Jussel: What in the blazes are the Nuggets thinking?
Taggert, Hedley Lamarr’s sidekick in the best movie of all time, “Blazing Saddles,” looks puzzled and asks, “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”
The Denver Nuggets win 57 games in the regular season, their best effort ever.
Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, is selected the NBA’s executive of the year.
However, he bolts the team for greener pastures in Toronto, the Raptors being a team that won 23 fewer games than the Nuggets last season and, more importantly, possesses virtually zero talent on its current roster.
Ujiri must be into challenges.
His departure, however, is just the beginning of the changing of the guard on the Nugget front.
As soon as Ujiri departs, longtime Nugget coach George Karl, almost as big a part of the Colorado sports landscape as John Elway and a man who professes to love Denver, lets it be known that he may be interested in coaching the Los Angeles Clippers.
Say what, George?
That leads to a startling announcement from Josh Kroenke, the sole proprietor of the team with Ujiri gone. Kroenke decides he’s had enough stabbing from what was once considered a wonderfully cheery Nugget triumvirate and fires Karl, the reigning NBA coach of the year.
The church congregation belts it out in Blazing Saddles:
Now is a time of great decision … Are we to stay or up and quit?
There’s no avoiding this conclusion … Our town is turning into——.
OK, so maybe it’s a bit of an overreaction. Maybe the Nuggets won’t dry up and blow away.
Maybe, just maybe, Kroenke will make good decisions on replacing Ujiri and Karl, and the team considered one of the best and deepest in the league in terms of young talent will continue to develop.
There are a bundle of questions that need be answered.
First on the docket, to replace Ujiri, or not to replace Ujiri?
Does Kroenke want to go all Jerry Jones on us and run the team himself? Does he know enough to do that and do it effectively?
One of the reported options is to move Pete D’Alessandro, the assistant GM, to Ujiri’s job. D’Alessandro, however, may not come easily if he is Kroenke’s choice because he was extremely close to Ujiri, who is still hiring staff in Toronto.
Whoever is running the show will have to move on to Step 2 and replace Karl — and do it with a coach who can work with and improve young players such as Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler and, when he comes back from knee surgery, Danilo Gallinari.
Said person will also have to make decisions on whether to re-sign at huge cost Andre Iguodala, who is a free agent, and whether to bring back Karl’s personal favorite, backup point guard Andre Miller.
Yes, there are many big decisions to be made, some that a month ago weren’t on the agenda, some that certainly have been discussed virtually ad nauseam by people who are no longer with the organization.
So, it comes down to this with a team that was deemed an up-and-comer, now maybe perceived as an organization in transition, maybe even peril:
Kroenke, if he were in Blazing Saddles, would say, “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.”
Good luck Josh, and may the force be with you (from some other rather obscure movie).
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.