Denver gets a needed sports makeover

The Colorado sports scene is getting a makeover, a virtual 45-minute facial. 

The Denver Nuggets on Monday completed the process of reinventing their front office with the hiring of head coach Brian Shaw, which followed by a week the hiring of new General Manager Tim Connelly.

Colorado’s Avalanche have been running about a month ahead of the Nuggets in the process, with Joe Sakic getting the keys to run the vehicle from young owner Josh Kroenke in early May. Sakic’s first big move a couple of weeks into his tenure was to hire legendary goalie Patrick Roy as head coach.

Both teams should have more headline news soon, with the NBA draft Thursday night and the NHL draft Sunday night.

While these two organizations go about the business of change, the Colorado Rockies baseball team is trying to stay in the National League West hunt during Troy Tulowitzki’s annual stay on the disabled list.

There hasn’t been much of a makeover yet with the Rox, but it is on the way with Walt Weiss’s team yet to determine whether it will be a buyer or seller of talent prior to the July 31 trade deadline.

Sakic and Roy, the Avs’ new brain trust, will make the biggest splash when they have the opportunity to make the first pick in the NHL draft, a pick that will not be Colorado’s homegrown defenseman Seth Jones, according to Sakic.

Scouts have four players rated far ahead of the rest of the pack: Jones; centers Nathan MacKinnon of Canada and Finland’s Alexander Barkov; and winger Jonathan Drouin.

The Avs are loaded with young centers, and MacKinnon and Barkov are both 17 years old and rated surefire superstars.

Look for the Avs to take MacKinnon — Sakic said Monday that was the plan barring unforeseen trade developments — then later trade one of their starting centers, either Paul Stastny or Ryan O’Reilly (they will keep Matt Duchene), for defensive help that is badly needed.

With the NBA draft Thursday, Nuggets new GM Connelly will get to make his first big decision, but not until the 27th selection. In other words, don’t expect help in the immediate future.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is one name bandied about that might be available with that pick, and he is a needed shooting guard/small forward.

The draft will grab immediate attention, but the Nuggets’ most pressing need is to deal with free agents, specifically their own: Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer.

Both players are shooting guard/small forwards and are key pieces to making the team’s running game go.

Iguodala will command somewhere around $15 million a year over four or five years and, if he would sign with a different team, would be extremely difficult to replace. He is working out at the Nuggets’ complex, and the team, meaning Kroenke and Connelly, say they want him and expect him to be back.

Brewer will come significantly cheaper being a bench player, but he needs to be retained because he brings energy and, at times, shooting ability that the team lacks.

The Nuggets do hold the hammer with both players in that they can offer a five-year contract while others can offer only four. 

As for the Rockies, with Tulo out with a broken rib for at least another month, they are just finishing up a punishing road trip to the East, have dropped from second to fourth in the West — and still have hope.

Thankfully, the West is mediocre, with a .500 mark likely to keep any team in contention through September. The defending champion Giants have watched their starting pitching staff implode, the Dodgers have been terrible from the get-go, the Padres are competing in each series, and the D-backs have the pitching, but no hitting.

The Rockies can hang around if the pitching staff can hold up.

Roy Oswalt will be a factor in the middle of the starting rotation with young Tyler Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa.

At some point soon, look for Drew Pomeranz to join the rotation, with Juan Nicasio being sent down or added to the bullpen, which has been overworked since closer Rafael Betancourt and middle man Edgmer Escalona were injured.

If the team fades through July because the pitching doesn’t hold up or the offense dwindles to a trickle, the team will become a seller, with the likes of the red-hot Michael Cuddyer, and any number of pitchers, especially De La Rosa and Oswalt, becoming available to contenders.

Stay in the hunt, however, and it will be time to bring in a middle-of-the-order outfielder or first baseman (Corey Hart, anyone?) or another starting pitcher (Ricky Nolasco or Matt Garza?) to keep up with and maybe surpass the rest of the West.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher.

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