December 7, 2015

Hoops Across The Ocean

USA Basketball Men's National Team Visits Maspalomas Beach

Every so often, red, white and blue has to trump Tar Heel blue. So for the next two weeks, I’m going to be rooting for a Dukie. Actually three Dukies.

Painful but patriotic.

The USA (with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Dukies Kyrie Irving and Mason Plumlee) opens play in the World Championships on Saturday. I guess they’re calling it the World Cup now. I’ve always known it as the World Championships.

The name really doesn’t matter. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of good young NBA players to take center stage. There are a few ways of moving up the ladder of prominence and success in the NBA. Making an All-Star team. Making the playoffs and helping your team win a playoff series. Being on a Championship team. That’s how you establish your credentials.

I love the fact that Derrick Rose is back on the court. He and Steph Curry are legitimate stars. Anthony Davis isn’t far behind. He’s going to be the next great player – a Tim Duncan-type big man who’s consistent for the next 10 years.

I’ve been told that this is the youngest U.S. team since the 1992 Olympics. I think they’re going to be challenged once they get past group play. Don’t get me wrong. They’re the best team, but the single-elimination format makes it tougher to be successful.

Losing Kevin Durant and Paul George shook them up a little bit, but it looks like they’ve started to figure out the lineup combinations. In the same sense, there are probably a few more countries that now believe they have a chance to win the gold medal.

That’s always good for international basketball.

– Coach Karl

B Strong A Success

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I have no idea why anyone would want to ride a bike nearly 20 miles straight uphill and then navigate their way back down a curvy mountain road.

I’m just glad they do.

I want to thank the 818 riders who took part in the 2014 B Strong Ride in Boulder last weekend. It was a great event that raised more than $336,000 for the George Karl Foundation and Boulder Community Hospital’s Center for Integrative Care.

There’s no way you’ll ever see me on the 69-mile ride that climbs 5,000 feet in elevation. Instead, I usually grab a helmet and take part in the 1-mile Mini B ride around Celestial Seasonings headquarters. Unfortunately, a calf injury prevented me from riding this year, but I still enjoyed listening to some great music and talking to the riders, organizers, sponsors and volunteers who make it such as special event.

Every year, we keep adding more riders and it becomes a bigger part of my foundation’s budget. It allows us to dream a little bit about what we might want to do and where we might want to go in the future.

I got involved four years ago as a speaker, and it’s led to great friendships with other cancer survivors who are the inspiration for the event. I love the energy of the Boulder biking community. I’ll be a part of B Strong Ride as long as they’ll keep having me back.

Even if you missed this year’s ride, you can still help us in the fight against cancer by visiting bstrongride.com. Earn a B Strong Ride jersey if you raise $500 or a B Strong jacket if you raise $1,000. The cutoff date is September 1.

See everyone again next year!

– Coach Karl

Time to decide a champ

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I’m fired up, baby!

Even though I’d rather be playing in the NBA Finals, the rematch between the Spurs and the Heat has me excited for hoops. It should be a great series and it already has a great feel to it.

LeBron is the best player in the game, but I like San Antonio to win it in six or seven. Team over talent. Plus, the revenge factor will help the Spurs topple the champs.

I’ve always believed Tony Parker the motor for Pop’s offense, but I still think San Antonio has enough to win even if he’s not 100 percent healthy. Duncan and Ginobili know how to win, and San Antonio has a deeper bench than Miami.

The key to the series will be LeBron against Kawhi Leonard. James has to be special for the Heat to win, and I think Leonard will make him work for everything at the offensive end of the floor.

Fatigue shouldn’t be a factor. Both teams have had at least four days of rest. Besides, as you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs, the body finds the fuel necessary to get you through each game.

Enough talk. Time to decide a champ.

Coach Karl

Jockeys, Juleps & Jazz

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Derby Day is approaching, and I’m rummaging through the closet in search of my white pinstriped suit. Or perhaps my bright orange sport coat.

Either would be perfect for Saturday’s Jockeys, Juleps & Jazz event to benefit MyLifeLine.org.

MyLifeLine is a great website for anyone going through cancer. It provides cost-free, private websites for patients and caregivers, allowing them to stay connected to family and friends during the treatment process. It was especially therapeutic for my partner Kim, who was able to provide regular updates during my chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2010.

I received messages of support from all over the world through MyLifeLine. Some of the people had been through cancer themselves, while others were simply wishing me the best in my recovery. The kindness of strangers was inspirational and motivational as I fought the toughest opponent of my life.

Please join us in your best Derby attire to watch the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby and celebrate MyLifeLine at the Brown Palace Hotel on Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.

I’m looking forward to raising a toast to MyLifeLine founder and fellow cancer survivor Marcia Donziger. I will also be presenting the George Karl Compassion and Courage awards.

It should be a great day!

Coach Karl

Handing out 2013-14 NBA awards

I’ve never been much of an awards guy. It goes against the team-first philosophy that I learned from coach Dean Smith at North Carolina.

I also understand that awards are part of the discussion in the NBA, and they reward players and coaches for their hard work and accomplishments at the end of a long season.

I can’t deny that it meant a lot to me to win the NBA Coach of the Year award last year but I’d trade it for championship ring in a heartbeat.

As a coach, I usually enlisted the help of my assistants to fill out the ballots for the All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams. The media handled everything else.

Now that I’m a member of the media, here are my personal selections for individual honors for the 2013-14 NBA season:

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

It was a two-man race between Durant and LeBron James. I think Durant had a more productive year for his team. LeBron’s the best player in the game, but I just think the karma of the season was more in Durant’s corner. He scored 25 points in 41 consecutive games. That’s impressive. And he did it with efficiency. He didn’t have many games where he went 7-for-21. Plus, he gave me enough headaches to last a lifetime.

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

I’d be happy to hand the Red Auerbach trophy to Pop. We’ve been saying the Spurs are old for five years. How do they keep winning? They weren’t beating people by five this year. They were beating people by 15 or 20! When they were winning 19 in a row, I know Pop was miserable because he didn’t want them to lose their edge. He’s an easy choice for me.

Defensive Player of the Year

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

There are a few good candidates here, but I have to go with Jordan because he led the league in rebounding and was such a dominant rebounder every night. I don’t think many people realize how important rebounding is to a defense. It’s the conclusion of a good defensive play, and Jordan was the closer for L.A.

Sixth Man of the Year

Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs

I’m just amazed that a guy who I thought was flawed and unfundamental is now a leader of San Antonio’s second unit. Throw Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili in there, as well. San Antonio usually gets one of those guys to come in off the bench and kick your butt.

Most Improved Payer

Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns

He really surprised me with his scoring ability. I thought he was a bad-decision, bad-shot basketball player, but he’s a perfect sixth man for the way Phoenix plays. He can get you 40. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe control the game, but when they need a rest, he comes in firing and he’s pretty effective doing it.

Rookie of the Year

I’m going to abstain from this one. Everybody knows I don’t like rookies.

All-NBA

F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

F LeBron James, Miami

C Joakim Noah, Chicago

G Tony Parker, San Antonio

G Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers

You know my thoughts on Durant and James. Noah never stops hustling on defense and on the glass, plus and he can create for his teammates on offense. Parker deserves more love than he gets. He’s the motor for that team. Paul is a reluctant choice, but he led the league in assists and I couldn’t find a good argument for anyone else.

Be good!

— Coach Karl

If I picked the All-Star starters

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Through the years, I was fortunate enough to coach in four All-Star games. I just wish they would’ve let me pick my starting five.

Don’t get me wrong. The fans get most of the selections right, but rarely do they go 10-for-10 – at least from a coach’s perspective.

This year was no different. I agreed with five of the 10 starters for the East and West starters.

Here are my selections for each team:

East Frontcourt

Fan selections: LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony.

My choices: James, George, Joakim Noah.

Without question, LeBron and Paul George are two of the top 10 players in basketball. Just because of that, I think they deserve to be on the court. I’d start Noah at center. He’s a non-stat guy who brings winning to it because of his energy and his defense. 

East Backcourt 

Fan selections: Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving

My choices: Wade, John Wall.

I think Wade’s body’s coming around a little bit. I was watching him one night and he took some good falls without wincing. He still has courage to take the big shot. Miami’s whole game plan is to keep him healthy. 

At point guard, I like Kyle Lowry because of his toughness, but I’d probably go with Wall because it’s an All-Star game. He still takes too many jump shots for me because I think he can get by his guy every time.

West Frontcourt

Fan selections: Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love

My choices: Durant, Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge 

I’m okay with Griffin and Durant. I think Durant’s the MVP. LeBron’s the better player but Durant might be more valuable to his team at this moment. I’d also take Aldridge over Love, partly because Portland deserves a starter based on what they’ve done this season.

As for Griffin, he’s becoming that next-tier player. Before, he was an All-Star player you weren’t afraid of. Now the guy can go out and kick your ass, and he’s playing a style of game that’s hard to defend. He’s running the court, He’s playing the high-low game and the pick-and-roll game. He still gets his lobs and he’s making the jump shot. He’s doing three or four things he wasn’t doing last year.

West Backcourt

Fan selections: Kobe Bryant, Stephen  Curry

My choices: James Harden, Chris Paul.

West coach Scotty Brooks got this one right by naming Harden as Kobe’s replacement. I don’t particularly like Harden’s game, but he can score. He’s a machine. He just doesn’t play hard enough for me. He has a coolness about him that bothers me. I’m also not a big Chris Paul guy, but I think he can control Harden and the ego of the game. He’ll try to orchestrate.

As for the game itself, I’ve never been a big fan of All-Star weekend. It was always a good chance for me to get away from the stress of the season and spend some time in the mountains with my family.

I’ll be observing this year from Bristol, Conn., and offering my thoughts on ESPN. Seems about right. If I wasn’t coaching, I always said they’d have to pay me to watch the All-Star game.

Coach Karl

Boulder Community Hospital Donation

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When I launched the George Karl Foundation nearly two years ago, I envisioned raising money for hospitals and organizations that went above and beyond to meet the needs of cancer patients and their families.

Boulder Community Hospital certainly fits that description.

That’s why I was thrilled and honored to present a $15,000 check from the George Karl Foundation to the hospital’s Center for Integrative Care this week. The center provides services such as acupuncture, massage therapy, manual lymph drainage and wellness and integrative care consultation.

These services aren’t covered by standard health insurance policies, which I think is absolutely mindboggling. When integrated with conventional cancer care, they have been clinically demonstrated to accelerate the recovery process, shorten hospital stays and reduce the need for pain medications.

Equally important, integrative care helps reduce the stress and anxiety of the patient, which I believe is a very underrated part of the treatment plan when trying to kick cancer’s butt.

I’ve been down the road to recovery twice. I know firsthand the difference integrative care can make.

So thank you, Boulder Community Hospital. Thank you, Celestial Seasonings, the force behind the annual B Strong Ride that celebrates cancer survivors while raising money to help cancer patients navigate the path to becoming survivors themselves.

– Coach Karl

Love Hope Strength helps Nuggets fans save lives

Saving a life can be as easy as attending a Denver Nuggets game.

Throughout the 2011-12 Nuggets season, hundreds of people provided a DNA cheek swab to register with Love Hope Strength, a cancer awareness group that helps match cancer patients with potential bone-marrow donors.

“The more people who register, the more chance we have to get great matches and the better chance we have of improving the process and saving people’s lives,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “It’s a no-brainer to me.”

As a two-time cancer survivor (prostate in 2005 and head and neck in 2010), Karl partnered with LoveHopeStrength when he launched the George Karl Foundation in March 2012.

“For the past few years, we’ve been under coach Karl’s nose at Pepsi Center doing bone marrow drives,”

LHS executive director Shannon Foley said. “When he’s working, we can be saving lives. We’re excited to get him involved in what we’re doing because people listen when he speaks.”

Foley sends e-mail updates to Karl, telling him how many bone-marrow matches there were nationwide in a given month. In 2010, there was a match from someone who registered with LHS at the Nuggets’ game against the San Antonio Spurs.

“They do a great job,” Karl said. “It makes you feel good and it’s a pretty simple thing.”

Karl, whose son Coby is a thyroid cancer survivor, believes bone-marrow registration should be mandatory in the United States. The process could be handled in a matter of minutes as a requirement of receiving a driver’s license.

“I have no idea why we don’t make it an incentive for every American to register their bone marrow,” Karl said. “That doesn’t mean you will be called, and if you are called, it doesn’t mean you will have to do it. You could live until 80 and you might never get a phone call.”

For those who are identified as a possible match, they are asked to donate blood for additional testing. Advances in medicine and technology have made the complete process easier and less invasive. It rarely involves an overnight hospital stay.

“If you had to be the donor in the past, it was somewhat painful. It’s not that way anymore,” Karl said. “You have to spend a couple hours in the hospital, but it’s for a good cause. I wouldn’t even know how I would feel if I helped save someone’s life. It would be pretty powerful to me.”

Co-founded in 2007 by leukemia survivors Mike Peters of the rock band The Alarm and CSI Entertainment president James Chippendale, Love Hope Strength has registered more than 19,000 people to be potential bone marrow donors, leading to 260 matches (and counting) worldwide.

In addition to registration drives at Nuggets games, LHS also is present at Colorado Avalanche hockey games, Colorado Mammoth lacrosse matches, Colorado Rapids soccer matches, as well as concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Foley said more bone marrow donors have been found at the Mile High Music Festival at DSG Park than at any other event in the world.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is tell people how easy it is to register,” Foley said. “In today’s economic world, it’s hard to ask people get involved by giving money. This is a way to get involved without digging into their pockets.”

For more information on Love Hope Strength and how to donate or register, visit LoveHopeStrength.org.