Mon May 25 2:17am ET
By PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer
In this Jan. 18, 2017, file photo, former NBA head coach George Karl talks about his new book, "Furious George," during an interview before a book signing event at a book store in east Denver. Karl has not felt this healthy in nearly two decades. He is playing tons of golf, bike riding, working out and doing some yoga. The longtime NBA coach who has fought cancer three times is living a quasi-retired sort of lifestyle. But the recently turned 69-year-old is far from retired. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
DENVER (AP) Truth: George Karl hasn’t felt this healthy in 15, maybe even 20 years. He’s playing plenty of golf, bike riding and finding time for yoga.
Basketball: The longtime NBA coach who has fought cancer three times is keeping the door open for getting back into the business, maybe as a head coach or possibly as an assistant.
: The title of the 69-year-old Karl's new, speak-his-mind podcast that he's finding “soulful.”
He may be leading a quasi-retired lifestyle but make no mistake - he's not retired.
“I love the game as much as I ever have," said Karl, who hasn't coached in the league since being let go by Sacramento following the 2016 season. "If the right situation came up, I might coach again.”
Karl has been quenching his thirst for hoops through his son, Coby, who's the head coach of the South Bay Lakers, a G League club. George Karl caught quite a few of his son's games in person before the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. When he wasn't there, he was always available for advice.
“I don’t get a lot of phone calls when he's winning. But when he’s losing I get a lot of phone calls,” cracked Karl, who has 1,175 career regular-season wins in stints with Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee, Denver and Sacramento.
Karl's name recently surfaced in an episode of “The Last Dance,” an ESPN and Netflix 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Karl was called out by Jordan for not greeting the basketball great while they were at the same restaurant during the 1995-96 NBA Finals.
Truth: He was in the restaurant and didn't go over. He doesn't recall ever walking by Jordan.
Basketball: He warned all his players not to fraternize with Jordan and the Bulls during the series. He didn't want to give Jordan any added fuel. Turns out, Karl provided extra motivation by not saying hello to his fellow University of North Carolina Tar Heel. Jordan averaged 27.3 points during a series Chicago captured in six games.
“I stood by my code with the team," explained Karl, who released a book titled “
: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection” in 2017. “I don’t think I’m a rude person."
These days, Karl's eating well, getting plenty of exercise and living a "lifestyle of less stress.” That all adds up to this: He hasn't felt this healthy in a while.
Karl was treated for prostate cancer in 2005 and then in February 2010 announced he had neck cancer, which forced him to take a leave of absence from the Nuggets for treatment and miss the postseason (a first-round loss to Utah). Years later, he revealed he was diagnosed with melanoma of the eye. He received the
in 2019 for recognition “of the bravery he has shown in facing ocular melanoma.”
“I don’t wake up worrying about cancer," Karl said. "But if my back hurts, I think it’s cancer. If my shoulder hurts, I think it’s bone cancer. The first thing I think is cancer.
“Once you have cancer, you have a higher risk of getting another cancer. I know that. But my health is probably as good as it’s been in about 15 or 20 years.”
He was saddened by the loss of Jerry Sloan, who
. Karl has fond memories of matchups against Sloan, who spent 23 seasons as coach of the Utah Jazz.
“Jerry was a very loyal and very demanding old-school coach,” Karl said.
Truth: Karl started his podcast with co-producers, Brett Goldberg, Bradley Burns and Mikey Goldenberg, in January to get fans to think differently about hoops.
Basketball: There's plenty of hoops insight in the podcast. He's discussed a little bit of everything:
- In an episode titled “The Curious Case of Carmelo,” he addresses his relationship with Carmelo Anthony while both were in Denver: “He was so talented. I look at myself as I failed a little bit with Melo. Because I couldn’t get him to the greatness of his talents. I feel I failed in getting him to the best of the best. I also feel I helped him get to being pretty damn good.”
- In a special edition titled “Kobe,” Karl talked about Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January: “There’s no question Kobe Bryant made the game of basketball a better place, a better game."
- In one titled “The Fall: 1994 Sonics vs. Nuggets Playoffs,” Karl discussed top-seeded Seattle losing to the underdog Nuggets in Game 5: “Painful. Miserable. ... The disappointment of the city of Seattle still lingers in my mind of (Dikembe) Mutombo laying on his back with that ball in the air. I want to kick it."
Delving into specific topics is a reason why Karl enjoys the podcast: “We can go a little deeper and be a little more soulful," Karl mused.
As for a return to the coaching ranks, he's not ruling it out. Maybe later, though, after his teenage daughter heads to college.
“Right now, I don’t mind mentoring my son and my friends," Karl said, “and just hanging around the gym with the opportunity to talk basketball."
Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner has been continuing basketball-related activities for about four or five weeks now. He built a makeshift gym in the family garage, so Turner has found a creative way to stay in shape. Turner was on fire before the NBA went on hiatus, so hopefully he can pick up where he left off. Victor Oladipo has decided to opt out of the upcoming NBA restart. That means Turner and Malcolm Brogdon will be asked to do more on the offensive side of the ball. Both players should see their fantasy value rise with Oladipo sitting out.
Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby has been working on his shooting, ball-handling and passing. It sounds like Anunoby wants to be a more versatility player on offense. The 22-year-old has seen his playing time rise to an average of 30.1 minutes per game this season. He's an important part of the Raptors rotation, so these improvements should boost his fantasy value. He probably won't be a great DFS option, but he could become a more popular choice if he enhances his game on the offensive side.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Landry Shamet has tested positive for COVID-19 and won't travel with the team to Orlando. This doesn't mean Shamet won't play, but he'll need to self-isolate and pass two negative tests, then test negative again upon arriving in Orlando. The Clippers first real game of the season is on July 30. There is still plenty of time for Shamet to get healthy and join the team. Reggie Jackson and Lou Williams would see increased value if Shamet for some reason doesn't return in time.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (back) won't be restricted when the season resumes later this month, according to head coach Brett Brown. "Hes good to go and we look forward to watching him with what Im told is, effectively, 100% health," Brown said. He was dealing with a lower back nerve impingement, but the hiatus has given Simmons plenty of time to rest up. It sounds like Simmons will be back to his normal role of playing around 33-36 minutes per game.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said that he'll leave the bubble in Orlando when his wife goes into labor. Her due date is in September, which would be in the middle of the playoffs. It's not ideal to lose a key player during the playoffs, but it's understandable considering the situation. It'll be tough for the Celtics to fill Hayward's production. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will likely be asked to do more if Hayward does step away during the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Darius Miller (Achilles) is unsure if he'll be ready to play when the NBA resumes play. Miller has not played this season after having surgery last August. He has been unable to get into 5-on-5 action yet, so the team will have to wait before they evaluate him. It's unlikely that Miller would have a big role on the team even if he does return later this month. The Pelicans have plenty of depth, so Miller will likely get lost in the shuffle.
Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is expected to see playing time at power forward when the season resumes. He hasn't played since March of 2019, but the Blazers reportedly won't have Nurkic on a minutes limit. Nurkic was originally expected to split playing time with Hassan Whiteside, but it doesn't appear that will be the case. It's unclear if the Blazers still plan to start Zach Collins at center, but his value shouldn't decrease from this news.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro says that the league shutdown allowed his ankle to 100 percent heal. He returned prior to the hiatus, but his ankle still bothered him at times. "It definitely helped me just so I had more time to recover," Herro said. His fantasy value should be on the rise, but he'll need to compete for touches. Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, and Duncan Robinson will also be fighting for minutes at the guard spots. It'll be interesting to see what the Heat do with their rotations with Herro back to full health.
Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore mentioned he was hopeful to remain with the organization beyond the 2019-2020 season. His stats have taken a hit this season, but he is averaging 23.5 minutes per game through 20 games with Sacramento. Head coach Luke Walton said Bazemore was "a big part of [the Kings] having a little bit of success." Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Kings could likely bring him back on a reasonably cheap deal since he struggled this season. However, fantasy owners shouldn't expect much production from Bazemore despite him averaging decent playing time.
Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo has decided to opt out of the upcoming NBA restart in Orlando. "I truly believe continuing on the course Im on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me," says Oladipo. Back in March, Oladipo said that he still was not 100 percent healthy from his knee surgery. He has been trying to play through it, but his production has suffered because of it. Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, and T.J. McConnell will all benefit from the loss of Oladipo.
Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (knee) said that he is back to being 100 percent healthy. He has reportedly lost 12 pounds as of late May, so hopefully that will help with his lingering knee problems. Gordon has been unable to contribute like he wants to because of injuries. His production is way down, but hopefully he can get back to playing like he wants to now that he's healthy. His fantasy value should increase with his knee issues behind him.
Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox has begun talking about a contract extension with the organization. "I see myself being here. I want to be here," says Fox. It appears that the two sides have mutual interest, but the financial impact of the league's shutdown could make things more difficult. Fox is averaging a career-high 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. His fantasy value appears to be on the rise, but we'll see if the two sides can come to an agreement this offseason.
Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio is expected to see less playing time during the upcoming NBA restart. Head coach Monty Williams does not want the veteran guard to suffer a needless injury. The Suns have a small chance of catching the No. 8 seed, so there is no point for them to go all-in. Devin Booker will likely see his playing time take a hit as well. The Suns have a bunch of guards, so it might be a committee approach to fill the void. It sounds like most of the Suns starters will have decreased fantasy value heading into the restart.
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has a good chance at playing in the upcoming postseason, according to head coach Mike Malone. "I look forward to seeing how hell handle [postseason minutes] with this being his first time going through it," said Malone. His season has been up and down, but it's going to be tough for Porter to earn significant playing time. The Nuggets are covered in terms of depth, so Porter carving out a ton of minutes is highly unlikely. It'll be nice to see him get some playing time in the playoffs, but his fantasy value won't change much.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker could be looking at less playing time when the season resumes later this month. Head coach Monty Williams wants to play Booker less than his current 36.1 minutes per game out of caution. The Suns are six games out of the No. 8 seed, which means there's a small chance they make a run at the playoffs. The Suns don't want to risk any long-term damage to Booker over a few games. It's unclear which players are going to benefit with Booker playing less. Ricky Rubio and Deandre Ayton could see more chances with the ball on offense. DFS players should take notice that Booker could have slightly less value during the restart.
Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic and forward Zach Collins are expected to join the starting five when the season resumes, according to head coach Terry Stotts. Both players are returning from injuries that have sidelined them for most of the regular season. Trevor Ariza has decided to opt out of the restart, so Carmelo Anthony is the favorite to take over the starting small forward role. Hassan Whiteside is expected to move to the bench with Nurkic returning. It should be a 50/50 split between the two at center. It's unclear how much playing time Collins will receive when the league returns. Anthony and Collins should see increased fantasy value, while Whiteside's will take a hit.
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley is expected to see a larger role on the team with Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) sidelined for the upcoming NBA restart. "There will be more opportunity, and Mike is in position to take a lot of that," says teammate Joe Ingles. Bogdanovic was averaging 20.2 points through roughly 33.1 minutes per game. That is quite a lot of scoring and playing time to fill. The Jazz are expected to split up the playing time between multiple players. However, Conley could end up benefiting the most from the loss of Bogdanovic. It hasn't been a great year for Conley in terms of production, but this will be his final chance of the season to be a reliable fantasy contributor.
Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis (elbow) says that the NBA shutdown has allowed him to get back to being 100 percent healthy. He was dealing with a minor elbow issue and a number of other problems during the early part of March. Davis mentioned that having the hiatus has given him enough time to rest and get back to full health. He could be seeing more time at the center position if Dwight Howard decides to sit out during the upcoming restart. Davis could see his fantasy value slightly increase with the possibility of Howard sitting out and being back to full health.
San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl mentioned that he is ready to step up with LaMarcus Aldridge (shoulder) done for the season. Losing a big man, I have to step up, said Poeltl. Im going to take on that challenge." Poeltl is averaging 5.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 16.6 minutes this season. He has started 10 games, but mostly comes off the bench with Aldridge holding down the center role. Trey Lyles, Rudy Gay, and Poeltl will all be asked to step up with Aldridge sidelined. Poeltl is expected to start at center, so he should see an increase in fantasy value during the restart.
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (knee) is reportedly ready to go during the upcoming NBA restart. Walker has been dealing with knee issues all season long, but having a few months off because of the hiatus has helped him. "I really needed to use that break. It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee," said Walker. It does not sound like the Celtics plan to limit Walker at all during the restart. He was not shooting well before the hiatus, but getting back to full health was key for Walker.