Published January 14, 2011
And now his team just might be on the verge of being dismantled.
No matter how well the Nuggets are performing, how much chemistry they're developing, it's hard to put much stock in them as bona fide contenders with trade talks involving Carmelo Anthony heating up in recent weeks.
Denver may have a radically different look by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Soon starting at forward for Denver — Nets rookie Derrick Favors?
Anthony's future has been the topic of intense speculation ever since he rebuffed the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million contract extension over the summer.
The most recent talks have Denver native Chauncey Billups and former Detroit teammate Richard Hamilton reuniting in New Jersey along with Anthony in a blockbuster deal that includes three teams and more than a dozen players.
In return, the Nuggets would receive Favors and point guard Devin Harris, along with possibly two first-round picks.
The discussions are still ongoing and the parties involved remain hopeful a deal can be worked out by next week.
But it could be contingent on whether Anthony signs the extension, so he doesn't leave next summer and become the headliner of the 2011 class. Anthony has yet to give any indication if he would agree to sign it and go to the Nets should a deal be completed.
That might be one of the snags holding up the mega deal. Yahoo! Sports recently reported that Anthony wants to be sold on the Nets before agreeing to anything.
Another layer of drama.
The Nuggets have become used to this, dealing with the distraction for the better part of five months.
Karl said he can't even begin to imagine coaching the San Antonio Spurs, where things are usually quite calm.
"My characteristics of my seasons have probably been more stormy than smooth and sunny," Karl said after a light practice Friday. "But I would like to have some smoothness.
"We're in a good place through a tough year. ... Hopefully, we can continue to play like we're playing right now."
Karl hasn't sweated over the what-ifs should Anthony be dealt. Sure, he's taken a look at Favors' game, just to see what the young player has to offer.
But as far as bracing for change, that's not on his priority list.
All the speculation is wearing on him, though.
Always quick with a quip, Karl had nothing witty to add when asked if an overhaul to the roster would be a frustrating proposition, especially after blowing out the Phoenix Suns and a Miami Heat team missing LeBron James in back-to-back games.
"I'm getting tired of coming up with analogies and stories," said Karl, whose squad hosts Cleveland on Saturday. "I'm running out of gas a little bit. Maybe I can just become blase."
That didn't last.
"NBA coaching is always somewhat a rough sea — it's never smooth," Karl said. "It's when you've got the 20-foot waves and 20-foot undertow that sometimes you have to worry."
In this case, the undertow would be the undercurrent of a possible deal involving Anthony.
Just when Karl has all his pieces in line, too.
Anthony has been one of the top scorers in the NBA, while Billups continues to recover from a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, dishing out a season-high 13 assists against Miami.
And then there's J.R. Smith, who both fascinates and frustrates Karl. Smith finished with 28 points against the Heat, hitting eight 3-pointers, but Karl was less than pleased with his shot selection, terming some of them "ego 3s."
"I definitely think I should talk to him about what happened in that game, tone him down or tune him down a little bit," Karl said.
Over their last two games, the Nuggets have registered 61 assists, played solid defense and spread around the scoring in winning by an average of 31 points.
Sure, it's a small sample size, but this is what the Nuggets could resemble down the road, once they get completely healthy.
They could be a strong postseason factor.
Of course, it comes with the caveat that Anthony sticks around.
"We probably would want better circumstances," Karl said after a 130-102 win over the Heat on Thursday. "But we've done our job pretty damn well all year to get messed up on what-ifs.
"I still think there's a window of what-if we're all together, what-if we become a really good team? Until that (doesn't) exist, I've got to keep the guys playing every game in that mentality of get better, get smarter and do our jobs — and our job is to win."