DENVER — George Karl acted as if he didn’t know what he had just done.
“When we make the playoffs, we’ll have something to build on,” the Denver Nuggets head coach said in response to his team’s recent split against the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Then he got a little quiet.
When? Not if?
“I like our chances,” Karl said.
Well, to make his prediction a reality, the Nuggets must perform a little better against one of the league’s worst teams tonight when Denver hosts the Charlotte Bobcats at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets only other encounter with the expansion Bobcats (12-49) came right before the All-Star break, and it was probably Denver’s worst game of the season.
“We remember what they did to us last time,” Nuggets center Marcus Camby said. “I think we want it a little more than them, though.”
On Feb. 16, Denver finished its five-game road trip with a 94-88 loss to Charlotte.
But this is a different Nuggets team now.
“This team gets an A-plus in improvement,” Karl said. “We’re 8-1 in our last nine games, and I think we’ve made drastic improvements defensively.”
Physically, however, Denver
doesn’t seem to be improving, at least not as fast as Karl would like.
Forwards Nene and Kenyon Martin are ailing, and Camby’s missed two of the last three games with a sore hamstring. Nene practiced Tuesday, taking part in a scrimmage and getting in about seven or
eight possessions, Karl said. Camby said he’s feeling better, but he’ll be a game-time decision tonight.
Getting the three of them on the court together, healthy, has been a goal all season.
As for the apparent feud between Karl and Carmelo Anthony, Karl said there’s nothing there.
“We talked before practice,” Karl said, “for about five or six minutes. It’s really nothing. Out of the last 10 games, Carmelo has had seven or eight really good games.
“If he’ll let me, I think I can help him.”
Ultimately, his goal is to make his team help themselves, though.
“On all the great teams (I’ve coached), the players have policed themselves,” Karl said. “They knew what they had to do when they walked into the building. On this team, I’m doing the policing. Hopefully next year, they’ll be able to come to practice, and know what they need to work on.
“If Kenyon’s 1-of-6 from the field, the game says he needs to work on his shooting. If Carmelo’s 6-for-29, the game, not me, says he needs to get in here and work on his shooting.”
At 32-30, Denver currently sits tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot. It’s not the most comfortable position to be in, but like Karl said, he likes the Nuggets’ chances.
“We’re playing good basketball right now,” he said. “We’re so deep that we might have too many pieces, but that’s OK. We’ll just have to see how things go from here.”