Josh Kroenke

Nuggets Notes: Millsap, Connelly, Karnisovas, Offseason

The Nuggets are optimistic they’ll retain veteran forward Paul Millsap, though not necessarily by picking up his $30.1MM option for next season, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post reports. “Our goal and Paul’s goal is to have him back with us,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. The easiest way to do that would be to pick up the option by the June 29 deadline but that would hamper the team’s ability to make upgrades.

It already has more than $90MM in guaranteed salary commitments for next season. A more likely scenario would be to decline the option and sign Millsap to a multi-year deal in free agency at a lower annual salary. “We both want the same thing,” Connelly said. “We’ll figure out the best way for the organization and Paul to make sure that’s achieved. I fully expect Paul to be back in a Nuggets uniform.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Connelly downplayed his interview with the Wizards for their top front office job, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “We just had a conversation. It was not much more than that,” Connelly said. There are conflicting reports on whether the Wizards formally made Connelly a four-year contract offer but he ultimately decided to stay put.
  • Head coach Michael Malone said the organization “wouldn’t have skipped a beat” if Connelly had taken the Wizards job and the Nuggets replaced him with GM Arturas Karnisovas, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. However, Malone is happy Connelly decided to stay since they and owner Josh Kroenke have a strong working relationship.
  • The Nuggets can’t continue to rely on developing their young players alone to bridge the gap between them and the other championship contenders, Kosmider writes. The moves that Connelly makes this offseason will be crucial and viewed with intense scrutiny, Kosmider adds.

Nuggets’ Tim Connelly Agrees To Extension

Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has agreed to a contract extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Connelly’s contract could have expired at the end of this season, but he has been in negotiations for several weeks with Nuggets president Josh Kroenke on a new deal, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

The team has confirmed the extension in a press release. General manager Arturas Karnisovas and the entire basketball operations staff in Denver have also received extensions, according to the release.

“It gives me immense pride to announce contract extensions for our entire front office, as our journey to this point has been one of hard work, patience and trust in one another,” Kroenke said in a statement. “When Tim joined us in 2013, he understood the vision that we had for the future of the Nuggets, and through his dedication our program is incredibly well positioned to compete at the highest level for years to come. Building a true championship contender in the NBA is a unique process for each franchise, and our path in Denver hasn’t always been clear. But Tim, Arturas and the rest of our staff continued to work through every challenge we faced along the way, and I hope Nuggets fans are as excited as we are about our future. We firmly believe we can bring an NBA championship to Denver, and are thrilled to continue our pursuit together.”

The Nuggets have emerged as one of the Western Conference’s top teams, mainly due to smart selections in the draft. Denver has drafted All-Star center Nikola Jokic and guards Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Malik Beasley during Connelly’s regime.

This isn’t the first time Connelly received an extension. He got one from the Nuggets in 2016 when he held the title of GM. Karnisovas held the title of assistant GM at the time.

LeBron James “Didn’t Give Much Thought” To Nuggets’ Pursuit

The Nuggets wanted a meeting with LeBron James during the offseason when the four-time MVP was a free agent, but they were unsuccessful in their pursuit. Team president Josh Kroenke did get the chance to discuss the potential pairing with James over the phone during the offseason.

“[Kroenke] discussed [coming to the Nuggets] a couple times to me,” James said during shootaround before the Lakers/Nuggets tilt. “Also he sent those throwback jerseys, I think they’re wearing them tonight. The white ones? With the mountains, I believe, that’s on it. Said, ‘You’d look good in one of these.’”

James and Kroenke have been friends for years, though it wasn’t enough to make James consider moving to Denver.

“We’ve been on vacation, things of that nature — we have a great friendship,” James said. “But I didn’t give it much thought.”

Josh Kroenke Praises Nuggets’ Direction

Despite only winning 33 games a season ago, the first under head coach Michael Malone, team president Josh Kroenke is extremely pleased with the direction that the franchise is headed in, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. The executive said that this is the happiest with the state of the team he’s been since the 2012/13 squad that won 57 games and was the last Denver squad to reach the postseason, Dempsey notes.

I feel very confident with the guys we have leading us on a daily basis,” Kroenke said. “I feel confident in the players in the locker room. I feel confident in the front office. I like the direction of the train. I like the speed and direction of the train. We needed to reinvent who we were last year, culturally, in our locker room as well as establish a new identity on the court. I think that historically we’ve always played fast here, and I think that that’s something we want to continue to do, but you can’t do it at the expense of your defense.”

Despite the team finishing fourth in the Northwest Division in 2015/16, Kroenke praised the job the Malone did in guiding what was one of the league’s youngest teams, Dempsey notes. “[GM] Tim Connelly and I, we have a bigger picture that we’re looking at, and I thought [Malone] did an outstanding job last year, with our young players, especially,” Kroenke told the scribe. “I thought Tim and the guys, over the last few years they’ve knocked it out of the park at the draft. I think if you’re drafting well, you’re always giving yourself a chance to compete, whether that’s improvement through trades or simply internal improvement.

Kroenke displayed his faith in Connelly last season by extending his contract despite the team’s struggles since the GM took the helm, Dempsey writes. “I knew when I hired Tim in the summer of 2013 that we were going to have a good shot at nailing a few drafts. That ultimately takes years to come to fruition,” Kroenke said. “Being able to weigh the present while weighing the future is, I think, the toughest job general managers face based on the roster. And I think Tim and our staff has made very smart trades.

While Kroenke didn’t guarantee that the Nuggets would reach the postseason in 2016/17, he did note that he expects to see improvement on the court, Dempsey relays. “I think this year is going to be a growth year,” Kroenke said. “Depending on where that growth heads at the end of the year, where we ultimately define success, I guess, is open to interpretation almost. But I’m glad to see that our players are focused on playoffs. I want those guys focused on building toward April. We want to be playing our best basketball on April 1, those last two weeks of the season leading into the playoffs. Then we’ll see where our record shakes out. I like our chances to hopefully leapfrog a team or two this year simply through our continuity and our internal improvement.

Northwest Notes: Malone, Russell, Bjelica

Michael Malone sought Wednesday to dismiss the idea that he and Pete D’Alessandro had a poor relationship during their time as coach and GM, respectively, of the Kings, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes from Malone’s introductory press conference as coach of the Nuggets. D’Alessandro, whom the Nuggets hired to a front office position shortly before they hired the coach, and Malone reportedly weren’t on speaking terms before Malone’s firing in Sacramento, but Malone insists they’ve maintained a consistent dialogue, as Dempsey relays.

“Pete and I have always respected each other, have always gotten along,” Malone said. “It was just that sometimes, the environment that we were working in was not conducive to a healthy relationship.”

That apparent jab at the Kings aside, there’s more on the Nuggets amid the latest from around the Northwest Division:

  • Ohio State playmaker D’Angelo Russell is working out for the Timberwolves today, a visit that the team pushed for as its maintained that he’s a consideration for them with the No. 1 overall pick, reports Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Wolves draft-and-stash prospect Nemanja Bjelica has told the manager of his Turkish team that he wants to head to the NBA, and the Fenerbahce Ulker team official assumes that Bjelica, the Euroleague MVP, won’t be back with the club (video link; translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
  • Joel Freeland doesn’t expect the Blazers to tender him the nearly $3.767MM qualifying offer it would take for the club to make him a restricted free agent this summer, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group hears (Twitter link). If that’s the case, he’d become an unrestricted free agent, but while the native of England is reportedly drawing interest from overseas, he’s said he’d prefer to stay in the NBA.
  • Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke, with duties that entail the work of ownership as well as those usually assigned to a GM, is clearly the man who calls the shots in Denver, as Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post observes.

Nuggets Rumors: Connelly, Faried, Trades

Nuggets GM Tim Connelly isn’t overreacting to his team’s slow start, as we passed along earlier, but he nonetheless acknowledges that no player’s job is entirely secure, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com.

“Every player on our roster is a movable asset,” Connelly said. “Certainly you don’t want to view players as assets, but there’s a part of you in the front office that has to be brutally honest with how these guys are viewed leaguewide. We don’t have a guy on the roster we’d have to heavily incentivize to move.”

Arnovitz paints a bleak picture surrounding the 2-7 Nuggets in his piece, and it’s worth a full read, particularly for Denver fans. We’ll pass along the highlights here:

  • Multiple sources tell Arnovitz that Denver still isn’t sold on Kenneth Faried but signed him to his four-year, $50MM extension last month in part as a PR move, given the power forward’s popularity among fans and his Team USA performance. Some within the Nuggets “take exception” to the deal, Arnovitz hears.
  • The Nuggets leaked the initial terms of the deal, which were five years at $60MM, because they weren’t aware that the Designated Player rule, which any five-year rookie scale extension would trigger, required that the first-year salary be for the maximum amount, according to Arnovitz. The team’s lack of collective bargaining agreement knowledge wasn’t isolated to Faried’s contract, as the Nuggets called another team to propose a trade that wouldn’t have worked under the league’s rules, as a rival executive tells Arnovitz.
  • The ESPN scribe hears from a source who suggests that when owner and team president Josh Kroenke was looking for a new GM in 2013, what appealed most about Connelly was his relative inexperience and willingness to defer to Kroenke.

Nuggets President: Shaw Won’t Coach Knicks

Nuggets president Josh Kroenke tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Brian Shaw will remain with the Nuggets and that he doesn’t foresee the 48-year-old head coach leaving anytime soon. This morning, we relayed that Knicks president Phil Jackson was still hopeful about finding a way to lure Shaw away from Denver; however, New York was reportedly in doubt about how they’d be able to compensate the Nuggets in return. Wojnarowski reports that the Knicks haven’t reached out for permission to speak with Shaw. Earlier tonight, a source told Marc Berman of the New York Post that Shaw would have been willing to listen to Jackson’s pitch only if the Nuggets gave their blessing.

Nonetheless, Kroenke made it clear that the Nuggets and Shaw are mutually committed to each other. “Brian has said publicly – and privately to us – that his desire is to be here, and we feel strongly about him as our coach…I don’t foresee a scenario or circumstance where he’s going to be anywhere but with the Nuggets next season.” 

With Shaw now out of the fold, Derek Fisher stands as the frontrunner to land the Knicks’ head coaching vacancy. The 39-year-old guard is also considered a candidate for the Lakers’ opening, although sources tell Wojnarowski that L.A. is leaning toward hiring a candidate with head coaching experience. Fisher has a strong interest in becoming a head coach next season, Wojnarowski hears, adding that Jackson wants to hire a coach whom he can mold and who’s willing to run the triangle. So, it appears that New York will be Fisher’s likeliest landing spot next season if he wants the job.

Nuggets Notes: Kroenke, Ujiri, D’Alessandro

The new-look Nuggets have yet to win a game in the 2013/14 season and find themselves underneath the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and Thunder in the Northwest Division. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and the Nuggets are surely looking forward to Ty Lawson‘s health improving and the return of forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari down the road. Here’s some Denver-related notes from around the league:

  • Nuggets president Josh Kroenke isn’t satisfied with the mild success his team has enjoyed in recent years, but Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post argues the team needn’t strip down the roster to build a true contender, instead advocating the team pool its assets and trade for a star.
  • The Nuggets came close to trading for a high draft pick this past June, Hochman reveals in the same piece.
  • The departures of Masai Ujiri, Pete D’Alessandro and others from the Nuggets front office this summer is an affirmation rather than an indictment of Kroenke and the Denver organization, which is already drawing raves for its new hires, as fellow Post scribe Christopher Dempsey observes.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Turner, Nuggets, Asik

Richard Hamilton was one name linked to the Timberwolves as they consider adding a wing, but he’s far from the team’s only potential target. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that Evan Turner has fans among the Wolves front office, and that the 76ers would be open to moving him. In a piece for the Star Tribune, Jerry Zgoda also mentions Turner and identifies a few other possible options.

With that aside, let’s take a look at what else is going on around the Western Conference:

  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports takes a look at the Nuggets’ offseason, starting with Josh Kroenke’s agonizing decision to fire Coach of the Year George Karl.
  • ESPN’s David Thorpe examines Omer Asik‘s trade value and explores a few potential trades involving the Rockets’ center (Insiders only).
  • Earlier this week, we noted that there has been mutual interest between the Jazz and free agent guard Jamaal Tinsley, although nothing appeared to be imminent. Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune was able to relay some of head coach Tyrone Corbin‘s comments today regarding the 35-year-old point guard: “He’s a guy that’s on the list…We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. He’s a guy we’re comfortable with. I really respect what he brings to the team. We’ll look and see if it’s the right fit going forward.”
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter) doesn’t expect the Spurs to make any roster cuts until after the team’s road trip ends in Miami on Saturday. McDonald also points out that although San Antonio only has to make one more roster cut, they could possibly opt for two.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich drew a parallel between Manu Ginobili and new addition Marco Belinelli“I consider him to have the same mindset as Manu, which means I’m going to have to be patient as I’ve learned with Manu. Manu taught me to shut up and just watch him play a little more, which is a good thing. And Marco is going to be the same way. They both have the same passion for the game. They have no fear, which most of the time is good, but sometimes it can bite you. But I would rather have that than somebody who is timid”  (NBA.com via the Associated Press).

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Kroenke, Connelly on Nuggets, Coaching Search, Iguodala

The Nuggets held a joint press conference with team president Josh Kroenke and newly hired GM Tim Connelly today. Both elaborated on a number of topics, including the team's search for a head coach, along with their current views on Andre Iguodala's impending free agency. Here are a few highlights from today's transcript (via the team's official website). 

Kroenke on his decision to hire Connelly:

"(He) and I had hellos here and hellos there but we kind of kept tabs on each other over the years. I have a mental checklist of guys that I like around the league and Tim was atop that list all along. Pete (D’Alessandro) and I discussed the position and I think he is going to have a wonderful opportunity in Sacramento. I think he’s really excited and I’m really excited for him. Once that happened I didn’t waste any time. It was a quick decision for me and there was one person that I wanted to bring in right away and discuss the position – and that was Tim. I made a quick phone call, made a few arrangements and less than 24 hours later, me and Tim were meeting. It was an easy decision to make and I think Tim is just as excited as I was."

Kroenke on the team's head coaching search: 

"I’m comfortable with everything as long as both of us are on the same page when we make the decision. I don’t think either of us want to put a specific time frame on anything or have another team try and dictate a time frame for us based on a potential hire they might have. We’re going to do things at our own pace. When Tim and I both become comfortable with a name that we think is going to be good for our roster, that’s when we’ll make the decision. If somebody makes a decision between now and then, we’ll adjust our thinking accordingly.

Kroenke on Iguodala's chances of returning to Denver: 

“One-hundred percent. We’ve had some good discussions about that already. I had a good conversation with his agent last week. (I'm) looking forward to following up with them. Andre’s somebody we definitely want to bring back and he’s well aware of our intentions to bring him back as well.”

Connelly on joining the Nuggets: 

"There is a culture that is already engrained here; a winning culture. It is a heck of a team that I am inheriting; 57 wins and chock-full of talent. It is a very supportive ownership and it’s a great city. I kind of got to this seat in an atypical path. Anyone who has been unfortunate to see me play knows that I am not much of a player, but in my 17 years in the NBA I have been lucky to work with, for, and against some of the brightest basketball minds in this league. Through those unique experiences I have done pretty much everything from delivering the mail to making trades and everything in between. All of those countless experiences have prepared me for this challenge. It is a challenge and an exciting challenge. But I’m confident that over those 17 years I have reached this point and I feel great about where this team is. I’m hoping next year that we’re having a similar press conference where we can say that we grew from where we are presently. I’m just thankful to be here." 

Connelly on the team's head coaching search: 

"I got here and the process had already picked up. We’ve been fortunate to interview a couple guys over the last few days that I’m sure you guys are aware of the names. I think after this press conference, I’m looking forward to getting back to work, establishing the staff, and it’s an ongoing process, very fluid. The two guys we have talked to are tremendous and after this I look forward to going into Josh’s office and see where we go in that process."

“I don’t think we want to put a timeline on anything. There is a potential to talk to different candidates but we have talked to two great guys already. I think that whirlwind that I have experienced the last several days we have yet to really sit down and really share thoughts on where we are in the process. Again, we have talked to two great candidates and there is a couple guys we could potentially talk to but I don’t want to put a timeline on anything.”

Connelly's take on the current roster: 

“I see I am the luckiest guy in the world. I see a roster that we really thought highly of in New Orleans. When you are in the other room sometimes you are most objective and most truthful. Over the course of our discussions I told Josh it is rare where you get jobs like this with a roster with this much talent. I am familiar with all the guys, I know a few of them pretty well. This is a 57-win team, and again, it is about growing on that. The foundation is there; I think we just have to build off that firm foundation and get some internal growth from some role players, also be opportunistic with trades and free agency and maximize our draft picks. The cupboard is full with an excellent roster.”

Connelly on Iguodala: 

“The last guy we spoke to prior to this press room was Andre. He’s such a pro. He’s in there working out. He’s priority No. 1. We’ll be very proactive trying to reach an agreement that both sides are happy with.”