If Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and general manager Masai Ujiri have made an important personnel mistake in the two years since their minds meshed as Babes in David Stern’s Toyland, feel free to alert me to it.
Regardless of the Game 7 outcome last night against the once heavily favored Lakers, the patient and prudent duet has transformed folly into a force after seemingly being ensnared for half a season in Carmelo Anthony’s tricked-out briar patch.
While hoodwinked outsiders believed Kroenke and Ujiri to be palmed hostages of Melo the Merciless, for months they played the Knicks and Nets against each other and copped far more than the original sticker price.
It pains me to concede Camp Cablevision concierge James Dolan was not alone in being masterfully manipulated by the Nuggets’ juvenile scam artists in blue jeans. Jewels also were shoplifted this season from the Blazers, Mavericks and Wizards.
Kroenke and Ujiri converted Raymond Felton, part of the Knicks booty, into Portland’s Andre Miller. The floor plan — wholly sanctioned, if not initiated, by coach George Karl — was to show Ty Lawson how much trust the coaching staff and management had in him as a scoring point guard, first by packaging Chauncey Billups with Melo then by substituting a young starter for an elderly understudy.
In a separate stroke of genius, listlessly endorsed in this space, Nene was exchanged for Washington’s JaVale McGee, whose finger rolls and one-handed dunks from 3-point range bring back thrilling images of Wilt Chamberlain and Connie Hawkins. Had rookie Kenneth Faried, a hardcore hitman plucked No. 22 in last year’s draft, not matured so rapidly, it’s doubtful management would have chanced giving up their chronically-wounded macho forward.
No pulse was even taken when Corey Brewer, a little-used member of Dallas’ championship congregation (23 minutes in six playoff games), and Rudy Fernandez were imported to Denver on Dec. 13, 2011.
Ten months after signing the amped-up 6-foot-8 free agent to a baffling three-year, $9 million guarantee, Mark Cuban surrendered the two-time titlist at Florida and the sharp-shooting Spaniard for — get this — a future second-round selection … additional salary-cap dumps that were overlooked in the wake of the departure of free agents Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler.
Many talent scouts projected Brewer, chosen No. 7 overall in the 2007 draft by the Timberwolves, would be more effective as a pro than college teammates Al Horford and Joakim Noah.
Peter VecseyIf Nuggets president Josh Kroenke, Masai Ujiri, Lakers, Knicks, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Wilt Chamberlain, Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, Wizards.Kroenke, James Dolan