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Kings notes: Karl still wonders what might have been in Denver

Nearly three years after being fired by the Denver Nuggets, Kings coach George Karl still gets nervous inside Pepsi Center.

Tuesday night’s game was Karl’s second time coaching in Denver since he was dismissed in 2013. In his last season with the Nuggets, he was named NBA Coach of the Year.

“There’s some butterflies,” Karl said before the game. “It was a nervous day for me. A lot of thoughts, a lot of phone calls.”

Karl still wonders what might have been during his final Denver season had Danilo Gallinari not suffered a season-ending torn left ACL in April.

The Nuggets won a franchise-record 57 games and were the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs. But with Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried coming back from injuries and Gallinari sidelined, Denver was upset by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. Karl then was dismissed.

Karl still speaks fondly of his nine seasons with the Nuggets but points to the Golden State series as pivotal.

“That was a series that if we won we still might have a chance of being here,” Karl said. “I don’t know. I don’t know all that stuff. I can’t deny some of our coaches and friends have gotten together and we have cussed that moment (Gallinari was injured) because of what transpired after it. And I felt bad for Gallo. Even in the summer, he was trying to figure out if he’d ever get back.”

Gallinari missed the 2013-14 season. He’s averaging a career-high 19.8 points this season.

Connecting with Cousins – Denver coach Michael Malone had a solid relationship with DeMarcus Cousins throughout their 18 months together in Sacramento.

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Malone credited his approach. He said he and Cousins are “very similar,” and Malone never changed who he was or tried to change Cousins.

“I was honest with him. I coached him, I disciplined him, I held him accountable,” said Malone, who was fired by the Kings in December 2014. “I never tried to be his buddy. I never tried to coach around him. And at the end of the day, I am a competitor. I hate to lose. DeMarcus is a competitor, he hates to lose, and we had that in common.”

Tricky defense – Malone was asked if he’d try a 4-on-5 cherry-picking defense that Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive once suggested to the coach.

When word of the idea became public, it was widely mocked.

“No comment, no comment,” Malone said. “That’s been bandied about plenty in Sac.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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