The Denver Nuggets raised more than a few eyebrows around the league when they decided to dismiss NBA Coach of the Year George Karl and allow NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri to join the Toronto Raptors in the wake of a franchise-best 57-25 season. Team president Josh Kroenke spoke about those decisions at a press conference on Friday, and he still insists the franchise is all about raising banners and winning championships (via Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post):
Q: Why are you fixing what wasn’t broken?: A: These changes aren’t me thinking it was broken. These changes aren’t reflective of last season— Benjamin Hochman (@nuggetsnews) June 7, 2013
"I’m not here to win awards, I’m here to win banners." – Josh Kroenke— Benjamin Hochman (@nuggetsnews) June 7, 2013
The Nuggets emerged as a surprise contender in the 2012-13 season, but they were forced to battle through injuries to Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari and were ultimately eliminated in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs by the Golden State Warriors. George Karl hasn't coached a team to a sub-.500 record since the 1987-88 season, but Kroenke owned the call to cut him loose, saying: "it was my decision, and a very tough one to make."
One reason why he didn't extend the contract of Karl: "I wasn’t sure the direction where I wanted to take the team long-term"— Benjamin Hochman (@nuggetsnews) June 7, 2013
He was a little bit more evasive when asked about Ujiri's departure. In essence, he made an effort to paint the former GM as unwilling to even consider an offer from the Nuggets, which flies in the face of a previous report claiming a "market-value" extension could have kept him in Denver.
Josh said Masai told him he didn't even need to consider matching the Toronto contract, because Masai’s decision was already made.— Benjamin Hochman (@nuggetsnews) June 7, 2013
Nobody knows what's next for the Nuggets. When asked whether a coach or a GM will be hired first, Kroenke said "both situations are fluid." Andre Iguodala can opt out of his contract this summer, Corey Brewer is set to hit the free agent market and Gallinari needs time to rehab from an ACL tear. If Kroenke isn't careful with his next moves, the Nuggets may not be winning awards or banners any time soon.