Nuggets coach hit hard by Majerus' death


Nuggets coach hit hard by Majerus' death

DENVER (AP) Denver Nuggets coach George Karl said he is still having a tough time dealing with the death of his friend, former Utah and Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus.

Karl spoke about his friendship with Majerus, who died of heart failure Saturday night after being hospitalized for several months.

``It's still very hard for me,'' Karl said before the Nuggets played Toronto on Monday night. ``He's one of my best friends and I think most people in basketball know that. I'm mad at him, I'm angry he's gone, there's a lot of emotions going on in my head. Most of it is I've got to figure out how to celebrate our friendship for the rest of my life even though he's not going to be with us.''

The two became friends while working at the Pete Newell Big Man camp at Stanford University in 1986 and the friendship grew over the years. The camaraderie extended to Karl's family, who considered Majerus one of them.

``Incredible friend. He treated me like I was his brother,'' Karl said. ``My son called me and said he was part of our family. He's been with Coby since he was in sixth grade. A lot of roots, a lot of stories and a lot of love.''

While Majerus was known as a college coach, Karl invited him to work with the Nuggets and offer insight over the past seven years. Several times he referred to Majerus in the present tense.

``He has a tremendous instinct on how to put a team together,'' Karl said. ``We have tremendous philosophical differences in a lot of things, but team and how the team works and who plays well with each other and how to incorporate strengths and weaknesses, he was always was there to help me make the next step with my team.

``Training camp, playoffs, in the season, he has a tremendous way of making me feel confident about who I am as a coach. He was always good in that way.''

Majerus, a Milwaukee native, compiled a 517-216 record over 25 years with Saint Louis, Ball State, Utah and Marquette. Majerus guided the Billikens to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years last season. The Billikens, who finished 26-8, upset Memphis before losing to Michigan State.

He took Utah to the 1998 NCAA championship game, where the Utes lost to Kentucky. That team featured three future NBA players - Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac and Andre Miller, who plays for the Nuggets.

Karl praised Majerus' record despite not having top-tier recruits.

``He never had the blessing of having the best talent in college, but he had an incredible record in Utah, he had an incredible record in producing NBA players,'' Karl said. ``Andre being one of them.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.