Tag: Masai Uijri

Ujiri will meet with Melo to try and soothe the waters


Masai Ujiri and Dell Demps should get together and have a beer when the Nuggets and Hornets meet next season, because they’ve both been initiated into fire. Demps had to meet with Chris Paul within days of being hired by the Hornets, to try and convince him to chill out on his trade demands.

Now Ujrii faces the same charge when he says he’ll meet with Carmelo Anthony in the near future to try and convince the start that the Nuggets are still a place he can compete. Ujiri told the Denver Post that he’ll meet with Anthony and that the Nuggets still very much want him as their star. This of course refutes a report by Woj we told you about earlier that said the Nuggets were pretty much done with Anthony, and especially with his agent Leon Rose and representative agency, CAA. 
This is likely a good-cop-bad-cop act by the Nuggets, with owner Stan Kroenke playing hardball to get the pressure to back off, and Ujiri on to smooth the wrinkles out. The question will be how much Anthony does want out, especially if New York, widely reported to be his top destination, is unavailable by trade. If he’d rather wait till free agency, even under the new CBA to go where he wants, he may relent and stay with Denver. If Ujiri is really able to pull a rabbit out of his hat, he could convince Anthony to sign the extension he’s been mulling over for three months. From here on out, it’s a negotiating power play, and either the Nuggets, or Anthony’s reps, will come out the winners. 
So how do you convince Anthony to stick around? For starters, reminding him of how close they were in 2009. There’s a perception of shock around the league about this unraveling of the team. After all, they were in the Western Conference Finals in 2009! Except when you look at those playoffs, you can point to a lot of circumstantial events that led to that WCF appearance, and while the six-game series looked competitive, the Lakers still dispatched them with relative ease. But is anywhere Anthony can go going to be better? His options are the Clippers (giggle), Golden State in massive upheaval, the Nets in massive rebuilding, and the Bobcats continually trying to remodel with trades and no budget. Only Houston really provides a championship-caliber core, and even that’s loaded with the question of how much longer Yao Ming can play. Outside of marketing, which again leads to New York, there’s not much reason to leave Denver. That’s likely to be Ujiri’s pitch.
The big problem may be that as this is now a power play, it may be better for Melo to leave and keep his negotiating power than stay, if he can go somewhere with flexibility and promising pieces, like New Jersey. Staying would seem like a capitulation at this point, and free agency exposes him to the risk of losing millions under the new impending CBA. All of a sudden, Carmelo may be the one stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

How to become a general manager in the NBA

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Thumbnail image for ujiri_masai.jpgMasai Ujiri is the new general manager — technically Executive Vice President of Basketball operations — for the Denver Nuggets.

Which led a lot of people to say, “who?” But over at TrueHoop they have the story of how he went from a former European player crashing on couches and trying to get part-time gig anywhere in the league to a guy with one of the most coveted jobs in the NBA.

David Thorpe — the Executive Director of the Pro Training Center, ESPN writer and just generally one of the good guys — helped Ujiri get his start.

It sounded like he had a good feel for where the good international players were playing. From Africa, and all over Europe. He knew all kinds of players, it seemed, who could help U.S. high school or college programs. I wasn’t even thinking about the pros at that point.

I told him it was a few weeks until the Final Four in Atlanta. I wasn’t sure I had room for him to stay with me, but if he could get there I would meet him there and introduce him to everyone I could… We went to dinner with [Florida State coaches] Leonard Hamilton and Stan Jones. Within minutes he and Leonard Hamilton were good friends. We met all kinds of people all weekend. You know how people talk about videos spreading virally on the Internet? Masai spread virally that weekend. By the time Sunday rolled around, he had meetings set up with all kinds of coaches. People I had never met. Everyone wanted him to help them find good players at every level.

Masai kept working, kept bringing good players in from places people hadn’t been, and kept meeting people and shaking hands. He kept working hard. It took a couple years of doing that for nothing before the Magic hired him as an overseas scout. And kept working and sleeping on couches.

NBA scouts kind of do one of two things. They either go by themselves and work alone, or go where everybody else is and meet all the other scouts and basketball people. Masai did the latter. He met everybody. He became friends with everybody. After a couple of years, Denver came calling [and made him a scout]. Then he got a real job. No more staying with friends. That was the last time I ever helped him get a job. By the time Toronto wanted to hire him, he was far beyond needing my help.

Go read the whole post. It makes you appreciate how hard Ujiri worked to get where he is. We talked about how Josh Kroenke — the soon-to-be owner with a basketball background — will have the real power with the Nuggets. But that shouldn’t get in the way of the Ujiri story. The NBA could use more of that.

Denver Nuggets hire Masai Ujiri as general manager

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ujiri_masai.jpgIt didn’t take long after David Griffin backed away for the Denver Nuggets to find their new general manager.

Masai Ujiri will be hired for the position, according to the Denver Post. Ujiri was a former Nugget scout who most recently was director of international scouting for the Toronto Raptors.

He will report directly to Josh Kroenke, the soon-to-be owner of the Nuggets who has injected himself into player personnel decisions and is expected to take a more active role in that area. Ujiri is a native of Nigeria who attended high school in the states, played his college ball at Montana State and played professionally in Europe.

He walks into a situation with a lot on his plate. Carmelo Anthony has an extension offer (three years, $65 million) that he has not touched waiting to see what direction the Nuggets take. There is also the issue of trying to move J.R. Smith, who had a scuffle with someone at a recent practice at the Nuggets facility (not a Nuggets employee, but a player in a pick-up game).

The question is how much power will Ujiri really have — Kroenke has asserted himself into the role of decision maker. That was part of what Griffin balked at (that and the money offered). But Ujiri knows players and the game, so he could be a good team with Kroenke.