Late Thursday night, when Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly met with the media, the questions were of the moment — the draft picks, the Kosta Koufos trade — but the real narrative was this: The team's new management means business. Big time. Right off the top, an already huge summer for center JaVale McGee got even bigger when Connelly and team president Josh Kroenke traded away his biggest competition, Koufos. McGee, an athletic and enigmatic 7-footer, was the source of angst behind the scenes last season, all because of playing time. McGee and the Nuggets' front office wanted more. Then-coach George Karl didn't, and made it clear that he wouldn't sacrifice victories to watch McGee go through growing pains. Koufos arguably was the hardest-working Nugget during the offseason this year, becoming a fixture on the Pepsi Center practice court to improve his game and prepare for next season. But rather than watch Koufos improve and maybe even again outplay McGee in training camp and force new coach Brian Shaw to make a tough decision, Connelly removed the conflict. No more Koufos. The Nuggets also want to re-sign restricted free agent Timofey Mozgov, who will not seriously threaten to start. "It's unfair to the three centers that we had," Connelly said. "It's hard. Sometimes they cannibalize each other. But that wasn't the purpose. The purpose was to find a guy more complementary to JaVale and (Kenneth) Faried. We're excited about Mozgov. ... We're looking forward to having him back. We just thought maybe it was a better fit. That was our thinking." McGee's path to big minutes from the start of the game is now clear. Last season, he averaged only 18.1 minutes after averaging 25.2 and 27.8 in the two seasons prior. And a clear path for McGee will lead to clear heads from Denver executives, who can now sit back and evaluate exactly what they have paid for. It's up to McGee to show he wants to improve and become a big-time player as much as the Nuggets want him to be one. Last summer, he had a few workouts with former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon. A lengthier repeat could, and perhaps should, be on tap this summer. Anything less than McGee's most serious offseason on the eve of the most important season of his career would be viewed as a major disappointment.
JaVale McGee under pressure with Kosta Koufos out of picture
Denver Post | Jun 29