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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