounding than anything else. Denver struggled in the halfcourt against the Thunder the last two games and OKC excelled, especially late. It's not about outscoring or outgunning each other. It's about out-stopping each other.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: This will be fun. Speed on speed. I'm not sure anyone is faster than Russell Westbrook end-to-end with the ball in his hands. Except Ty Lawson (and maybe Derrick Rose). Westbrook is bigger and stronger though, which gives him the edge. But Lawson is the most important part to the Denver offense. He scored a then career-high 28 points against OKC in Denver two weeks ago.

SG: Assuming Arron Afflalo is healthy, this is a big edge for the Nuggets. Thabo Sefolosha doesn't add much on the offensive side and his defensive skills aren't needed that much on Afflalo. But OKC does use James Harden off the bench much in the same way Dallas uses Jason Terry. Then again, Denver has J.R. Smith who is maybe this series' overall X-Factor...

SF: I already went over it, but Denver just doesn't have a good defender for Durant. Both Gallinari and Chandler will have their chances, as well as Afflalo, but we're talking about maybe the most gifted offensive player in the game.

PF: Really this is a push because both Kenyon Martin and Serge Ibaka, while good players, aren't going to do a ton more than block, rebound and score occasionally on put-backs.

C: Other than the point guard matchup, all eyes will be here. Perkins and Nene already tussled once and there's no doubt that they'll likely go at each other again. Perkins did a really good job on Nene in the first meeting holding him to just 3-10 shooting, but Nene came back with a solid 6-9 effort in the last meeting.

Bench: Both teams have very strong benches. As mentioned, Harden is more of a bench starter for OKC. Eric Maynor is a terrific backup point guard. Daequan Cook a nice specialist. Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed good veteran big men. Denver has excellent weapons too with Raymond Felton, Chander, Smith and Chris Andersen. The benches will be big and both are very good.

Coaches: George Karl and Scott Brooks know each other well. Brooks was an assistant under Karl for three years. Karl is the more experienced one and has been both the favorite and the underdog before. This is Brooks first rodeo as a playoff favorite. But this series is more about the players than the coaches, so I don't really think this matchup matters a whole lot.

VII. Conclusion

This will be a terrific series, no matter the number of games it takes. Some are feeling the Nuggets in an upset as that's what a lot of the numbers suggest. But I don't see it. I think everyone agrees that the Nuggets may have actually become a better team trading Melo, but against the Thunder, it hurt them. Kevin Durant gets an easier job, the Nuggets don't have a good halfcourt option late in games and OKC actually matches up really well with Denver now.

The Nuggets are dangerous, especially when a couple guys get hot. But that's what it'll take. They'll have to have big games from J.R. Smith (good luck relying on him), Gallinari, Lawson and Chandler to move on past OKC. The Thunder know what they're getting from Durant and Westbrook. They know they can play defense. I like this Nuggets team a lot. Just not against Oklahoma City. Prediction: Thunder in five.

Posted on: April 8, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 5:04 pm

Denver may not want OKC; does OKC want Denver?

Posted by Royce Young

The expectation a few days ago for Friday night in Oklahoma City was high drama when the Thunder took on the Nuggets. Denver was closing in on the Thunder's division lead and pushing to nab that coveted four-seed from the Thunder.

But the Thunder eliminated a hefty amount of the anxiety Tuesday by taking down the Nuggets 101-94 in Denver, which opened the door for Oklahoma City to clinch the Northwest Division and four-seed the next night against the Clippers.

Maybe because of that loss and the fact Denver handled the Mavericks Wednesday night, George Karl was prompted to say he actually preferred seeing the Mavs in the opening round of the playoffs if he had his way.

And Karl's Nuggets could help that along Friday night actually. OKC is just one game behind Dallas (and holds the tiebreaker as a division winner). Any Thunder win from here on out gets them closer to the three-seed and a destination with either Portland or New Orleans in the opening round, instead of Denver.

Question is, is that really what the Thunder want?

Most have been saying they shouldn’t want the three-seed. Common sense says playing the Lakers in the Western Finals is better than playing them in the second round. 

Here’s the thing about playing the Lakers: If you want to get to the NBA Finals, you’ve got to beat them at some point. What’s it really matter if it’s in the second or third round? All it means if you can get past them in the semis is that the road gets easier to the Finals. And besides that, since when are the Spurs pushovers? They’re pretty good, remember? Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com actually sees the Spurs as OKC’s kryptonite team . So let’s not get carried away thinking that San Antonio is the easiest team ever. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, four titles, best record in the West this year -- yeah, the Spurs are pretty good.

That's getting ahead of ourselves though. What about in the first round? Does OKC want the heated Nuggets or most likely, the Blazers?

After the way things looked against Denver Tuesday, the Nuggets actually appear to maybe be a more favorable matchup for OKC. Here are some reasons: 1) They don’t have anyone ideal to guard Kevin Durant. 2) Nene is a major part of their offense and Kendrick Perkins can handle him one-on-one. 3) The Thunder should be able to dominate the boards. 4) Ty Lawson will have a tough time checking Russell Westbrook an entire series.

Now of course a dominant effort by the Nuggets tonight could change that perspective a bit.

Portland on the other hand, seems to have the pieces to match the Thunder a bit better. Gerald Wallace is a pretty good defender to check Durant. OKC doesn’t have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Roy is kind of a mystery — what if he revs it up for a seven-game series? Beating Portland at the Rose Garden is tough. To beat the Blazers, the Thunder would likely have to out-execute them late in games.

All of that together and it just feels like Portland is the tougher team for OKC.

That said though, I think I’m asking myself the wrong question here, because it’s not about who you play. It’s more about the idea of trying to position yourself in the playoffs. I understand one side of it. If the goal is to go deep into the postseason, you want to set yourself up in the best way possible to do that, right? Of course. But not at the cost of losing games.

Besides, what are you going to do? Have the team intentionally lose a game or two? How do you tell a group of guys to go out there and not try so hard tonight? How do you expect guys who have worked their butts off since August to win every time their shoes hit the hardwood to go ahead and drop one? Yeah, not realistic. You can sit players like Durant and Westbrook but you don't want to sacafice rhythm for a seed.

Between the Blazers and Nuggets in the first round really neither is an ideal matchup and neither is a nightmare for the Thunder. Neither is a team that’s going to just cause OKC a million headaches. Both will be tough to beat and I definitely see each going six, maybe seven games. But it’s not like the Thunder’s got a big problem with one. Plus, I like the idea of pushing hard at the end of the season and bettering your circumstance. Momentum is good. Confidence is wonderful. Look at what a little Big East tournament run did for Connecticut.

In the end, it shouldn't matter anyway. If team wants to go to bigger things as Durant said, you’ve just got to beat the teams in front of you. Whoever is put on the bracket next to your name, you play them and beat them. You can’t ask for a cakewalk to the Western Finals. You can’t expect someone to make this easier for you. If you have a chance to win, you win. If you have a chance to improve your seed, you do it. Who cares who you play and when you play them? You have to beat people to get to the goal anyway, so might as well get it over with.

Then again, if the Hornets want to go ahead and stay in sixth, I'm Scott Brooks and the Thunder would be more than thrilled to move up.

Posted on: April 7, 2011 6:42 pm

Karl says he'd rather play the Mavs than Thunder

Posted by Royce Young

The Nuggets have a pretty big game Friday night versus the Thunder. And not because Denver has a shot to catch Oklahoma City, because the Thunder already clinched the Northwest.

Nope, it's because if George Karl had it his way, he might prefer his Nuggets actually lose.

Via ESPN Dallas:
"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," Denver coach George Karl told ESPN 103.3's Galloway and Company, referring to Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook. "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."
OK, so maybe he doesn't really want to lose to the Thunder Friday, but it would definitely go a long way in pushing OKC to the three-seed. Right now, the Thunder are just a game back of Dallas with four to play. And OKC sort of has the upper hand. The Thunder actually own the tiebreaker over the Mavs despite losing the season series 2-1 because division winners get precedent.

But it's certainly interesting that Karl would be so candid about such a thing. Most when asked just play the "We're not thinking about them, just about us" card. Karl was honest. He doesn't like the matchup with OKC. He saw it first hand Tuesday night as the Thunder beat the Nuggets 101-94. With Kendrick Perkins inside on Nene and no one to guard Kevin Durant, Karl sees a very tough series ahead.

He's right though; Denver does match up much better. Karl has Wednesday night's 104-96 win in Dallas fresh on the brain and saw how his team really outquicked the Mavs to death. Dallas just doesn't have the horses to keep up with Denver's athletes.

Will it happen? We'll certainly have a better sense after Friday night, that's for sure.
Posted on: April 3, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2011 6:37 pm

So wait, how far can these Nuggets actually go?

Posted by Royce Young

Nobody expected to be asking this question. I don't think even in his heart of hearts George Karl thought the Nuggets would be in the position for someone to ask it. More than a month after trading away the apparent franchise player, the Nuggets didn't dip. In fact, they did the complete opposite.

They rose.

You've heard the number a ton already, but I'll say it again: Since trading Anthony, Denver is an astonishing 15-4 and winners of seven straight, most recently with a terrific road win against the red hot Lakers. Again, I don't even the most optimistic people saw this streak coming. The feeling was the Nuggets made 50 cents on the dollar with the trade, getting quality pieces back but nothing comparable to Anthony. That's sort of the situation you face when trading a star. No matter the return, it's not as good as what you're sending out.

But the Nuggets clearly found something. They found a unit that works together, understands a philosophy entirely and has settled into roles and bought into a culture. There isn't a crunch time star to run things through. But there are a number of really solid players that are flourishing under Karl.

Not only are the Nuggets winning, but they've played every game well. They haven't really had a bad night. Their four losses were by a combined 15 points. And they came against the Magic, Heat, Blazers and Clippers. Yeah they Clipper loss isn't great, but it was at Staples where the Clips are 22-18 and have beat a lot of good teams. Not really a bad loss.

So the Nuggets have already accomplished the first goal, the one that appeared to be a longshot when general manager Masai Ujiri decided to finally cut ties with the Melodrama. They are going to go to the playoffs. Currently, the magic number is at one. A lone win or a Houston loss puts Denver in. And they are still in the rearview of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Northwest Division title and the four-seed in the playoffs.

Because that's where things have advanced to -- playoffs. No longer is it just about getting there, but now it's a new mission and a new question: Can the Nuggets actually make some noise?

It almost seems like we've all dismissed that as an option because of the lack of starpower. It's like people are saying, "Yeah the way they've played the last month is cute, but they aren't built for the postseason." But here's what wins in the playoffs: good basketball. And what do the Nuggets play? Good basketball.

On both ends, they've become a fundamentally sound unit that defends, moves the ball, cuts, runs and finishes. They are still scoring but instead if 60 percent coming from two players, it's now evenly distributed out among a number of guys. I think the toughest type of team to defend is one that have five, not one, players on the floor at a time capable of scoring. And not scoring as in making a bucket here or there. I mean capable of putting up double-digits consistently. George Karl deserves Coach of the Year consideration just for getting J.R. Smith to buy in to playing well with others. That honestly says it all.

Is this a team just built to contend for the Western Conference Finals? I mean, really? Well look at it this way: Most everyone the Nuggets play talk about how good they're playing and how scary they are. Put this group in a series where they need four wins and I don't think many teams would want to play them. They match up just about everywhere, have shooters, have two good point guards, have a big man that can rebound and score, have a really good bench and have an enforcer in the middle that adds toughness. They're built for anything.

One thing that makes a team more dangerous than anything is confidence. A belief in self, along with the 11 other guys on your team and the system you play in makes a team scary. It's how you see runs like what Butler has put together two straight years in the NCAA tournament. They believe in one another. They trust each other. And they just feel unbeatable, no matter what. Establishing that mentally was the top priority for Karl once the trade went through and he's absolutely succeeded.

The concern for them heading into the postseason is how they perform on the road where they're just 17-22. But Sunday's win in Los Angeles is a pretty good example of how they might be able to get over that. The Nuggets absolutely grinded one out versus the Lakers, playing hard nosed defense, by grabbing a couple key offensive rebounds and by moving the ball for good looks in crunch time. The Western Conference was already very aware of this Nugget team, but Sunday's win against the defending champs certainly raised a few more eyebrows.

But let's not get too carried away though. Winning in the playoffs isn't easy, no matter who you are or how well you're playing. You've got to beat a good team four times. That's tough, no matter how good you feel. And it will likely start versus the Thunder, a team that features a two-headed monster in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook plus ample size and toughness inside. Certainly, it will be a fun, but very difficult series.

The Nuggets are definitely capable of moving on though, but it's not like they're a favorite. It's not like most will give them much of a shot. Which means they'll be flying exactly where they want to be -- under the radar.
Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:59 pm

Felton says Denver's better than NY; are they?

Posted by Royce Young

It's too early to say that the Nuggets won the Carmelo Anthony trade, right? No way that the team that gave up Melo actually ended up with the better squad, right? It's not possible that the Nuggets are actually better than the Knicks, right?


Raymond Felton, who was part of gaggle of players sent to Denver for Melo and Chauncey Billups, says exactly that.

"We're a better team (than New York), I feel like. That's it," Felton told HoopsHype.

Marinate on that comment for minute because I know your initial reaction is to say no way. No way the Knicks, with Melo, Amar'e Stoudemire and Billups, are worse than the Nuggets who are built around Danilo Gallinari, Felton, Ty Lawson and Nene.

But so far, it's tough to argue with. The Nuggets are 7-2 post-trade and have gone from a prime candidate to slip out of the West to actually climbing to the No. 5 seed which they appear to have a strong hold of. Denver has had the good fortune of an easier schedule than the Knicks and with games against the Hornets, Hawks, Magic and Heat, the Nuggets might come back to earth a bit.

The Knicks have looked terrific at times but also have sputtered in trying to work in their new superstar. Since acquiring Melo and Billups, New York has gone 6-5, but that was against decent competition with some wins against good teams (Miami, New Orleans, Utah, Atlanta and Memphis). If the Knicks just hadn't dropped the ball twice against the Cavs, things wouldn't look near as rough. Plus, Billups has missed a few of the last games.

It's obviously premature to make a call on this because in the long run, the Knicks probably will come out better. But with the way things have panned out, it makes Masai Ujiri look that much better for the way he strung out this thing to get the best possible deal for Denver.

I do wonder what would happen between the Knicks and Nuggets in a seven-game series. Right now, I think Denver would have the edge because it seems like they've bought in more to the new system. The Nuggets are playing much better defense now than they were earlier in the year and have a unit that seems very cohesive and together.

Melo is now New York's defensive problem. George Karl said in a radio interview with 104.3 The Fan in Denver recently that the team made big strides defensively since the trade, even saying the Nuggets were "cheating the game" on the defensive end with Melo.

“I don’t think there’s any question that our personality of trying to get ‘Melo to be a little bit more involved with how we wanted to play versus his talent, which is scoring points," Karl said. "There’s a value to that and I have a lot of respect for what ‘Melo can do for a team. I don’t think you’re ever going to be a bad team with ‘Melo’s personality, but you’ve gotta work around his personality a little bit. I think sometimes the team is more important than the individual. You need individual talents, you need individual skills, you need the ability to score, but we were just cheating the game so much on the defensive end of the court, cheating the game in some offensive situations that I didn’t think we were getting enough team into the game as much as we were just getting scoring into the game.”

Are the Nuggets better than the Knicks? Right now, I think so. They've figured out each other while the top-heavy stockpiled talent in New York hasn't quite yet. But it's definitely premature to declare a winner here. I do think we can definitively say though that Denver came out a little better than everyone originally thought though.

Via Sports Radio Interviews

Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:43 pm

Nuggets sign coach George Karl to extension

The Denver Nuggets have signed head coach George Karl to a contract extension. Posted by Ben Golliver. george-karl

We're seeing an interesting pattern developing in the Northwest Division: over the last week, three teams in flux have moved to stabilize their future by locking up their head coach to a long-term contract extension.

First, on March 2, the Utah Jazz extended coach Tyrone Corbin's deal in the wake of Jerry Sloan's resignation and the trade of franchise point guard Deron Williams. Then, earlier Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers extended coach Nate McMillan's contract following another season squandered due to a string of injuries, including to potential franchise players Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.

Tuesday afternoon, the Denver Nuggets joined the list, extending the contract of head coach George Karl just weeks after the team traded franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.

ESPN.com reports that "George Karl and the Denver Nuggets have agreed to terms on a new contract extension, according to league sources. Exact terms of the deal are not known, but one source said the multiyear extension is worth at least three years." 

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that it is a three year deal with team options for a fourth, fifth and potentially sixth year.
The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security. 
"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."
The deal obviously gives Karl a significant measure of job security and personal stability, and it comes less than a year after Karl missed Denver's playoff run last season while battling cancer. Given the Nuggets' success and Karl's ability to overcome a life-changing health ordeal and a franchise-altering player depature make this is about as fairy tale an ending as an NBA coaching extension can get.

Basketball-wise, Karl's situation is very similar to McMillan's, as both work for first-year GMs, both boast consistent, winning track records and both are now at the helm for franchises that enter next season with new self-perceptions now that their star players have either been traded (Carmelo Anthony) or limited significantly by injury (Brandon Roy). Both relish the underdog role and have been recognized for their ability to coach overachieving teams through adversity. As it happens, McMillan played for Karl in Seattle and there's a certain poetic justice that their contract extensions are announced on the same day. 

Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri drew praise for the package of players he finally received after months of trade rumors involving Anthony, and he certainly deserves praise here. An extension for Karl was expected after weeks of hints about a forthcoming agreement, but locking up a top-tier coach should never be taken for granted and the added measure of flexibility with the extra team options is just the icing on the cake. Without Anthony, Ujiri needed something to sell to his current players and free agent targets and, if only temporarily, Karl has now become the face of the organization. Masai was brought on board to help Denver navigate towards its post-Carmelo future; with Anthony traded and Karl locked up, Masai's first two missions are accomplished. Now, he can really get to work on the future.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 3:47 am

George Karl: "It's time to move on, reinvent."

George Karl comments on his new team moments after finding his star Carmelo Anthony has been traded to the New York Knicks
Posted by Matt Moore

George Karl has beaten cancer twice. He's a Hall of Fame head coach, a loving father, and by all accounts a simply stand-up guy. But his patience was tested this year with the constant shadow of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors. With Anthony traded to New York late Monday night, Karl spoke with reporters and reflected on the bittersweet transition of his team from a playoff contender to a rebuilding project. 

Karl is clearly not happy about the developments. He's been through this before, but it doesn't make it any easier. He's now in charge of a team that is both rebuilding and trying to make the playoffs. But Karl knows that without a superstar, the Nuggets have a concrete ceiling above the first round.  He carefully dodges the question of what he thinks of the players he's getting, but it would have been easier for him to throw out general, positive terms. He elects for "exciting" which is never something a coach wants. A coach wants experienced. A coach wants talented. But exciting? George Karl has J.R. Smith, he doesn't need exciting. 

Perhaps most interesting, though, is Karl's reluctance to answer regarding the developing trend of NBA players dictating their own destinies with no regard for the teams who drafted them or the players around them. Karl's wise to want to ponder that one carefully before answering. 

But most frustrating for Karl? Half of these players he just acquired may not be around in three days. It's a lot of change for a guy who's been in Denver for quite some time to deal with. Of all the people who have been jerked around by the Melo situation, Karl was the one no one wanted to see suffer because of the nonsense. 

Karl uses the phrase "reinvent" several times, which may be the best word for what the Nuggets are trying to do. Maintain competitive basketball while looking to the future. But inventing a superstar? That's going to take more tricks than Karl or Masai Ujiir can provide. 
Posted on: February 3, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 5:56 pm

Knicks fined $200K for illegal workouts

The New York Knicks have reportedly been fined $200,000 for conducting a series of illegal workouts.

Posted by Ben Golliver. isiah-thomas

Back in October, we noted a Yahoo! report that laid out a series of improper draft workouts conducted by the Knicks. At the time, the NBA vowed it would conduct an investigation. The New York Times reports Thursday the NBA has assessed a six-figure fine to the Knicks for the workouts, but has not stripped the team of any of its draft picks.
The N.B.A. has fined the Knicks $200,000 and one of their scouts $20,000 after concluding that the scout, Rodney Heard, conducted workouts of college prospects that violated league rules, according to two people made aware of the league’s actions.
The Knicks hold the option of imposing further discipline on Heard, who joined the organization when Isiah Thomas was the team president. Significantly, Thomas, who now coaches at Florida International University, was not cited by the N.B.A. in the penalties it handed down.

The league determined that Heard conducted secret workouts before the camp, presumably to give the Knicks an edge in determining whether a prospect was worth drafting.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com provides these additional details.
In an investigation aided by the NBA's outside law firm, the Knicks were found to have conducted illegal pre-draft workoouts with Brandon Rush in 2007 as well as Ekpe Udoh and Tory Jackson in 2010, according to a league source familiar with the findings. The league could not uncover any proof that Heard or any Knicks officials conducted such a workout with Wilson Chandler, the person said.
Rush, a star at Kansas University, injured his knee in the unsanctioned workout and was later drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2008. Udoh was drafted by the Warriors in 2010. Jackson, who played at Notre Dame, is not in the NBA. If Chandler, who was drafted by the Knicks in 2007, had been found to have participated in an illegal workout with the team that drafted him, the Knicks would've faced a more severe penalty, said the person familiar with the league's findings.
Given that the workouts occurred over multiple years, reportedly involved a player the team eventually drafted and also involved a player who eventually lied about taking part in them, I argued for a stiff penalty: a seven-figure fine plus forfeiture of picks.

While the league's ruling does fall in line with other previous pre-draft tampering fines -- including a $200,000 fine to Denver Nuggets coach George Karl for attending a workout where his son was playing -- it seems much too soft given the full set of reported circumstances. For less than half the price of a second-round draft pick's contract, the Knicks were able to get additional, strategic information on potential players for multiple years. That is a competitive advantage and certainly against the spirit of fair play.

Despite the sticker shock, this is a best-case scenario for Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who needs all the draft picks he can get. The Knicks were recently determined by Forbes to be the NBA's most valuable team and money isn't really an object. 

That raises the question: What is stopping this from happening again?
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com