Reaction: Kroenkes more talk than walk

A few years back I exchanged e-mails with a Raptors Republic blogger (I think it was Sam Holako) about Masai Ujiri. Although he was still just beginning his career in Denver, it was clear Ujiri had the innate ability to evaluate talent that Bryan Colangelo lacked. I said I felt bad for Raptors fans, that they deserved better given their struggles since, well forever, but I also didn’t feel bad for them. After all, Ujiri was in Denver. It wasn’t my favorite team he’d be terrorizing.

It’s funny how life works. Never in a million years did I think there was even a chance Ujiri would leave Denver. After his contract expired this season I just figured, like a lot of fans, that the Nuggets front office would buckle down and pay the man his worth. The thought of another team coming in and sweeping him away didn’t even cross my mind. Clearly it didn’t cross the minds of Josh and Stan Kroenke either.

The difference is: I’m a fan. We’re all fans here. Josh and Stan Kroenke are millionaires. They’ve had a lifetime of making decisions a million times better than the ones I’ve made (hence, the millionaire status). Their job is to make tough decisions where lots and lots of money is involved. Yet when it came to perhaps the biggest decision in franchise history, they couldn’t have done any worse than the most incompetent of armchair general managers that pollute the neverending cyberspace where I currently write this article.

I remember last October during Media Day how several people asked Josh Kroenke when he was gonna extend Ujiri. Kroenke sort of smiled — maybe he patted Ujiri on the back or nudged him in the side — and played it off cool like there was nothing to worry about. As a fan, I had confidence in him. He was the guy who hired Ujiri in the first place. I had no reason to doubt him. My only question looking back was, why was he so confident? He didn’t re-sign Ujiri when he had plenty of time, when he knew Ujiri was one of the best general managers in the league and no other team could approach him about taking a position elsewhere. I don’t want to come off as an insensitive ass here, but since Day 1 Josh Kroenke has played the role of Mr. Cool when it came to talking about an Ujiri extension, when the fact is, the very moment Ujiri had a chance to leave Denver, he did.

You just cannot be that confident when you don’t have a reason to be. You can’t assure the media and fans that there’s nothing to worry about when there totally is. And above all else, you can’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. You either hint that Ujiri is coming back and reach into your pockets to back it up, or you don’t say anything at all. It’s that simple. Fans, or at least I, felt that Denver ownership was gonna do what it took to bring Ujiri back and pay him his worth along the way. Instead, they low-balled quite possibly the best general manager in the league and didn’t even try to put up a fight when someone else offered to pay him the salary he deserved.

This is now the second time in the last five years that a Nuggets general manager has won NBA Executive of the Year only to be let go the following season. Let that simmer in your brain for a second. While Mark Warkentien was no Masai Ujiri, the principle remains the same: Denver Nuggets ownership — no matter what Kroenke is running things — doesn’t believe in paying the person most responsible for the team’s success. And the way I see, they’re no better than the worst pennypushers in professional basketball.

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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.

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  • denver4ever

    For now, this is absolutely true. But what happened, happened. The Kroenkes had let go of Ujiri, with D’Alessandro as the potential replacement. If you had watched “The Association” of the Nuggets, you could tell that D’Alessandro has what it takes to keep the Nuggets afloat or even rise in the aftermath of Ujiri’s departure.

  • heykyleinsf

    Great article Kalen…

    But just by the by… They’re billionaires, not millionairs.
    Stan Kroenke is worth $4 Billion, and that.. was up nearly
    $1.5 Billion from only a year ago.
    I can’t emphasize enough. . how cheap this MFer is.
    That asshole owner just let the guy who built the best season
    in history walk. $3 Million? He couldn’t have afforded $3 Million?
    He increased his profit margin by $1500 million.. and he couldn’t
    give his star GM a raise?
    He is a shitty owner. Sad news for all of us…
    that as long as he owns this team, our chances of success will
    be secondary to his profits and stinginess.

    • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

      How much money is fifteen-hundred million?

      You can’t really justify saying that just because they can afford it that they should shell it out.

      If Masai got us to 82-0 & an NBA Title, would the Kroenke’s have to pay him 10 million per year, just because they can afford it?

      • joefresco

        If we got to 82-0 and a Title, pay the players and let the GM walk. Because it’s pretty clear you’ll be outstanding for a while. But when you are on the outside looking in and are trying to break through, pay the GM to try to assemble the right players. That’s why this sucks.

        • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

          I hear you, I wanted Masai back as much as anyone, but like I said, I think Masai is gonna be gone within the next 3-5 years to Africa to further his agenda there.

          Kroenke had a deal with him, although it’s his bad for getting complacent & not realizing what a hot commodity Masai is, this shouldn’t be a complete bash fest against them .

        • heykyleinsf

          he is a douchebag.
          he only responded because I posted

          Tiny phallused fk from hawaii

      • heykyleinsf

        dear fkg retard

        Please quit stalking me.

        1500 million is 1.5 billion
        but a junior high school dropout
        that takes chick pix of himself
        wouldn’t know that.

        There you go girlfriend.

        • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

          lol. you need to grow up, bro & stop getting your feelings hurt because someone doesn’t agree with you

          • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

            & I’ve never seen someone ever say (x)hundred million before. Might as well have just said Eleventy-Million bajillion.

            But, I guess in the GM business, that you’re in the fast track to the top of since you have the bright idea to bring Chauncey Billups in as the savior of the team, that’s how they eloquently divulge numbers.

            So, 1. If you’re gonna call someone a “junior high school dropout” learn some of the nuances of English. “FKG” isn’t a word, “pix” isn’t a word… & you’re not writing a fucking haiku so stop pressing enter every 10 characters lmao.

            & 2. If you’re gonna criticize someone’s looks or whatever, don’t hide behind a picture that isn’t yourself, Mr. Obergfell. :)

            • heykyleinsf

              goodbye stalking troll.
              I don’t know who you are..
              I don’t know why you care so much about me.
              I am no longer feeding you.
              Just know.. you’re wasting your life on me.
              Go troll someone else for awhile..
              I’ve never replied to you other than you stalking me.
              I’m done. You’re a coward little boy, and I’m done.

  • Aaron

    How do you know they low-balled Masai? How do you know that money is the reason he left for Toronto?

    • Poz303

      You are right, no one knows. It might be easier to point the finger at Josh than think Masai might actually prefer to live in Toronto or perhaps enjoys the challenge of taking a franchise in turmoil and building it into a contender rather than make minor tweaks to a now competitive team.

      I hope Josh made a competitive offer, and from the sounds of things there was a possible agreement in place (handshake) and out of principle Josh was not going to up the offer just because someone else came in at the last moment. If its a matter of principle, then you have to respect that.

      In the end, as a fan, it’s disheartening to see Masai leave.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

      Because there have been countless articles saying Denver was only willing to pay him half — at most — of what Toronto was and that if Denver matched Toronto’s offer Ujiri’s preference would be to stay with the Nuggets.

      • David Acker

        Money Money Money??? What if it isn’t about money at all? What if Josh wanted to go in a different way completely like no KARL??? Do we really know. NO we don’t

  • Poz303

    I posted in the previous thread but does anyone know if Masai will be with the Nuggets through the 2013 draft? The draft is June 27th and I believe his contract was set to expire June 30th.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

      No, he won’t be. I think the Denver Post wrote an article saying Pete D’Alessandro, Josh Kroenke and the rest of the scouting department would handle it. But considering there’s less than a month before the draft and Ujiri has been here all year, my guess is whatever players he liked the Nuggets are well aware of.

      • herpderpnuggets

        So I’m assuming the Nuggets would have to hire a GM before the draft? Or can they still participate in the draft without him?

        • dynamo.joe

          I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave D’Alessandro the interim-GM tag and moved ahead, even through the draft, before making a final decision on a new GM.

        • Native Nugget

          They don’t “have” to hire anyone. They can limp along with what ever management structure they choose. It’s just a bad idea for the stability of the organization to postpone. Ideally they take accountability for not simply signing a good GM when they had the chance, eat a little crow, then go out and find a good GM soon.

  • Native Nugget

    To me the point is not why the Kroenke’s didn’t pony up more dough after another organization showed up with a high offer – it’s why they didn’t sign him earlier. They got caught with their pants around their ankles. They could have and should have signed Masai before the season started or at the very latest by the all star break. They should never have been in this position and they know it. Bad call – no spin will diminish this truth.

    Wish they had the stones to just say it – “We messed up. We should have signed him when we had the chance”. Instead we hear B.S. about the organization being fine with or without Masai, how they had a handshake, how they respected his connection with the Raptors… Politicians spin like this because they can’t help themselves, it’s a disease, owners don’t have to act like politicians.

  • googergieger

    No accountability for the owners, the coach, or anyone else really. Again beyond Kliz, who again, is just the most obvious troll.

  • Ckwizard

    The biggest concern I have is how this impacts the futures of George Karl and Igoudala… A different GM might be just what this group of players ie Lawson, McGee, Chandler…. Hamilton need to get out of the first round. I mean sure Uriji got Denver something for Melo and he proved to be a good GM but… We fans know Miller is was given a contract and Karl loves small ball so maybe just maybe a “new” GM can be a positive thing and push this team to better things! peace

  • toluene hawk

    With regard to Masia Ujuri: Better to have Loved and Lost, than never loved at all.

  • Dinosaur Dave

    I think we all need to move past this front office change and look ahead to the draft and free agency. What pieces does this team need? Who should we keep on the roster, who is the core, and who is expendable?

    Personally I like everyone on the roster except maybe Mozgov as I feel his playing style is not a great fit for the team.

    One player I would like to see pursued is Paul George. Thoughts on a Faried & Hamilton for Paul George trade?

    • Fraser Nixon

      No chance Indy are moving George, and regardless, a package would need to include far more than that.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Charlie

      Draft coverage will be coming up soon.

      Nuggets will start predraft workouts Monday, and when we see who the Nuggets are bringing in it will tell us a lot more about the process.

      • Poz303

        Very interested to see who the first group contains, what positions they will look at.

        • Poz303

          Just read this…

          Colorado State center Colton Iverson and Missouri point guard Phil Pressey are among 12 players scheduled to take part in a predraft workout for the Nuggets at Pepsi Center on Monday.
          Iverson, 7-0, 255, was named the 2012-13 Mountain West Newcomer of the Year and landed a spot on the All-MWC First Team after averaging 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Rams. He also shot a conference-leading .596 from the field.

          Pressey, 5-11, 175, is the son of former NBA player Paul Pressey. He is Missouri’s career assist leader and was selected to the 2012-13 All-SEC First Team.

          Also expected to work out Monday are Patriot League player of the year Mike Muscala of Bucknell and Summit League player of the year Nate Wolters of South Dakota State.

          They are scheduled to be joined by Mississippi forward Reggie Buckner, North Carolina swingman Reggie Bullock, Saint Mary’s guard Matt Dellavedova, Wake Forest guard C.J. Harris, Gonzaga forward Elias Harris, Providence guard Ricky Ledo, North Texas forward Tony Mitchell and Kansas center Jeff Withey.

          Withey led the nation in blocks last season; Wolters finished fourth in the NCAA in scoring; and Bullock shot .436 from 3-point range for the Tar Heels.

  • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

    Am I the only one that’s tired of seeing trade scenarios that make no sense at all from people that obviously don’t know what they’re talking about (no offense.)?

    • Dinosaur Dave

      Are you referring to my post above, and if so can you please explain why it is outrageous and makes no sense.

      • http://Twitter.com/A_Rodriguez8 D3Ntilthe3ND

        Well, for one, the Pacers have already said they plan to part ways with Granger in the off-season. So, that leaves them with Paul George.

        Now, why would they trade him away for Faried (he would just back up David West) & Hamilton, who we don’t know half of what he’s capable of?

        • Dinosaur Dave

          It might be hard for them to move Granger because of his $12 mil contract. And if they can’t keep David West in free agency then they might need more talent up front. I’m not saying it’s a likely scenario but to me it’s far from outrageous.

          And I wouldn’t put Faried too far behind George in terms of contribution on the court, although George is obviously more hyped at the moment after Indy’s playoff success (another reason they would be less likely to trade a key piece). So in that aspect I’m not proposing an unrealistic trade in terms of talent or salaries, however circumstances would likely make this trade a bad idea for one or both teams.

          Anyway if you don’t like reading something then skip past it. I’ll post whatever is on my mind at the time and not think twice about whether people like you agree with me.

  • jug2000

    Over-reaction, rather than reaction, should be the title of this blog. The world will go on and the Nuggets will continue to over-achieve and improve. Especially if Masai will be so nice to bring McGee with him.

    • dynamo.joe

      Ya, sure except what we get in return will be Andrea Bargnani, possibly the worst player in the NBA.

  • Rhino

    I am not a fan of Mark Cuban but it sure would be nice know your owner actually cares about winning.

  • CO-Lazyboy

    Still completely disgusted…I can live with losing Masai, and if he’s going somewhere the b-ball abyss that is Toronto probably is a good landing spot as he has less of a chance to hurt Denver. It’s the way he departed that’s the biggest issue…elite franchises don’t allow their stars (whether players, coaches or execs) get to this stage. He should have been signed around the All-star break before other teams could get involved…he should have never been allowed to speak with Toronto if a “hand shake deal” was already accepted. You don’t see blunders like this from the elite franchises in any sport. They either sign the guy or let him go…not kinda sign and then let him go.

    My fear is that we will be looking back at this in 5 years as the moment when Nuggets ownership showed their lack of ability/desire to become a perennial contender…that they are simply content with winning regular seasons and losing post seasons. Best case scenario at this point…George moves to the front office stating the road has become to much for him and his family. D’Allessandro stays with a decent raise and the understanding the GM job is his in 3 years (we have to shake the stigma of not paying execs after this debacle and D’All should be the benefactor).
    Lastly, Billups takes the helm as coach instilling hope that the Nugs can change their post season flops…last chance KronkNugs, I hope you get it right.