In a wide-ranging conversation with the media on Friday following Tim Connelly‘s exit to Minnesota, Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke said he has championship expectations going forward, according to an ESPN report.
“We’re entering a new phase of the organization, and with this squad in particular, which is: It’s championship or bust. And this is the first time those words have been uttered around these halls, I think,” Kroenke said.
“We have a two-time MVP, we have two more All-Star-caliber players coming off injuries,” Kroenke said, referring to Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. “And I think that we are poised in a way that perhaps this organization hasn’t been in the past.
“And that excites me. But that brings a lot of pressure. We’re no longer the underdog that’s kind of the lovable guys that are bouncing along from Denver, Colorado. I think that when we get healthy and show what we’re capable of, we will have a target on our back.”
Kroenke said he doesn’t regret signing Porter to a five-year, $172MM contract extension last summer, despite him only playing nine games in 2021/22.
“I’d say we’re concerned about his injuries, not concerned about the contract,” Kroenke said, per ESPN.
He also said the team was prepared to pay the luxury tax, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.
“Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, first of all, my dad (Stan Kroenke) is the owner. I’m just making sure I don’t screw everything up on a day-to-day basis. … If you’ve drafted well, you better be ready to pay that tax, and we’re ready to pay that tax,” Kroenke said.
Here’s more from Kroenke’s press conference:
- Kroenke endorsed GM Calvin Booth to replace Connelly as the top basketball decision-maker going forward. “I’ve always thought very highly of Calvin, I think he’s going to do a wonderful job for us,” Kroenke said, per Singer. “… He’s got a great mind and I think he’s open to suggestions but he showed me that he can make ruthless decisions when he needs to.”
- The team sent out a tweet to leave no doubt about who will be in charge of the front office. “At the top of the org chart, it’s going to be Calvin Booth,” Kroenke said.
- Multiple sources told Singer that Booth doesn’t have much “contractual security” as he transitions to the lead basketball executive, so Kroenke was asked if he was committed to Booth long-term. Kroenke suggested an extension could be coming soon. “Calvin and I are going to be sitting down, our whole front office and I will be sitting down in the very near future,” he said. “… We’re all talking and I think those guys know where they sit, and we’ll have some more announcements and some more information coming in the very near future.”
- Kroenke said he regretted giving Connelly an opt-out clause after three years when the Nuggets gave him a contract extension in 2019, according to Singer. “I put that in his contract never anticipating that he would opt out and go to another NBA team and that’s what happened,” he said. “There was an option in his contract, he chose to exercise that option. And there was a major offer out there for him.”
- Kroenke reiterated that the Nuggets made Connelly a competitive offer to stay in Denver, and said Minnesota’s offer was definitely unwelcome from his perspective. “Tim was under contract, the offer kind of came in through the side door, as they always seem to do in the NBA,” he said, per ESPN. “And so once those type of numbers start getting thrown around and get into someone’s head, it becomes very difficult to contain. I felt that we made a very competitive offer that would have allowed him to feel good about staying in Denver, and ultimately he felt that some of the upside there on the back end through some of the bonus schemes were probably too good to pass up for his family.” As Singer writes, Kroenke also twice characterized a team willing to pay significant money to poach a rival executive as “desperate.”
- A new practice facility could be in store for Denver, says Kroenke, but Singer notes that the team’s governor made a similar statement five years ago and there’s been essentially no progress since.