Is Ujiri on the brink of leaving Denver?

Earlier today Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrien Wojnarowski reported the Nuggets ownership granted the Raptors permission to speak with Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri in Denver. In his article Woj states that, “Unless Denver responds soon with a market-value contract extension to keep its general manager, Ujiri is prepared to leave Denver,” and how, “Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager.”

After much speculation (and blatant hysteria) in and around Nuggets Nation this afternoon, Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke finally broke the silence and went on 104.3 The Fan, a local Denver radio station, to address the topic at hand. (You can listen to the interview here under “Drew and Scott hour 3 5/24/13.” Kroenke comes on at about the 45-minute mark.)

Every person has their own set of ears and interprets the world around them differently. But for everyone who listens to the above interview there should at least be some form of a consensus about the tone and direction that we can agree on. Kroenke did not seem confident in his ability to retain Ujiri. Instead of expressing his desire to keep him, he explored every possibility of what life would be like without him. Instead of sounding optimistic in his ability to re-sign Ujiri, he sounded slightly perturbed and jumpy about the future of his franchise. But above all else, instead of comforting Nuggets fans and reassuring them that he’d do everything in his power to bring Ujiri back, Kroenke instead left the door wide open for Toronto to come in and steal him away saying it’s entirely up to Ujiri to decided what he wants to do.

That is some certified, Grade-A crap.

The Nuggets are the ones with the power right now. They’re on the exact same playing field as Toronto except they have the upper hand. They’re the ones who Ujiri is coming off a three-year deal with. They’re the ones who Ujiri has built a team from the ground up with. They’re the ones who Ujiri has established a culture with. They’re the ones who Ujiri just won Executive of the Year with. And most importantly, they SHOULD be the ones who want Ujiri more than Toronto!!!

There is still so much we don’t understand as fans. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Perhaps Ujiri really isn’t the genius we all think he is? But that’s totally beside the point. What we do know is that whatever the Nuggets have had the last three years — it’s worked. Perhaps better than any other team in the league, things are working. For once in this franchise’s history excellence is within sight. The idea of a championship isn’t just an unreachable dream, but an actual reality — and one not too far out of the Nuggets’ grasp. So why on God’s green earth would Josh Kroenke risk this over the sake of a few dollars? At worst, the difference between what he perceives Ujiri is actually worth and what Toronto is offering him is only pocket change compared to the budget he receives each year to run the team. The Nuggets annually spend over $70 million on players alone. How in the hell can you justify low-balling the man who constructed the greatest regular season team in Nuggets history and current Executive of the Year?!?

Unfortunately for Nuggets fans, this is a precedent that’s already been established in the past. As Woj mentions in his article, the Kroenke’s have a long history of low-balling their general managers no matter how good they’ve been. But this? This is nothing compared to previous instances. This goes far beyond replacing one good general manager with another. This would be inexcusable on every level. It would be idiotic and stupid and pointless and bad business and just plain wrong (unless, like I already mentioned, Kroenke knows something we don’t about Ujiri; in which case, only time will tell). If you can’t swallow your wallet, and pride along with it, and shell out a million or even half a million more per year to keep the best general manager in the league, then you don’t deserve to own a professional sports franchise, and you certainly don’t deserve fans like us.

But again, this situation is fluid. It’s important to realize nothing has happened yet. For the time being Kroenke deserves our respect and optimism. And whatever decision is made, it’s important we attempt to understand all aspects of where Kroenke is coming from.

In the meantime, hold tight. The next several days could be a bit nerve wracking.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • DAN

    All I can say is WTF!?!

  • Dan

    This is puzzling and short-sighted. It’s usually all about the money with sports team but in this case, they have to be smarter than to short-change individuals with such significant impact on the outlook of the franchise. Ask the other medium market franchise how hard it is to build a team that superstars may not be interested in signing as free agents. General Manager for a small or medium market team is everything. Finding the undervalued free agents to sign, making the non-flashy trades, drafting and acquiring picks. This is a massive mistake if they let him walk out.

  • Dan

    Btw, total coincidence that both commentators are named Dan. Not the same person!

  • Erlingur

    They. Have to. Keep him.

  • http://espn herpderpnuggets

    Wow if the nuggets actually let him go, then i dont know who they would hire next, let alone even do this offseason without the best brains in the nba.

  • Mike K

    I just pray that Kroenke is waiting for Leiweke to make the first bet and then raise him.

    It’s about ALL we can hope for at this point. Josh has never come across as the smartest of people. Just look what he let happen to the Avalanche until last week. Hopefully he isn’t now going to salvage them at the expense of the Nuggets.

    • GB

      This whole situation reeks of an ego trip on the part of the Kroenke.

    • Mike K

      I hope it isn’t the kid trying to make a name for himself. First g=naming himself President of the Avs, signing Sakic, and now bringing back Roy and now looking to make a name in the NBA.

      He’ll be the effing JOKE of the NBA if he lets this happen.

  • Max

    It’s over—Yahoo reporting Masai is seriously considering it.

    Great post here Kalen! Thanks

  • Henry

    Excellent take from Kalen here. Measured, reasonable, and telling it like it is in fiery fashion–all at once. What a fan.

    Here’s hoping we’ve read Josh Kroenke wrong, but it looks like our excellent GM is heading back to Toronto. He hasn’t worked any miracles, and all the hyperbole about his fleecing those teams with whom he negotiates is just lunacy. Yet he did work a tremendous deal with the Knicks, one that cost them their GM. (That’s on their owner, of course.) And the rest of his work has been exemplary; the Nuggets’ young roster is set to grow into something special, with assets to move to make it even better.

    I was already planning to boycott all things Nuggets as long as Karl was still at the helm (and I fully expected him to be gone after next season if Ujiri was still the GM), but now I’m even more disgusted with the franchise. Genius or not, Ujiri is obviously a very savvy basketball professional, and probably a special NBA GM for a long time to come. He deserves better, and we Nuggets fans do, as well.

    Again, hope we’re wrong. Fear we’re not. Too bad.

  • bm12

    HoopsHype & Yahoo pretty much say the deal is done. Farewell Masai.

  • Mike K

    Well crap. Yahoo saying the deal is for TRIPLE Kroenke’s best offer.

    Leiweke has NEVER been one to screw with in a negotiation. If Kroenke thinks that a sentimental connection and a couple extra bucks will be enough, he deserves to lose this battle.

    I hope he isn’t planning on giving any say to Karl. Those bad teams of the 90s will seem like title contenders by comparison.

  • Joel Dean

    Masai was the heart of this team, I value him over GK and now it looks like he is gone when he is so close to completing what he came here for.

  • http://twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

    It’s not looking good, guys.

    Let’s just hope Masai wants to finish what he started here.

    UNBELIEVABLE screw up by management if he walks.

    I understand Josh doesn’t wanna hold him back from something he really wants, but you can’t put your whole organization at risk like this.

  • Steve

    This just gets more and more disturbing….My god, he is one of the main reason for hope for this team..and now we are going to loose him, keep Karl, and have more Andre Miller.

    I am going to be sick….at lease I can watch the BIRDMAN, who we in our infinite wisdom got rid of, play and get a ring….

  • Erlingur

    Genius or not (which is really just an argument of semantics and philosophy), Ujiri is the best executive Denver has had, in regards to trades, drafts and actual results on the court as a result. I cannot for the life of me fathom why Denver should let him walk, and why a vanilla team like Toronto should be able to outbid Denver this badly. The Kroenkes can’t possibly be blaming Ujiri for our lack of success in the playoffs, can they?

    • Optifan

      Not sure what you mean by vanilla team but I’m not surprised the raptors can outbid them. Their owners have some of the deepest pockets in the nba and it’s a huge market.

  • Joel

    How am I supposed to continue supporting the Nuggets if they let this guy go? What’s the point?

    It’s like planning to let Lebron James go… makes no sense. At least Cleveland knew what they had.

  • Guy

    Maybe the Nuggets can rehire Dan Issel. What’s he doing these days??

  • trank

    it may not be the money. masai may think canada is a more civilized place to raise a family long term.

  • chronosynclasticinfundibula

    I can’t believe this. I am devastated by this horrible news. I guess Kronke can only support one team at a time Nuggets or Avalanche, but not both. Bullshit!!!!!

  • Mike K

    That’s cuz daddy spent all the money buying his new toys in St. Louis and England.

    It’s a joke that these are the kinds of people that are allowed to buy and retain professional sports franchises…

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    MY WORST FEARS ARE BECOMING TRUE… GEORGE “THE BIGGEST PLAYOFF CHOKER EVER” KARL WILL BE ASSUMING MORE CONTROL…..

    This is the guy that hates PF & CENTERS….. He is a complete idiot…. Indiana playes their bigs in game 2 and beats MIAMI…. Now this pompous pill of crap with that know it all smirk (memo to karl: all you know is how to lose in the 1st round) will be in complete control of everything…. No checks on his power…. No one to trade Andre MIller…. Hell Miller is now going to get an extention.. (bye the way this 37 year old punk has never won in the first round either)……. We are so screwed, and this is a sad day…….. No more brillant draft picks…… No more trades like NENE, Harrington, and Aaron….. BYE, BYE IGGY…. HE is gone for sure… Bye, BYE, FARIED in a year….. This sucks…

  • Gorillabuddy

    Fuck Kroenke.

    • Mike K

      seconded.

  • thawk

    GM’s are a figurehead, and only handle the phone calls. The people that work for them orchestrate the trades and say “this is possible with our current cap situation”

    get a grip folks, it is in the Kreonke’s interest to win as much as possible, so let them do it.

    • thawk

      I for one welcome George Karl as our new GM and Head Coach.

  • Legalize Denver Nuggets

    ‘Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke on Masai Ujiri: “In my mind, we had an agreement but it doesn’t matter because I would never hold someone back from an opportunity they might be curious about, Especially someone I hold in such high regard as Masai. If it was any other team, I wouldn’t even have thought about granting permission to speak to him. But it’s his former team and its not entirely a black-and-white situation. He’ll make the decision he thinks is best for himself, and I’ll support him no matter what.”

    Utter bullshit Josh. You can’t throw someone under a bus for wanting to take the best opportunity, especially someone who has much larger goals than the NBA (Africa development). Masai wants to see out what he started, but if Toronto is paying way more, he has to take it for his larger goals. I’m just so disgusted with his bullshit rhetoric.

  • AaronCAPS

    I’m done watching the Nuggets if Ujiri leaves. Hes the only hope that I still have in the Nuggets. If he leaves. This team is going staright back to the lottery for 15+ years just like before we drafted Melo. I hate saying this but I have no loyalty to this team anymore. Thus franchise is basically a joke. It sucks. But its true guys. Nobody gives a shit about the Nuggets besides us. Thus sucks man…

  • mike

    This is bad planning on the part of the owners. After the Iguodala trade it should have been obvious Masai had earned an extension 3 years for 5 million or so. Dumb on their parts. (I would also explore tampering charges on Toronto. They may have sent messages to masai through back channels when they made some changes mid-season)

    Obviously I don’t agree that this team is as close to championship quality as Kalen does. In truth the Knicks trade is probably Melo for Gallo/a first rounder and probably Chandler (not sure about the swap of 1st rounder in 2016) with or without Masai. The rest they got Mozgov and Felton) for Chauncey wasn’t that important unless you believe Hamilton will develop (and has ruined the franchises relationship with Chauncey). Faried and Fournier were awesome picks. Mcgee for Nene swap is looking worse especially given they had legit contender chances this year and next and there is a HUGE difference in their defensive value which BIG defense was the Achilles heel of this team. Iguodala trade was a magnificent piece of work.

    It will likely be a downgrade and is unfortunate. The truth is that Warkentien was a pretty good GM who put together the trade for Chauncey and poached Afflalo from the pistons. Their drafting is the main area this will hurt the team, though I would make an all out to attempt to keep the scouts who were probably integral in drafting fournier and faried. I’d also see if they could pry valenciunas for Mcgee since masai is so enamored with him.

    PS in short term Masai is going to a crappy situation with Gay making all that money and likely Lowry is up for a pay upgrade.

  • rapluva

    Raptor Fan here… fans are going nuts for Masai in Toronto, lol at Mike to think about tampering charges. Masai was not even in discussions with Toronto until we hired a new CEO for MLSE. The new CEO has made Bryan Colangelo the president of basketball operations and then started looking for a new GM. He didn’t like the fact that the Raptors haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years being one of the biggest and richest sports cities in North America. I think the Denver owner is just being cheap here for not retaining Masai. The salary for GMs does not even count towards the cap, and if the reigning GM of the year is that good, you pay anything to keep him, just like you would Lebron James, these kinds of players don’t fall off trees. As a raptor fan, I am looking forward for the announcement tomorrow.