The Denver Nuggets took a bold step in the right direction toward an NBA championship on Thursday, when 33-year-old franchise president Josh Kroenke finally stood up to all the garbage spewed by George Karl and kicked the league's coach of the year to the curb.
Karl fired? Anybody who was paying attention could not be surprised.
Why is Karl gone?
When Karl let his name be linked to the coaching vacancy with the Los Angeles Clippers this week, the 62-year-old coach either: A) knew exactly what he was doing, or B) is the dumbest man in the NBA.
And Karl is far from stupid. Anybody who thinks Karl is the innocent victim to the whimsy of a young NBA executive is being played for a fool by the coach.
Entering the final year of his contract with Denver, Karl sought a contract extension. That's understandable. Basketball is a business, and as Karl often has stressed, a long-term deal gives a coach the hammer with players.
So, Karl tried to leverage his 57-win season and his coach of the year trophy into a new contract. Guess what? The Kroenke family does not succumb to leverage. Ask former general manager Kiki Vandeweghe what happened when he threatened to bolt.
As one NBA executive told me: The Kroenkes don't do leverage. They blow up the bridge of negotiations. "Then," the NBA exec added, "Stan Kroenke comes and blows up your house."
Boom.
Karl is gone.
After a 57-win regular season, the opening-round playoff loss to Golden State was devastating. But getting beat by the Warriors wasn't as upsetting as how Denver lost. During the playoff series, center JaVale McGee averaged 18.5 minutes per game, mirroring his meager playing time of the regular season. His first starting assignment of the season did not arrive until the Nuggets trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.