Jan 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw reacts to a call in the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at the Pepsi Center. Shaw was ejected from the game. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In Defense of Brian Shaw

Before this 4-game winning streak, it wasn’t hard to understand why so many people were frustrated with Brian Shaw. This year has been especially painful after last season’s pre-playoffs successes, capped by G.Karl winning Coach of the Year. Now, after the Nuggets’ lackluster few months, Coach Shaw is living in the shadow of He-Of-The-Sloped-Forehead. Get your torches and pitchforks guys, even with these recent wins, we’ve already lost waaaay more games at home this year than we did all last season.

But hold on. Would George Karl have done any better? Think about it this way: Shaw was plopped into a situation where the team had lost Iggy, who was the Nuggets’ most well-rounded and best defensive player, as well as Kosta, who was far and away their most reliable center (bear in mind: JaVale has asthma, so even if he weren’t injured and even if he didn’t make some really bizarre basketball choices, he couldn’t play a whole game). When Iggy was on the bench, the Nuggets were giving up the ball nearly 5 times more than they were when he was on the floor. And of the big guys, Kosta was by far the Nuggets’ best defensive player. Yes, Brian Shaw has completely switched things up by choosing to focus way more on the Nuggets’ defense than on their fast-break skills, but with two of their best defensive players gone and the addition of Nate Robinson (who is charming but not known for his defense), what other choice did he have? GKarl would had to have done the same thing, because without those two guys, the Nuggets probably lost about half their defensive strength.

Now Gallo and JaVale are out for most, if not all, of the season, in addition to assorted injuries throughout the bench all year. Brian Shaw isn’t playing the way that George Karl played because it wouldn’t make any sense. He’s not going for the same kinds of fast-break points because that only works when your most consistent scorers — like Gallo — can consistently score. This is exactly why the Nuggets brought Shaw in: to rebuild the team, and because of his reputation for working with new players. The Nuggets’ new players are getting a lot of minutes because a lot of their old reliables have fallen through this year. Brian Shaw is in Denver to develop their skills.

Yes, I think he’s made some questionable choices, and yes, I would like to see him make better use of the skills the Nuggets developed under Karl. You don’t have to put the torches and pitchforks away just yet; we’re going to see how the season plays out, and then maybe you can do some pillaging at the Pepsi Center. But let’s not root out Shaw and play a game of musical coaches for the next 5 seasons without waiting to see if maybe, just maybe, Shaw is actually making reasonable decisions under circumstances that are different from George Karl’s.

Oh but if we lose too many more home games, you have my permission to start catapulting livestock.

Tags: Denver Nuggets

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