"I guess Peter Vecsey agrees with me"
Last Updated:5:59 AM, May 13, 2012
Posted:12:04 AM, May 13, 2012
If Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and general manager Masai Ujiri have made an important personnel mistake in the two years since their minds meshed as Babes in David Stern’s Toyland, feel free to alert me to it.
Regardless of the Game 7 outcome last night against the once heavily favored Lakers, the patient and prudent duet has transformed folly into a force after seemingly being ensnared for half a season in Carmelo Anthony’s tricked-out briar patch.
While hoodwinked outsiders believed Kroenke and Ujiri to be palmed hostages of Melo the Merciless, for months they played the Knicks and Nets against each other and copped far more than the original sticker price.
It pains me to concede Camp Cablevision concierge James Dolan was not alone in being masterfully manipulated by the Nuggets’ juvenile scam artists in blue jeans. Jewels also were shoplifted this season from the Blazers, Mavericks and Wizards.
Kroenke and Ujiri converted Raymond Felton, part of the Knicks booty, into Portland’s Andre Miller. The floor plan — wholly sanctioned, if not initiated, by coach George Karl — was to show Ty Lawson how much trust the coaching staff and management had in him as a scoring point guard, first by packaging Chauncey Billups with Melo then by substituting a young starter for an elderly understudy.
In a separate stroke of genius, listlessly endorsed in this space, Nene was exchanged for Washington’s JaVale McGee, whose finger rolls and one-handed dunks from 3-point range bring back thrilling images of Wilt Chamberlain and Connie Hawkins. Had rookie Kenneth Faried, a hardcore hitman plucked No. 22 in last year’s draft, not matured so rapidly, it’s doubtful management would have chanced giving up their chronically-wounded macho forward.
No pulse was even taken when Corey Brewer, a little-used member of Dallas’ championship congregation (23 minutes in six playoff games), and Rudy Fernandez were imported to Denver on Dec. 13, 2011.
Ten months after signing the amped-up 6-foot-8 free agent to a baffling three-year, $9 million guarantee, Mark Cuban surrendered the two-time titlist at Florida and the sharp-shooting Spaniard for — get this — a future second-round selection … additional salary-cap dumps that were overlooked in the wake of the departure of free agents Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler.
Many talent scouts projected Brewer, chosen No. 7 overall in the 2007 draft by the Timberwolves, would be more effective as a pro than college teammates Al Horford and Joakim Noah.
It Minnesota decision-maker David Kahn 31⁄2 years to be convinced Brewer wouldn’t amount to much. It took the Knicks no time whatsoever. Joining New York as a monetary throw-in to complete the three-team Melo transaction, Brewer was cut a week later without so much as a casual glance.
(For posterity, Kevin Love was not happy to see Brewer go. He found his warp speed, effervescent behavior, practice habits and defensive tracking apparatus irresistible. Let it be written!)
In Thursday night’s 113-96 Game 6 Lakers liquidation, Brewer notched 18 points (8-for-12 field-goal shooting, including 2-for-3 from afar) in 19 minutes. His averages through six games: 17.3 minutes, 9.0 points (46.7 percent shooting) and 3.1 rebounds.
Not Melo-dramatic or Mini Melo (J.R. Smith) numbers, just another fundamental piece of management’s puzzle that was giving the Lakers fits and figures to stay intact for seasons to come.
Kroenke and Ujiri distanced the Nuggets from Melo, Billups, J.R., and Kenyon Martin, and retained Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler (now injured) and Aaron Afflalo, who was pilfered from the Pistons by the previous regime of Rex Chapman and Mark Warkentien.
Shrewd reasoning on all counts!
Obviously, Lawson, also gifted by the above unseated co-GMs, will be amply rewarded at some point in the next year. Timofey Mozgov is surely to follow at a lower pay grade, and Al Harrington is on the books for $21 million over the next three seasons.
Kroenke and Ujiri have taken guessing out of the game.
➤ As for the Lakers, how special of Magic Johnson to opine that should they not avoid the ignominy of septic-tanking a 3-1 lead against the Nuggets, “They’re going to run Mike Brown first out of town. Then second [Andrew] Bynum. Then third [Pau] Gasol.”
They don’t come any more vacuous.
Not surprisingly, Madge isn’t prepared to hold Jerry and Jim Buss, or GM Mitch Kupchak, accountable for failing to fill in the blanks sufficiently around Kobe Bryant, or care to note the same bosses that hired (and quickly fired) Rudy Tomjanovich couldn’t wait to sign Brown.
Predictably, Madge talks tough, if not intelligently, about Lakers he has little or no relationship with while giving a slide to former business partners and a teammate.
Win or lose, Brown hasn’t been around the Lakers long enough to receive extreme credit or definitive discredit. To suggest otherwise is unsophisticated.
And it’s hilarious to think Madge judges a possible swap of Bynum for Dwight Howard, and Dwight Howard alone, as constituting being run out of town. Gasol’s stock was so low during the preseason the Lakers had agreed in return to settle for Chris Paul before Stern rejected the swap.
Please, Madge, stick to commenting on a sport and a team, the Dodgers, you might know something about.