"This game has got to be about more than winning." -Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), Any Given Sunday
Yes, Nuggets Nation wants to see the team win a title. Bringing back Masai Ujiri would be a huge step in the right direction that tells fans the team is very committed to the plan of making the Nuggets title contenders. Ujiri has shown a keen ability to make the right trades, retain the right free agents, has kept the right assets from walking away, and he has made excellent selections in the NBA draft. Add to that - Masai Ujiri is the kind of person a franchise should want to build around.
When Andrew Feinstein and I got together to merge our blogs, one thing we agreed on is that we want the team we love to care more about the game than we do. Ujiri emits passion. He has stated over-and-over that he wants to win and you can see it in his eyes and hear it when he speaks. Whenever I see Ujiri at Pepsi Center he goes out of his way to come chat with me - he asks if I need anything and will spend generous amounts of time talking hoops with this blogger and many other members of the media. You can see that the players hold him in high-esteem, as well.
Masai Ujiri is a Denver Nuggets superstar.
The Nuggets offered former star Carmelo Anthony a three-year, $65 million contract extension. He didn't want to be in Denver, but it didn't stop the team from trying to retain him. From all indications, Masai wants to be in Denver and in Denver he should stay. The fans in this city have embraced him and he has endeared himself to the fan-base since coming to the team in August of 2010.
When the Nuggets made their incredible run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2009 playoffs, it was Chris Andersen who won over the fans. In the stands you would see multiple people with their hair gelled in a Mohawk for the Birdman; I was one of them. Andersen was on a one-year contract and the fans were worried he might not be back with the club.
We created a "Bring Back Birdman" petition that a number of Nuggets fans signed. Despite being 31 years-old, the Nuggets made the right move and retained a fan-favorite with a 5 year, $25 million deal. It was the right move at the time and made plenty of fans happy. Stan Kroenke and the rest of the Nuggets' front office did right by the fans.
It's time to do right by the fans once again.
Since Melo left Denver there has been a lot of talk from Ujiri, George Karl, and others about this franchise trying to go about winning in an unconventional way. Ujiri has completely turned over the roster - Andersen was the last player remaining from the WCFs team; he's long gone. Since Ujiri took the reigns, he has brought in 19 faces that have had an impact on the court with the team:
1.) Gary Forbes
2.) Melvin Ely
3.) Raymond Felton
4.) Wilson Chandler
5.) Danilo Gallinari
6.) Timofey Mozgov
7.) Kosta Koufos
8.) Jordan Hamilton
9.) Andre Miller
10.) Kenneth Faried
11.) Julyan Stone
12.) DeMarre Carroll
13.) Corey Brewer
14.) Rudy Fernandez
15.) JaVale McGee
16.) Andre Iguodala
17.) Evan Fournier
18.) Quincy Miller
19.) Anthony Randolph
Ujiri also was able to retain Karl with a contract extension and his work in Denver is not done. His teams have finished 50-32, 38-28, and 57-25 ... the Nuggets are headed in the right direction. On the above list, Ujiri was able to retain key free agents: Gallo, Chandler, Miller, McGee, and Koufos - along with Nene, Arron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson. Any one of those guys could have easily left town, but Ujiri made sure they did not.
Equally as important with Ujiri? He's a great person.
Along with former Nuggets great Dikembe Mutombo, Ujiri has been tireless in his efforts to promote and develop the game of basketball throughout Africa. He is the founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, which launched the Top 50 and Bigman camps in his homeland. Ujiri also has served as the director of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program since 2002.
In 2011, our very own Andrew Feinstein traveled to Africa to meet up with Ujiri and was able to witness the work of the Basketball Without Borders program first hand (you can read about that here).
Ujiri is the guy that the Nuggets should want to build with. A man the Nuggets need to grow with. The fans are behind him and we want to see him stay in Denver. Let our voices be heard and let's do our part to let Stan and Josh Kroenke know that we want Ujiri to remain in Denver.
Ujiri is the star we deserve.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter