DENVER — Selfless and starless. These were the staples of the exhilarating Denver Nuggets’ NBA franchise-record 57-win regular season.
George Karl kept with that theme Wednesday, sharing the credit far and wide after being named the league’s Coach of the Year for the first time in his quarter century as an NBA head coach.
“What I hope is everybody understands this is not about me. It’s about a lot of people and a lot of people in my past and I am proud to have that trophy,” Karl said.
Karl worked wonders with a lineup that lacked an All-Star, was beset by injuries to several starters and twisted its way through a brutal early-season schedule in which 22 of the team’s first 32 games were on the road.
Relying on an old-school up-tempo offense and a deep bench that wore out opponents, especially at altitude, the Nuggets led the league in scoring, fast break production and points in the paint with nary a dominant scorer — Ty Lawson led Denver with 16.7 points a game, which ranked 31st in the league.
They went an NBA-best 38-3 at home, winning their last 23 games at the Pepsi Center in the regular season and going 24-4 overall after the All-Star break.
The third-seeded Nuggets sorely missed forward Danilo Gallinari (knee) in the playoffs, however, and they lost in six games to Stephen Curry and the sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors.
That was their fourth straight first-round exit and the most disheartening in Karl’s 8½ seasons in Denver.
“It was an incredible season. That’s why the disappointment is so immense,” Karl said. “I wake up every morning depressed. I woke up about 6 o’clock, I was hoping for sunshine and I got rain and it didn’t make me feel very good, and then I said, ‘Oh, God, I’ve got to put a suit and tie on. …
“Hopefully, come next Oct. 1 … we’ll move on knowing that we have a great young basketball team that is growing, that got better this season, that improved at such a fast rate that we got maybe too cocky and too ahead of ourselves,” Karl said. “And the coaches fall into that category, too.
“None of us are happy with the result, but I think we’re also motivated by the challenge.”