After a lackluster loss to Cleveland earlier this month, Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik questioned whether his players were in shape and said he was losing sleep because of the Nuggets'...
DENVER — After a lackluster loss to Cleveland earlier this month, Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik questioned whether his players were in shape and said he was losing sleep because of the Nuggets’ inconsistent play.
Unfortunately for him, things never really got better.
Denver fired Bzdelik yesterday, one day after the Nuggets lost their sixth straight game and failed again to live up to the high expectations that came with the offseason addition of All-Star forward Kenyon Martin. Assistant Michael Cooper took over on an interim basis after Bzdelik became the first NBA coach to be fired this season.
“Right now, I really felt the team needed a change,” general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. “Sometimes it’s nothing the head coach is doing wrong. It’s just that a change of voice sometimes is the positive.”
The Nuggets clearly needed to change something.
Expected to contend in the Western Conference after Martin came from New Jersey in a sign-and-trade deal, the Nuggets instead have been plagued by bad luck, inconsistency and lopsided home losses.
The season got off to a horrible start when shooting guard Voshon Lenard, Denver’s only legitimate outside threat, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in the opener.
The Nuggets also started the year without power forward Nene and have used 10 different starting lineups, with star forward Carmelo Anthony missing the past five games with a sprained ankle.
But bumps and bruises were only part of Denver’s problems.
The Nuggets have been wildly inconsistent, grinding out wins against playoff teams one game and getting blown out at home the next.
“That’s the messed-up thing. He’s not out there playing,” Martin said. “He’s the head coach and he’s got to take the blame. I’m sure if they could fire us, they probably would.”
The Nuggets opened the season 2-5, won 10 of their next 12 games and have since lost eight of their past nine. They are 13-15 after a 104-101 loss at lowly Golden State on Monday night.
“I didn’t feel like the team was responding the way we had hoped,” Vandeweghe said. “These things don’t happen overnight, it’s an evolution. I can’t pinpoint when this trend started, but it started a while ago.”
Bzdelik was 73-119 in just over two seasons with Denver.
“None of us have any guarantees on tomorrow,” Bzdelik said. “I’ve seen coaches with five or six years left on their contract and get let go and players not responding to them. So I was proud of the effort our players had exhibited over the last several games.”
Cooper coached the Los Angeles Sparks to two WNBA championships before joining the Nuggets this season.
* The New Jersey Nets placed guard Ron Mercer (knee) on the injured list and signed forward Jerome Moiso.
* Milwaukee Bucks forward Keith Van Horn was put on the injured list because of an ailing right ankle. He will be out at least two more weeks.
* The Portland Trail Blazers waived center Vladimir Stepania, who has been on the injured list all season. Stepania was a first-round draft pick by the Sonics in 1998.