Show of hands here. How many Nuggets fans thought Brian Shaw would be coaching last night’s home game against the Thunder? Considering they all thought on social media that the Nuggets coach would not make it in the next homestand after this road trip, we have to assume not many thought this would happen.
Shaw had to wonder if he was going to coach last night’s game at the Pepsi Center after the Nuggets completed their three-game road trip. This comes after his team suffered an embarrassing 130-113 loss to the Trail Blazers at home last week. It did not look good for him. The perception was the players have quit on him based on that score.
There was no question several players such as Arron Afflalo and Kenneth Faried have not been happy about Shaw’s halfcourt offense. They feel they are better off running up and down the court, especially in the altitude at home. Still, it doesn’t mean they have quit on the Nuggets head coach. That was evident when the Nuggets won two of three in this trip, and that’s why Shaw coached last night’s game instead of having the distinction of being the first head coach to be fired in the NBA.
With the Nuggets winning three of four and improving to 4-7 after a 107-100 victory over the injury-depleted Thunder, the second-year Nuggets head coach does not have to worry about his job security for now.
It’s a relief for the beleaguered Shaw. He does not have to answer questions about his future with the Nuggets after every loss. He can talk about something that he likes such as talking about how his players are distributing the basketball and doing the right things to win games. Most of all, he can enjoy wins.
This hasn’t been fun for Shaw. He had to deal with disgruntled fans calling for his firing. He had to hear about his job status through the grapevine. There’s no question one of Shaw’s guys told him that Denver Post columnist Woody Paige called for his firing in Sunday’s paper.
This comes as part of the territory for a head coach when he is losing games more than winning games. Shaw knows this from the minute he signed on as a Nuggets head coach. No one should feel sorry for him, and he is not asking for that, either.
With some wins, Shaw can rest easy. He can enjoy a good night’s sleep. There’s no question the food and the beer are so good for him at least for this week.
The next step for the Nuggets is to sustain this run. That will be the trick. It won’t be easy. It’s going to come down to Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari to be consistent on a game-to-game basis. That’s been hard to do so far. Shaw doesn’t know what to expect from them each game. That’s been the problem during his tenure.
Watching last night’s game shows how frustrating Lawson is. There are nights he can be bad like last Wednesday night where he struggled to shoot and dish out the ball, and there are nights where he can dictate the tempo and the game by scoring 15 points and getting 15 assists last night.
What the Nuggets want to see is consistency out of their point guard. They have invested so much in Lawson. They want him to be one of the top point guards in the league. They want him to be what Chauncey Billups used to do for them when they were an elite team.
They hoped Shaw would be the coach that can develop a good point guard in Lawson. That hasn’t happened. It seems the Nuggets point guard is having a hard time understanding what the coach wants him to do or how he is being coached. That’s on the Nuggets head coach for not getting the most out of his point guard, especially after his predecessor George Karl had success with the same player.
Lawson not improving as a player is why Shaw could lose his job soon. The Nuggets coach desperately needs his best player to play like he did last night. His job depends on it.
Same can be said for Faried, Gallinari and Chandler. They have been hit or miss too often. They have to start improving or else some of them will join Shaw in departing from the organization.
Shaw hasn’t made an impression with the Nuggets fans. Not with the core players regressing. Not when he is 40-53 in his tenure as Nuggets coach.
No one expects the Nuggets to make the playoffs, but they can’t be this bad as they showed so far, either. They have to be trending upward heading to 2015 for Shaw to coach next season.
Shaw will be the Nuggets coach this season as long as his team wins their fair share of games.
For the beleaguered Nuggets coach, it’s one game at a time. He can’t think ahead or envision what he will do three months from now. Every game is a referendum for him.
He could use more nights like last night.
He knows it’s up to his core players to deliver.
He can only hope for the best than expect it to happen. That’s not a good situation for a coach on the hot seat to be.
One can only wish him good luck.
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