Toronto Exec Masai Ujiri Accepts Denver's GM Job, Sources Say
Barring any late and unlikely snags in the process, the hiring of the Toronto assistant general manager is expected to be finalized on Thursday and Ujiri, who could not be reached for comment, will return to the place where he spent four of his eight seasons in the NBA.
The Nigerian was a scout with Denver from 2003 to 2007, having previously served as an unpaid scout for the Orlando Magic (2002-03) and finishing his Nuggets tenure as the head of international scouting. He appeared to have only a slim chance at the position when the search began in early August, but his good reputation within the Nuggets' ranks coupled with an impressive interview on August 12 led to his selection after former Phoenix executive David Griffin declined an offer on Tuesday.
Griffin, according to the sources, was offered the job late last week but balked when the offer -- which was believed to be for less than $500,000 annually -- was far below market for a general manager position. It spoke volumes about the position itself.
With Nuggets executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman being let go earlier this month and owner Stan Kroenke being approved to buy the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, his son, 30-year-old Josh Kroenke, has been elevated to a far more influential role in recent months. Due to the Rams purchase, he must now take over ownership of the Nuggets and the family's other sports venture, the Colorado Avalanche, while being heavily involved in front office matters. Meanwhile, Nuggets team adviser Bret Bearup is more influential than ever in personnel matters now that Warkentien and Chapman are gone.
Now, Josh Kroenke, Bearup and Ujiri have quite a challenge ahead. The most pressing matter, of course, is that of Carmelo Anthony and the three-year, $65 million extension he has left on the table for months.
Even with the rampant reports of Anthony's desire to either be traded or simply not sign the extension and become a free agent next summer, the Nuggets will continue to praise the merits of remaining with the team with which he has played all seven of his seasons. Anthony's financial motivation will remain relevant as well, as the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after this season and he might be risking exorbitant amounts of pay depending on the outcome of ongoing labor negotiations.
As if that wasn't enough, there's the task of finding a new home for shooting guard J.R. Smith. The much-maligned player entering his seventh season is know to be on the trading block, but he didn't help his or the Nuggets' cause earlier this month when he was involved in an altercation at the team's practice facility.
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