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News » Karl likes point guards Jennings makes good impression

Karl likes point guards Jennings makes good impression

Karl likes point guards  Jennings makes good impression By CHARLES F. GARDNER

George Karl is never at a loss for words, especially when the subject is Basketball.

But even the Denver Nuggets coach was stumped when asked if he thought rookie point guard Brandon Jennings could help turn around the Milwaukee Bucks , the team he once coached.

"That's way too hard for me after watching two films," Karl said. "My gut says it's going to be real interesting to see who is the best (rookie) point guard this season. This kid in Minnesota (Jonny Flynn) is pretty good. I think our kid (Ty Lawson) is pretty good, and I think Jennings is pretty good.

"But I'm not going to go prognosticating on a guy coming in here and making the city of Milwaukee love Basketball again. Wow, I'm not going there."

OK, George, fair enough. But Karl got a first-hand view of Jennings' style as the Nuggets and Bucks met Wednesday night at the Bradley Center. Jennings scored 32 points with 9 assists.

Karl went on to compare Jennings to a left-handed point guard the Nuggets coach played with back in the early 1970s, when Karl was a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs of the American Basketball Association.

"He reminds me a little of Bird Averitt, who I played with," Karl said. "He was left-handed and quick as heck. This kid has a lot more polish than Bird had.

"I think the way they're using him is great. They're giving him a lot of latitude, a lot of window. And they've got Luke Ridnour who's a pretty good point guard, and the last couple games he's been giving them pretty good minutes."

Karl used 6-foot-10 forward Chris Andersen, known as the "Birdman," to defend against Jennings in the first half, showing the rookie some respect.

Jennings also matched up against Lawson and veteran point guard Chauncey Billups as the Bucks met one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Karl posted his 939th career victory on Tuesday in Chicago, sending him past Red Auerbach and into eighth place on the NBA's all-time list. On Wednesday the Nuggets were playing the final game of a six-game road swing.

"There have been moments that I giggle a little bit. That's the best way to phrase it," Karl said of passing Auerbach's mark. "I never thought I'd be in this place."

Karl certainly didn't know he would have such a run of success in Denver during the last five-plus seasons. He was fired by the Bucks following a disappointing 2002-'03 season and was out of Basketball the next season, before being hired by the Nuggets after they got off to a poor start in the 2004-'05 season.

He has led Denver to the playoffs in five straight seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference finals last season, when the Nuggets lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Karl still reserves a few of his fondest memories for his time with the Bucks , particularly the 2000-'01 season when the Bucks just missed a trip to the NBA Finals.

"Every team and every coach has a personality," Karl said. "When I got here I tried to play Seattle defense, and it didn't work. We had to throw it out the window. All of a sudden I forgot how to play defense and was a good offensive coach.

"We had a bunch of good offensive players, and we could shoot. We developed a philosophy of shooting quick, shooting a lot and trying to make the other team shoot back at us. It was pretty successful.

"Ray Allen was a tremendous talent. Sam Cassell was a very unique point guard, and I loved my time with Sam. And Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) was a great scorer. At times he was difficult to coach, but for the most part he was a winner for me."

The Bucks lost to Philadelphia in a seven-game Eastern Conference final series in 2001, but Karl said the semifinal series against Charlotte was even more memorable.

"The year we went to the conference finals the city had a tremendous spirit, a tremendous energy to it," Karl said. "There were 10 or 11 days where the city was alive with intensity and electricity.

"And the series before that was one of the better series I've ever coached in. We were down, 3-2, and had to go down there (to Charlotte) and win Game 6. It was a lot of hard-nosed Basketball that makes everybody love the NBA playoffs."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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