Brian Shaw’s toughness was unquestioned during his playing days.
Now, in his first head-coaching job with the Denver Nuggets, it’s tough for Shaw to watch and be unable to inject that grit into his team.
Shaw acknowledges injuries have robbed the Nuggets of their depth. His squad isn’t close to the team that finished third in the Western Conference last season thanks to depth and, for the most part, good health.
At this point, Shaw isn’t asking for an improbable winning streak. He just wants the Nuggets to stop going down with a whimper as they have in some of their lopsided losses.
“I don’t know how many of these guys have gotten into fights in their life, but if I’m going down, I’m going down swinging,” Shaw said. “I’m not just going to keep taking blows and taking blows and not deliver any myself. That’s all I want to see. I just want to see some fight.”
Entering Saturday, the Nuggets had lost four in a row and nine of their last 10 games.
Shaw has had to deal with injuries to key players. Guard Ty Lawson has missed eight games because of a fractured rib. Center JaVale McGee played in only five games before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left leg last month. Forward Danilo Gallinari is out for this season as he continues to recover from a torn left ACL suffered in April.
“Most of the games we may be outmatched and talent-wise not be able to match up,” Shaw said. “But in a fight, go down swinging, and we can live with that. But what I can’t live with is disinterest and uninspired play that we’ve been seeing that comes from the lack of effort.”
Shaw had to accept what he saw on the court when injuries stripped his roster to the point he had few or no choices for replacements on some nights. Some players are starting to get healthy, providing Shaw with more options. Even if they aren’t at 100 percent, those who play with intensity will be in the game.
“If we only have guards on the bench and our two big men aren’t getting it done, we’ll play with five guards,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he recently compiled a list of the “alarming” number of players who have posted career or season highs against the Nuggets this season. That upsets Shaw as a competitor. He’s not sure if it upsets enough of his players.
Shaw noted how guard Aaron Brooks, in his first game with Denver, tried to box out Chicago’s big men. When tempers picked up after a flagrant foul, Brooks stepped in to protect his new teammates while others watched.
Shaw cannot coach or game-plan effort. Like every coach, he can only demand it or sift through the roster until he finds players who give maximum effort.
“I wake up and I come in here and I hope that it’s a day somebody wants to put our team on their back and be the go-to guy and be aggressive and come out and play an inspired brand of basketball,” Shaw said. “But to be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m going to get that every day, and that’s the part that’s kind of disheartening and disappointing.”
Buyouts create an in-season free-agency period that contenders use to fill out their rosters with veterans who could be the difference in the postseason.
One title contender really helped itself with players whose contracts had been bought out by their teams.
The Los Angeles Clippers scored twice by landing forwards Danny Granger and Glen Davis after they were bought out by Philadelphia and Orlando, respectively. Davis also played for Clippers coach Doc Rivers in Boston.
Raymond Felton didn’t exactly have a great February.
He was in the middle of trade rumors, with the talk being no one wanted the New York guard. Writers grilled him about his weight – again.
Then he was arrested on gun possession charges after his weapon was turned in by his estranged wife’s attorney.
Also, the Knicks have lost five in a row, and Felton’s offensive numbers are all below his career averages.
“I can’t say (what he’ll do). That’s on him. He’s got to decide. (But) he can’t be what everybody else wants. In this situation, you’ve got to take your heart out of it … . So I’d just say for him, take his heart out of it and think with his head and think about business.” – Houston center Dwight Howard, on advice he’d give New York’s Carmelo Anthony in free agency this offseason.