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Nuggets ownership takes big risk in changing management, maybe team direction

Jun 6, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT

Colorado Avalanche Introduce Patrick Roy Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets were a 57-win team, the three seed in the West (that might well have done better in the playoffs if healthy). This was a roster  overhauled from the Allen Iverson/Carmelo Anthony days into an exciting, fast-paced team that runs the floor and attacks the rim. They were the up-and-coming team on everybody’s radar.

Now it all could change.

First general manager Masai Ujiri left for Toronto, now the Nuggets have let go of coach George Karl. Those would be the just named NBA Executive and Coach of the Year award winners — they are the architects of this team.

It’s bold. It’s risky. It could blow up this team of the future. Or it could be the next step in its evolution (it is going to go over with some Nuggets fans better than you think).

How it happened is not a huge surprise to those close to the team. Denver, under own Stan Kroenke and with son Josh running the show, have never been a team that is known for big spending on the front office. So when Toronto called and offered Ujiri more power and six times the money he made last year, well, what would you expect him to say?

With the GM gone, Karl began to push harder for a contract extension — he had one year left on his deal, he didn’t want to be a lame duck under a new GM. Hard to blame him, but from the other side ownership didn’t want to saddle a new GM with an expensive old coach that may not like a new direction. And if you let Karl stick around as a lame duck, well, he has  a history of that being a distraction.

There also were questions about how Karl’s teams performed in the playoffs, having been eliminated in the first round again this season.

So Kroenke let him go. It gives the new GM, whoever he may be, a tabula rasa — he can hire his own coach, chart his own course.

That GM also might decide to radically change the roster, something that likely would not have sat well with Karl.

“But this roster won 57 games” you say, why would he blow it up? Well, first off he might have some changes forced upon him — Andre Iguodala, who can opt out of his contract for next season and is expected to, said he needed to think about this and what it means for his future in Denver when asked by David Aldridge of

If Iguodala leaves there would need to be other roster changes. Could a new GM look to move JaVale McGee? More likely he would demand the new coach start McGee. The new GM could decide the kind of team being built was really built for the regular season and couldn’t win a title, so it is time for another direction?

Depends on who is hired. Depends on what the Kroenke family wants. We don’t know what their vision, what their plan is long term. They have taken a big risk by losing one of the most coveted GMs in the league and then letting go a top-flight coach. Those are not easy things to replace.

And if they don’t replace them well it will show up on the court and be a big setback for a team that had taken big steps forward.

  1. fatediesel - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Isn’t Josh Kroenke technically the owner of the Nuggets? I thought when Stan Kroenke bought the Rams he had to get rid of his ownership interest in the Nuggets (and Avalanche) due to the NFL’s rule against owning teams in another NFL team’s market.

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      Technically the owner is a company that also owns the Avalanche, but the company is basically owned by Stan. I’m not sure of the details but the NFL is good with it.

  2. pmx8411 - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    BAAAADDDD MOVE Denver…letting Karl go will HAUNT the nuggets for the next 10 years.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      He haunted us for the last 9 years. Good coach but had 9 years to show improvement. Never did/

  3. cowboysfaninbuffalove - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    The only Nugs fans that like this move are stupid. This is the dumbest move ever!

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      I disagree. Karl did a good job, not great. Had the roster he always wanted (his words( last season and fizzled.

      His message is good but stale in Denver. Both the franchise and Karl knew it was time.

  4. timb12 - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Do the nuggets remind anyone else of the Chargers from the early 2000’s?

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      No because we don’t have an egomaniac GM who feuds with his own players.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      That’s a great comparison!!

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      the Chargers play basketball ?

    • redbaronx - Jun 7, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      The Nuggets remind me of …..The Nuggets from the early 2000’s….

  5. chilomane - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    I’m not in favor of the move as a Nugget fan but I can see why only winning two playoff series in 10 years after making the post season 10 years in a row. On the other hand I fear of going back to NBA obscurity again like when we had Priest Lauderdale and Nick Van Exel.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Everyone spelled doom for the franchise the moment Melo was traded.
      Didn’t happen.
      Denver will be fine.

      Of reaching the playoffs and losing in the first round is the measuring stick, I’m confident we’ll be able to match that.

      • fanofevilempire - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        I will say a prayer for you and the Nuggets.
        Thanks for Melo!

      • 4thquartermagic - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:46 PM

        Your more then welcome for Melo.
        Ironically he may in fact be the player version of George Karl.
        Great at what he does, but will never win a championship.

  6. leearmon - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Can we please stop making excuses for why the Nuggets (again) failed to exit the first round? Yes Gallo is a hell of a player, and yes he was hurt, however wasn’t David Lee an all-star this year? Actually in the Denver-Golden State series, Lee was the ONLY all-star on either team. Yet he too was injured. Russell Westbrook was also injured in the first round, yet the Thunder advanced. Derrick Rose, heard of him? Well he was hurt too. Danny Granger, Luol Deng you get my point.

    Again, I love Gallo, but of those players, he’s the least effective of the bunch, yet all of those teams still managed to advance in the postseason. So why when any objective observer states that Karl was an underachiever in the postseason again this year, his defenders rush to remind us that Michael Jordan 2.0 aka Danilo Gallinari was hurt?

  7. anhdazman - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    George Karl is a lot like Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner, good regular season records, but they stink it up comes playoff time.

    • asimonetti88 - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      Hey now. Marty Schottenheimer won the 2011 UFL Championship.

  8. mungman69 - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Hoboken Chargers?

  9. bucs24 - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    Denver take dumbtoni

  10. azarkhan - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Since 1999, the Lakers (7), Spurs (5), Mavericks (1) and Thunder (1) have won the Western Conference title. Someone tell me in what year the Nuggets were better than any of those teams when those teams won the conference title? Or for that matter, when were the Clippers better, or the Suns or Grizzlies?

    Contrary to popular belief, it is not always the coach’s fault when a team doesn’t win a title. Sometimes other teams are just better.

    • bluestar4ever - Jun 7, 2013 at 1:03 AM

      The Mavericks have won the Western conference twice, 2006 and 2011

  11. chrisco716 - Jun 6, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Huge mistake by Denver. No other coach could have taken this low budget roster as far as Coach Karl did this year… achieving a record breaking season for the organization. The problem with Denver losing to “maybe” the hottest outside shooting team “ever” in the first round of the playoffs, aside from injuries, was not the GM or the coach… both who are now gone… but the fault of managment for not coughing up the money to pay for the superstars… ‘Mello comes to mind. Now management couldn’t match the $3M for Ujiri and give an extension to Karl? What planet are they living on in Denver? 57 wins this year. Lucky to break 40 next year.

  12. jadaruler - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    As the president of the “George Karl is overrated club”, even I think this is a bad move. If the Denver team was healthy going in to the playoffs, I think they’re in the Finals playing MIA.

    I think the former gm was good, but I think he overpaid Chandler, Gallinari, and McGee. You can’t be guys like that anymore.

  13. bux1022 - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Stupid move!! Cheap bastards!

  14. mogogo1 - Jun 7, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    They’ll struggle to do better than Karl. I get their fans having some level of frustration but I don’t see anybody else doing more with the roster they had.

  15. bluestar4ever - Jun 7, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    The team has struggled because it has no superstar, and you need stars to win in the NBA. The one year they went to the conference finals they had Chauncey Billups and Carmelo. Shocking how Karl was a better coach when he had better players

  16. jtmartinez34 - Jun 7, 2013 at 11:30 AM


  17. jimsjam33 - Jun 11, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Tabula Rasa ? I don’t know , but I think the old slate looked pretty good with George Karl scratching the x’s and o’s . Please send him the Clippers way . I think we would like the old slate and a new philosophy . Run and Gun !

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