Jussel: No-brainer for Nuggets: Keep Ujiri

A rather troubling report came out of Toronto last week, with the NBA’s Raptors saying they are interested in signing their former assistant general manager to the position of general manager.

The person they are interested in is the recently selected NBA Executive of the Year, the Denver Nuggets’ general manager, Masai Ujiri.

Say it ain’t so, Josh.

Josh Kroenke, the 33-year-old president of the Nuggets, has been busy of late taking control of the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, but now must switch hats and priorities and take care of business with the Nuggets and sign Ujiri to a new, long-term contract with the team. Ujiri can’t be allowed to head north of the border again.

Kroenke and Ujiri reportedly get along splendidly, work and play well together and, oh yes, have combined to put the Nuggets in one of the most enviable positions in terms of roster in not just the NBA, but in all of professional sport. They are young, talented and deep, and there are opportunities galore to get better in a wide variety of ways, one of which is simply by maintaining the status quo.

It was Ujiri’s brains and patience that led to rebuilding this team from the Carmelo days, and it will be his thinking that will continue to improve the Nuggets’ performance on court.

It’s a very simple task in front of you, young Josh: Sit down with your buddy, re-sign him at whatever the cost (Lord knows, there is money available, and this isn’t a salary-cap decision), and continue this sweet little partnership for the next decade or so.

Help on way for RoCKies

It hasn’t been an easy road for the Colorado Rockies this season, their schedule having them in two series with the Giants, three with the Diamondbacks, not to mention series against the Braves, Cardinals and Yankees, all division frontrunners as we speak.

But they are hanging tough behind first-year manager Walt Weiss, tied atop the National League West after winning Wednesday’s finale against Arizona.

The team has hit like it should, ranking first in the NL in average, runs scored and home runs. Nothing real surprising there.

What has been a pleasant surprise (that’s an understatement of grand proportion) has been the pitching. Their staff ERA going into their just-concluded series with Arizona was 3.85, good for second in the NL West behind the D-Backs and seventh in the NL. Compare that with San Francisco’s team ERA of 4.21, this coming from what was thought to be the best starting rotation in baseball.

And Colorado’s rotation could get a big boost in the near future from recently signed free agent Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt reportedly has been dazzling in Arizona rehab appearances and is set for a few starts at Double-A Tulsa before likely heading for Denver.

Bill Geivett, Rockies senior vice president of major league operations, said Oswalt has been throwing in the low 90s with “very good command.”

That will win games in the bigs.

It was a long time in coming, but the Rockies’ 3-1 series win against the Giants was their first in 11 tries over more than two seasons.

Broncos still mending

The Denver Broncos have opened organized team activities this week at Dove Valley and, thankfully, it’s all shadow boxing, no sparring, with a number of likely starters still recovering from offseason surgeries.

Included on the list of players who can’t take part even in the simplest of drills are three possible starting offensive linemen, left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder, contract dispute), center J.D. Walton (ankle) and right guard Chris Kuper (ankle).

What to watch for now from the Broncos?

Keep an eye on the free-agency situation, with Charles Woodson signing with the Raiders on Tuesday for more than $4 million on a one-year deal — too much money for a part-time safety. The 36-year-old defensive back was brought in for a meeting with the Broncos last week but wasn’t signed.

The Broncos, by the way, have roughly $7 million to mess with in salary-cap space, with more coming with the impending release of either or both veteran running backs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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