Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said over the weekend that his team was “in a bad place.” Where does Tuesday night’s wholly dispiriting loss to the Philadelphia 76ers put them, then? Whatever that new depth is, yesterday’s effort certainly lends credence to Shaw’s contention that his players oft appear as if they’re trying to lose.
Denver held a 90 minute practice on Sunday after getting blown out at home by the short-handed Charlotte Hornets 24 hours prior. It culminated with a 30-minute sit-down between players and coaches that was closed to the media. Afterward, Shaw suggested the headline-grabbing possibility that the Nuggets are playing poorly on purpose.
Here’s Nick Groke of The Denver Post. Note the bolded one-sentence paragraph after the initial quote from Shaw:
“I think it’s hard to try to lose, try to tank, try to go out there with guys who are competing with you and not compete back,” he said. ” It’s harder to do that than to just put forth the effort in the first place.”
Shaw said he suspects his players may be trying to lose.
“It just looks like you almost have to try to lose as bad, and in the way we’ve been losing,” he said. “At that point, something gives. The decision-makers at some point are going to make a decision. And everybody is going to have to live with it. Then it’s out of our control.
“The only thing I can control is doing my job to the best of my ability. And that’s what I expect them to do. Do I feel like that’s always been the case? No. Do I share responsibility in that? Yeah…”
“And all I can do is try to do my best, do my job to the best of my ability every single day. And I hope I get that back in turn. And it hasn’t seemed to happen that way.
We emphasized that bit for a reason. Other outlets have reported this story as Shaw openly admitting to tanking – or even mutiny – in Denver. As you can see above, however, that assertion is merely Groke’s interpretation of Shaw’s incendiary soundbites.
And while he and other reporters on scene are far better equipped to gauge the embattled coach’s tone than the rest of us, we believe it’s unfair to the 19-30 Nuggets to proceed as if Groke’s assessment came from the horse’s mouth.
Players intentionally giving substandard effort and operating with ulterior motives at hand? That’s a serious accusation in the NBA, and one we think all parties involved – Shaw, his staff, and Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and company – deserve better than writing unless it’s stated by a member of those in question.
It bears mentioning that we’re not defending Denver with some misplaced bias here, either. We’ve chastised the Nuggets ever since summer 2013 when they let Masai Ujiri walk to the Toronto Raptors, fired George Karl following the most successful regular season in franchise history, and hired a coach that spoke of shoe-horning Lawson and Faried into a halfcourt offense built on traditional back-to-basket players.
The Post also quotes Shaw as saying his honesty with the media sometimes comes back to haunt him. On multiple occasions over the past two seasons has he publicly thrown his players under the bus to explain the Nuggets’ underwhelming performance. That motivational tactic has clearly backfired, however, and Shaw should realize it and adjust instead of adhering to a personal hubris that he “has nothing to hide” as his team’s struggles intensify.
New coaches should not just implement systems that best fit the roster they inherit, but also all-encompassing methods of teaching, too. Shaw opted against the former strategy before finally somewhat relenting, and continues to do the same with respect to the latter.
It’s no wonder Denver is such a mess.
But none of that means the Nuggets’ players are tanking – it just means their combination of guidance, talent, and on- and off- court fit is one that’s led to losing. There’s a difference. And until Denver comes out and directly says otherwise, that distinction is extremely important to note.
What do you think?
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