The Denver Nuggets have cleared out General Manager Masai Ujiri and Head Coach George Karl. While President Josh Kroenke looked to answer questions about the moves, he has not given a new direction to fans. Where are the Nuggets heading and is Kroenke the man to lead the new team?
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
The iconic movie quote sums up the Denver Nuggets. While President Josh Kroenke has talked mightily, his actions give off the opposite impression. While many who attended the press conference and heard Kroenke’s words believe in his message—it lacked substance, details and initiative.
Josh Kroenke felt it was appropriate to hold a press conference after the boxing up the franchise’s previous success in General Manager Masai Ujiri and Coach George Karl, but offered no real insight in the new direction. He promised he knew what he was doing, so we are expected to just believe him?
Fans in Colorado are starting to treat the Denver Nuggets like they’re the Colorado Rockies. Their word is the truth.
Looking at President Kroenke’s track over the last several weeks paints a wandering executive at best. Masai Ujiri left the Denver Nuggets for the Toronto Raptors, who offered him more money. Kroenke’s argument in his defense is that Ujiri really wanted to the job. This should be worrying to Nuggets fans for several reasons.
Kroenke set Ujiri up to take the Raptors job. Based on a family principle, a contract extension was not put on the table last summer after the Philadelphia 76ers came calling. However, Kroenke says Ujiri gave him a handshake agreement. Without progress in this offseason, Kroenke gave the Raptors permission to speak to Masai and set a high market price for the Executive of the Year. Josh Kroenke played this off as being a nice guy, but do you want an executive to be a nice guy? No! Nuggets fans should want a CEO to fight for the best possible talent.
On the salary issue, according to Kroenke, Ujiri told the President not to match the high Toronto offer. Kroenke never clarified whether he intended to do so. If he did and Ujiri still wanted to leave the Nuggets, that tells you what state the former general manager thinks Denver is in under the current oversight. Additionally, Kroenke should have made Ujiri leave instead of just have him say he didn’t want to stay. If the Nuggets weren’t willing to match the offer, there is not a lot of hope for spending money in the future.
A similar argument of neglect can be made for coach Karl. Kroenke swears up and down that the firing had nothing to do with the team’s success last year, but revolved around possible failures next year and Karl’s desire for a contract extension. The possible failures refer to a team Karl was able to get the best out of without Danilo Gallinari at the end of the previous season. Kroenke does not believe Karl could have replicated this success. Additionally, Kroenke would like Javale McGee and Evan Fornier to play more, even though he never brought this up to Karl.
On the contract situation, Karl did want an extension, but according to Vic Lombardi, he was willing to coach through next season anyway and the Nuggets held the option for an automatic extension should the team get out of the first round next year. Again, Kroenke tried to invoke the family policy that contracts aren’t extended until after the contract is up, but would not actually come out and say as much to Karl.
Here’s where the argument starts to fold for Kroenke and his well-meaning talk. The organization started to leak information to defame the two former employees; a move pulled many times by the Rockies to explain getting rid of troublesome ex-players/coaches/managers. First, it was that Karl was causing continuous strife within the organization and playing his hand to get an extension. Since no one has verified such rumors with anyone on the record. It seems ludicrous to accept the claim as fact.
Second, the organization has completely swapped the roles of Ujiri and Kroenke’s input. While the two have always been valued as a team, Ujiri was credited as the man with the patience behind the Carmelo Anthony trade, until Monday, when Kroenke was given the role of hero in a Denver Post story. Additionally, Josh and his father Stan Kroenke are waving their arms saying that the Josh had the final say on all the moves; implying that Ujiri wanted to make moves that Kroenke vetoed.
In essence, the Nuggets claim they are better off without Ujiri and Karl, but won’t say so on the record.
Kroenke can say he wants to win awards and not championships, but he better not look at all the Executive, Coaching and MVP awards stacked in the NBA Finals. It was a very nice line from last week’s press conference, but it was to in answer to a question of why Kroenke was treating the Nuggets like they were as broken as the Avalanche?
The answer, please ignore the Kroenke behind the curtain making all the decisions