Rocky Mountain Mystery


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re still trying to make sense of the moves made by the Denver Nuggets yesterday to dump their top two basketball executives, Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman, without any warning.’s Art Garcia opened the door for us last night with some possible replacements, including HT fave Tommy Sheppard, who is in Washington now but is a former Nuggets exec.

There’s so much work to be done in Denver (Carmelo Anthony‘s extension talks, Kenyon Martin‘s future with the team, the salary cap headlock that awaits and don’t forget George Karl‘s recovery from Cancer treatment and return to action, among other issues that need to be addressed) that disposing of the 2009 Executive of the Year (Warkentien) and a respected front office type (Chapman) at this time just seems a bit strange to us here at the hideout.

We went snooping around to see if anyone else was willing to help clear up some of the mystery surrounding this move and provide some details, and we stumbled across this stuff from Woody Paige of the Denver Post, who insists there were plenty of reasons the moves were made:

Because of circumstances within and beyond their control, the Nuggets’ vice presidents of basketball operations and player personnel became the incredible shrinking Wark and ‘Man. Last year both received votes for NBA executive of the year (Warkentien won the honor with nine). Tuesday, neither was given a vote of confidence by Kroenke the Elder, the owner, or Kroenke the Younger, the club’s vice president of player development.

It could be worse. The Miami Heat — in the aftermath of signing the famed basketball version of the Kingston Trio — sold all of its season tickets for next season, then announced Tuesday the entire season-ticket sales staff (30 employees) had been dismissed.

The league, like life, is unfair.

Leftover Al Harrington, signed as a free agent, couldn’t save Warkentien and Chapman.

I strongly suspect that Stan Kroenke immediately will create a new Chimera (the mythical Greek three-headed monster) with son Josh serving as the everyday working owner-in-name, president-in-title of the Nuggets; former Nuggets and current Wizards exec Tommy Sheppard as vice president of basketball administration-operations; and Masai Ujiri, an ex-international scout with the Nuggets and presently Raptors assistant general manager, as GM.

The old Chimera (Warkentien, Chapman and adviser Bret Bearup, who is still officially unofficial) put together the roster for the Nuggets’ push to the Western Conference finals in 2008-09 by acquiring Chauncey Billups (and dumping Allen Iverson) after signing free agents Andersen and Dahntay Jones, and relieving the team’s luxury tax problem by trading Marcus Camby.

The Nuggets were in position to challenge the Lakers’ dominance in the West once more last season. But when Karl was forced to leave the bench after the all-star break, the team spiraled into a free fall.

Any time you see the words “free” and “fall” in that sort of proximity with a team, you should expect some serious fall out. And that usually means an executive or two, and perhaps even a coach or two, will have to pack his bags and look for a new gig.

Maybe someone in Denver is reading the tea leaves and realizes that as upstarts like Oklahoma City and others rise, someone has to fall. And when that happens there are casualties of the process.

And before we suggest Nuggets fans go crazy with worry about all of this, we’ll remind them that sometimes when one (or maybe two) executive leaves the stage, someone even more dynamic with just as much or more promise is set to replace them (as happened in Portland when Rich Cho took over for Kevin Pritchard).

That’s why we are willing to let this Rocky Mountain mystery play out before delivering a final verdict.



  1. Nick says:

    A monumental mistake was made when Marcus Camby was traded for nothing. With Marcus, the Nuggets could have not only reached the Western Conference Finals, but beat the Lakers and won the finals as well. The following year the loss of Marcus was even more glaring. He was the piece needed to win the NBA finals, but we traded him for salary cap relief. We could have had the same team, with Chauncey and Birdman, as we had. We needed Marcus, but didn’t have him when it counted. Championships cost money, and we folded when it counted. Too bad. We went all it with the exception of Marcus. Why do that? That was really, really dumb. It cost us a championship in my opinion.

  2. Dongz23 says:

    I think this is the right time for Carmelo Anthony to look for a team that can give him the ring. Hes in his prime right now and he should not waste it. Its not good for a star to be in a REBUILDING team. He should be in a CONTENDER team for him to utilize his talent because as they say, people grow old. I just wish he wont put himself in the shoe of TMAC for we know the story about him right?

  3. Tired of the haters says:

    I’m quite frankly sick of hearing all this crap about my team being fallen and going to fall off before the season has even started. There have been multiple players on the Nuggets who have said that Andersen and Martin could both be active at the start of the season because they are progressing well from their surguries, they got Karl back, and have picked up a whole new dimension to their offense in Al Harrington, yet teams like Dallas, Phoenix, and Utah are ahead of these guys? Please…. I am going to enjoy it when Melo re-ups with Denver, the Nuggets get back to the WCF, and everyone is just sitting there dumbfounded as to how it happened. I can’t wait for the season to start already!

  4. Zzanzabar says:

    I cannot say how much the Denver Nuggets remind me of the (now defunct) Seattle SuperSonics. Here is a team that since the addition of Carmello Anthony has been ‘in the mix’ for the past 3 years but too good to get a decent draft pick and too poor to get any real attention from marquee players to play there. George Karl is a heck of a coach but has been cursed by staying in the Western Conference with teams not named the Spurs or the Lakers.

    It seems to be the idea in Denver that if you throw enough players at the wall, eventually one or two might stick. Denver is a team of misfits that play together for Karl and no one else. The Birdman is a great reclamation job but has a limited scope, J.R. Smith has the talent to be another Chris Paul (he really does) but his head is screwed on backwards so he can only see himself. This is a team that if it played in the Eastern Conference for the past 3 years would have made the finals at least one of those years, but does not have the sticking power to slug it out with the gauntlet that is the West.

    • mj says:

      you do realize chris paul and j.r. smith play completely different positions and have completely different games…right?