February 20, 2017

Hoops Across The Ocean

USA Basketball Men's National Team Visits Maspalomas Beach

Every so often, red, white and blue has to trump Tar Heel blue. So for the next two weeks, I’m going to be rooting for a Dukie. Actually three Dukies.

Painful but patriotic.

The USA (with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Dukies Kyrie Irving and Mason Plumlee) opens play in the World Championships on Saturday. I guess they’re calling it the World Cup now. I’ve always known it as the World Championships.

The name really doesn’t matter. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of good young NBA players to take center stage. There are a few ways of moving up the ladder of prominence and success in the NBA. Making an All-Star team. Making the playoffs and helping your team win a playoff series. Being on a Championship team. That’s how you establish your credentials.

I love the fact that Derrick Rose is back on the court. He and Steph Curry are legitimate stars. Anthony Davis isn’t far behind. He’s going to be the next great player – a Tim Duncan-type big man who’s consistent for the next 10 years.

I’ve been told that this is the youngest U.S. team since the 1992 Olympics. I think they’re going to be challenged once they get past group play. Don’t get me wrong. They’re the best team, but the single-elimination format makes it tougher to be successful.

Losing Kevin Durant and Paul George shook them up a little bit, but it looks like they’ve started to figure out the lineup combinations. In the same sense, there are probably a few more countries that now believe they have a chance to win the gold medal.

That’s always good for international basketball.

– Coach Karl

B Strong A Success

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I have no idea why anyone would want to ride a bike nearly 20 miles straight uphill and then navigate their way back down a curvy mountain road.

I’m just glad they do.

I want to thank the 818 riders who took part in the 2014 B Strong Ride in Boulder last weekend. It was a great event that raised more than $336,000 for the George Karl Foundation and Boulder Community Hospital’s Center for Integrative Care.

There’s no way you’ll ever see me on the 69-mile ride that climbs 5,000 feet in elevation. Instead, I usually grab a helmet and take part in the 1-mile Mini B ride around Celestial Seasonings headquarters. Unfortunately, a calf injury prevented me from riding this year, but I still enjoyed listening to some great music and talking to the riders, organizers, sponsors and volunteers who make it such as special event.

Every year, we keep adding more riders and it becomes a bigger part of my foundation’s budget. It allows us to dream a little bit about what we might want to do and where we might want to go in the future.

I got involved four years ago as a speaker, and it’s led to great friendships with other cancer survivors who are the inspiration for the event. I love the energy of the Boulder biking community. I’ll be a part of B Strong Ride as long as they’ll keep having me back.

Even if you missed this year’s ride, you can still help us in the fight against cancer by visiting bstrongride.com. Earn a B Strong Ride jersey if you raise $500 or a B Strong jacket if you raise $1,000. The cutoff date is September 1.

See everyone again next year!

– Coach Karl

Time to decide a champ

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I’m fired up, baby!

Even though I’d rather be playing in the NBA Finals, the rematch between the Spurs and the Heat has me excited for hoops. It should be a great series and it already has a great feel to it.

LeBron is the best player in the game, but I like San Antonio to win it in six or seven. Team over talent. Plus, the revenge factor will help the Spurs topple the champs.

I’ve always believed Tony Parker the motor for Pop’s offense, but I still think San Antonio has enough to win even if he’s not 100 percent healthy. Duncan and Ginobili know how to win, and San Antonio has a deeper bench than Miami.

The key to the series will be LeBron against Kawhi Leonard. James has to be special for the Heat to win, and I think Leonard will make him work for everything at the offensive end of the floor.

Fatigue shouldn’t be a factor. Both teams have had at least four days of rest. Besides, as you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs, the body finds the fuel necessary to get you through each game.

Enough talk. Time to decide a champ.

Coach Karl

Jockeys, Juleps & Jazz

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Derby Day is approaching, and I’m rummaging through the closet in search of my white pinstriped suit. Or perhaps my bright orange sport coat.

Either would be perfect for Saturday’s Jockeys, Juleps & Jazz event to benefit MyLifeLine.org.

MyLifeLine is a great website for anyone going through cancer. It provides cost-free, private websites for patients and caregivers, allowing them to stay connected to family and friends during the treatment process. It was especially therapeutic for my partner Kim, who was able to provide regular updates during my chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2010.

I received messages of support from all over the world through MyLifeLine. Some of the people had been through cancer themselves, while others were simply wishing me the best in my recovery. The kindness of strangers was inspirational and motivational as I fought the toughest opponent of my life.

Please join us in your best Derby attire to watch the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby and celebrate MyLifeLine at the Brown Palace Hotel on Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.

I’m looking forward to raising a toast to MyLifeLine founder and fellow cancer survivor Marcia Donziger. I will also be presenting the George Karl Compassion and Courage awards.

It should be a great day!

Coach Karl

Handing out 2013-14 NBA awards

I’ve never been much of an awards guy. It goes against the team-first philosophy that I learned from coach Dean Smith at North Carolina.

I also understand that awards are part of the discussion in the NBA, and they reward players and coaches for their hard work and accomplishments at the end of a long season.

I can’t deny that it meant a lot to me to win the NBA Coach of the Year award last year but I’d trade it for championship ring in a heartbeat.

As a coach, I usually enlisted the help of my assistants to fill out the ballots for the All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams. The media handled everything else.

Now that I’m a member of the media, here are my personal selections for individual honors for the 2013-14 NBA season:

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

It was a two-man race between Durant and LeBron James. I think Durant had a more productive year for his team. LeBron’s the best player in the game, but I just think the karma of the season was more in Durant’s corner. He scored 25 points in 41 consecutive games. That’s impressive. And he did it with efficiency. He didn’t have many games where he went 7-for-21. Plus, he gave me enough headaches to last a lifetime.

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

I’d be happy to hand the Red Auerbach trophy to Pop. We’ve been saying the Spurs are old for five years. How do they keep winning? They weren’t beating people by five this year. They were beating people by 15 or 20! When they were winning 19 in a row, I know Pop was miserable because he didn’t want them to lose their edge. He’s an easy choice for me.

Defensive Player of the Year

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

There are a few good candidates here, but I have to go with Jordan because he led the league in rebounding and was such a dominant rebounder every night. I don’t think many people realize how important rebounding is to a defense. It’s the conclusion of a good defensive play, and Jordan was the closer for L.A.

Sixth Man of the Year

Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs

I’m just amazed that a guy who I thought was flawed and unfundamental is now a leader of San Antonio’s second unit. Throw Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili in there, as well. San Antonio usually gets one of those guys to come in off the bench and kick your butt.

Most Improved Payer

Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns

He really surprised me with his scoring ability. I thought he was a bad-decision, bad-shot basketball player, but he’s a perfect sixth man for the way Phoenix plays. He can get you 40. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe control the game, but when they need a rest, he comes in firing and he’s pretty effective doing it.

Rookie of the Year

I’m going to abstain from this one. Everybody knows I don’t like rookies.

All-NBA

F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

F LeBron James, Miami

C Joakim Noah, Chicago

G Tony Parker, San Antonio

G Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers

You know my thoughts on Durant and James. Noah never stops hustling on defense and on the glass, plus and he can create for his teammates on offense. Parker deserves more love than he gets. He’s the motor for that team. Paul is a reluctant choice, but he led the league in assists and I couldn’t find a good argument for anyone else.

Be good!

— Coach Karl

If I picked the All-Star starters

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Through the years, I was fortunate enough to coach in four All-Star games. I just wish they would’ve let me pick my starting five.

Don’t get me wrong. The fans get most of the selections right, but rarely do they go 10-for-10 – at least from a coach’s perspective.

This year was no different. I agreed with five of the 10 starters for the East and West starters.

Here are my selections for each team:

East Frontcourt

Fan selections: LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony.

My choices: James, George, Joakim Noah.

Without question, LeBron and Paul George are two of the top 10 players in basketball. Just because of that, I think they deserve to be on the court. I’d start Noah at center. He’s a non-stat guy who brings winning to it because of his energy and his defense. 

East Backcourt 

Fan selections: Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving

My choices: Wade, John Wall.

I think Wade’s body’s coming around a little bit. I was watching him one night and he took some good falls without wincing. He still has courage to take the big shot. Miami’s whole game plan is to keep him healthy. 

At point guard, I like Kyle Lowry because of his toughness, but I’d probably go with Wall because it’s an All-Star game. He still takes too many jump shots for me because I think he can get by his guy every time.

West Frontcourt

Fan selections: Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love

My choices: Durant, Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge 

I’m okay with Griffin and Durant. I think Durant’s the MVP. LeBron’s the better player but Durant might be more valuable to his team at this moment. I’d also take Aldridge over Love, partly because Portland deserves a starter based on what they’ve done this season.

As for Griffin, he’s becoming that next-tier player. Before, he was an All-Star player you weren’t afraid of. Now the guy can go out and kick your ass, and he’s playing a style of game that’s hard to defend. He’s running the court, He’s playing the high-low game and the pick-and-roll game. He still gets his lobs and he’s making the jump shot. He’s doing three or four things he wasn’t doing last year.

West Backcourt

Fan selections: Kobe Bryant, Stephen  Curry

My choices: James Harden, Chris Paul.

West coach Scotty Brooks got this one right by naming Harden as Kobe’s replacement. I don’t particularly like Harden’s game, but he can score. He’s a machine. He just doesn’t play hard enough for me. He has a coolness about him that bothers me. I’m also not a big Chris Paul guy, but I think he can control Harden and the ego of the game. He’ll try to orchestrate.

As for the game itself, I’ve never been a big fan of All-Star weekend. It was always a good chance for me to get away from the stress of the season and spend some time in the mountains with my family.

I’ll be observing this year from Bristol, Conn., and offering my thoughts on ESPN. Seems about right. If I wasn’t coaching, I always said they’d have to pay me to watch the All-Star game.

Coach Karl

Boulder Community Hospital Donation

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When I launched the George Karl Foundation nearly two years ago, I envisioned raising money for hospitals and organizations that went above and beyond to meet the needs of cancer patients and their families.

Boulder Community Hospital certainly fits that description.

That’s why I was thrilled and honored to present a $15,000 check from the George Karl Foundation to the hospital’s Center for Integrative Care this week. The center provides services such as acupuncture, massage therapy, manual lymph drainage and wellness and integrative care consultation.

These services aren’t covered by standard health insurance policies, which I think is absolutely mindboggling. When integrated with conventional cancer care, they have been clinically demonstrated to accelerate the recovery process, shorten hospital stays and reduce the need for pain medications.

Equally important, integrative care helps reduce the stress and anxiety of the patient, which I believe is a very underrated part of the treatment plan when trying to kick cancer’s butt.

I’ve been down the road to recovery twice. I know firsthand the difference integrative care can make.

So thank you, Boulder Community Hospital. Thank you, Celestial Seasonings, the force behind the annual B Strong Ride that celebrates cancer survivors while raising money to help cancer patients navigate the path to becoming survivors themselves.

– Coach Karl

Absence makes a coach’s heart grow fonder

I don’t know Broncos coach John Fox very well. We’ve exchanged a few texts, but that’s about it. If he’s anything like me, the next few days are going to be tough. Not because of anything to do with his recovery from heart surgery, but because no coach likes being away from his team for any reason.

Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.

In 2010, I took a leave of absence as Nuggets coach to go through radiation and chemotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer. I tried to stay with the team early on in my treatment, but it quickly became very fatiguing mentally and physically. My body and my heart were tearing me in different directions. Should I try a little harder to coach or should I try a little harder to get well? Should I reach out to the coaches while I was away? Should I try to stay close to the players? I didn’t have the right answers. My body was deteriorating, so I didn’t feel like I could be very much of an influence watching them practice, so I stayed away.

My situation was obviously severe and required a lengthy recovery. From what it sounds like, Coach Fox is probably going to be able to see his team and hang out with them much sooner than I did. In the meantime, watching his team play without him is going to be difficult. The head coach has more influence than anybody else on the staff, and it’s easy to get into a mental game of “What if?” What if I did this? What if I did that? I had trouble watching our team play because if they played poorly, I didn’t know how to help. I always thought they should be playing better than they were playing. And you definitely don’t want to criticize your assistant coaches because it’s a very difficult position for them to be put in.

It’s like having a substitute teacher. You can have the best substitute in the world and the students are always going to push the envelope to do something wrong or something not as committed as when the regular teacher is there. Just looking it as a fan, the Broncos seem to have very good leadership. Fox’s absence opens up the opportunity for Peyton Manning to be more in control, which from what I see, is a good thing. It could be a situation that the Broncos can rally behind and unify behind. I like the karma of the team with the way it’s played this year . They appear to be very serious and very focused. Something like this can actually make you more serious and more focused.

The hierarchy of a football coaching staff also might make it easier because the assignments are already delegated. There’s an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, a special teams coordinator, etc. Everybody already knows their role and responsibility.

The best medicine, of course, is success. If the Broncos can continue to roll, it will do wonders for Coach Fox as he works toward making a triumphant return to the sideline. I wish him the very best in his recovery.

– Coach Karl

ESPN, Here I Come

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets - Game One

Hello again, ESPN.

Starting Sunday Oct. 20, I’ll be talking hoops on ESPN as an NBA studio analyst. I’m not looking forward to landing in Bristol when it’s 5-below, but I’m excited about the opportunity ahead. It gives me a forum to stay in the game and encourages me to be alert to the rhythm of the NBA. When you’re coaching to win a game, it’s totally different than observing the game from the outside. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the ride outside the game as much as I’ve enjoyed it inside the game.

This will be my second time working for ESPN. I spent more than a year with the network in 2003-04 before the Nuggets hired me as their coach in January of 2005. In the past eight years, the media universe has changed, but ESPN has survived and become the king of sports throughout the world. Their programming and the visualization are at a world-class level. They’ve taken this little campus in Bristol, Connecticut and turned it into the No. 1 sports broadcasting service in the world. I haven’t always agreed with some of their opinions, but I’ve always respected ESPN as an industry pioneer.

A lot of people ask me what my style will be in front of the camera. I basically want to serve the game in a positive way. I don’t think it’s productive to be controversial just for the sake of being controversial. I’ve always been known for not trying to hide the truth. Spinning is a popular angle that a lot of organizations and coaches use. That’s not my style. A lot of the things that are said in the locker room and happen within your team have to stay within the family, but I think spinning and hiding the truth aren’t always the best way to communicate with fans.

As much as I’m looking forward offering my insight to NBA fans on ESPN, my desire remains to coach again. The gym is always going to a place I love. Because of the good things we did in Denver, I know I want to get back to it someday soon.

Until then, I’m eager to share my thoughts and insights about the NBA with millions of ESPN viewers. I might be a little rusty at first, so be kind with your criticism.

— Coach Karl

Celebrating cancer survivors at B Strong Ride

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, but it no longer has to be a death sentence. Thanks to the tremendous work of researchers and organizations fighting to find a cure, there are millions of cancer survivors.

One of those survivors is Kevin Mulshine, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008. In addition to his chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Kevin endured 12 surgeries in an 18-month period.

In September 2009, Kevin celebrated his recovery with a tough 34-mile ride with Dr. Roger Nichols – one of the doctors who helped save Kevin’s life.

I’m happy to say that Kevin and I will be standing together this weekend to celebrate all cancer survivors during the B Strong Ride at Celestial Seasonings headquarters in Boulder. In its first two years, B Strong Ride has raised $625,000 to benefit Boulder Community Hospital Center for Integrative Care and the George Karl Foundation.

We’re expecting another great turnout this year. It’s not too late to join us for the 69-mile mountain loop, the 24-mile countryside loop or the 1-mile Mini B for kids 10 and under. I tackled the Mini B with my daughter Kaci last year and had a blast!

Registration is $95 for individual riders. You can pay only $80 if you get a team of at least four people together. Click here for all the information.

After the ride, we’re going to have a great time sharing stories and celebrating life, so join us for food, music and more this Saturday.

Hope to see you there.

— George Karl