Aaron Lopez recently sat down with Tim Connelly for an interview about the first season as Nuggets General Manager and where he sees the team going this offseason. Obviously there wasn't any bombshells released, however, there were some interesting tid-bits that you can read going forward. Particularly when it comes to what the Nuggets intend to do with their pick (if it ends up at 11 or 12) and Connelly's own thoughts on Lawson, Faried and Gallo.
Here are some selected hightlights with my thoughts after.
Regarding Kenneth Faried's contract extension talks that Chris Dempsey first reported last week:
Q: Kenneth is entering the final year of his contract. How do you approach extension talks this summer?
A: "I tell guys all the time, ‘We want to pay you. Give us a reason to pay you.’ Certainly Kenneth’s energy and toughness is something our team feeds off of. It embodies who we’re trying to be. We’re in a great spot. He has another year on his rookie-scale contract. We’ll try to come to some agreement this offseason. Hopefully we do. If not, he’s still on our team and we have restricted rights the following year. It’s certainly a good spot to be in. We have to be an organization – and we have been – that will reward good play. And Kenneth’s played well – really well."
Certainly the Nuggets have a level of control here over Faried's future. If the team and Faried can't come to a reasonable (ie: relatively team friendly contract) then it really won't harm them to let him go to restricted free agency. While everyone would prefer this be handled sooner rather than later, it may actually benefit the Nuggets to let this play out until Manimal hits the open market with another year behind them. The Nuggets could benefit from seeing what Manimal will do with a full, healthy roster when his opportunities may not be as plentiful as this season.
On Ty Lawson and his growth this last season:
Q: Along with Kenneth, Ty Lawson has become what the coaches consider a "cornerstone" of the franchise. He ran into some injury problems late in the season but still set career highs in scoring and assists. How do you assess his year?
A: "We think he can be even better. With Ty, we’re probably as hard on him as anybody because we know how good he can be. We also know that for us to play basketball in late-May, he’s got to be that guy. I was happy that he took to the bigger role, but I don’t think he’s anywhere close to where he should be. I think he’s still scratching the surface. Ty was really good, but he can be great. We all know that and he knows it. We don’t want to allow anything less."
Ty Lawson improved his "voice" in the locker room last season, but he was not by ANY stretch the loudest ... nor was he the most listened to. However ... that's not essential to his growth. Tony Parker isn't the "leader" of the San Antonio Spurs, but he is their best player (at the moment). The Nuggets need to find that balance in pushing Ty to be the best while understanding that his personality may be (to use a football analogy) more Champ Bailey than Brian Dawkins.
On what the Nuggets missed last year with Danilo Gallinari out:
Q: Where did you miss Gallinari most?
A: "Basketball IQ. He was a calming influence and a secondary playmaker. Gallo’s above-average in every basketball skill and he’s such a natural in how he approaches the game because he’s grown up around it. His father was a great player. He’s been playing professionally since a young age. He has a certain calming influence and an overall intelligence that at times was lacking this year."
Gallo is, and has been a very basketball intelligent player his whole NBA career. There was at times last season when the Nuggets missed their "glue" guy. Will be interesting to see if Gallo has that same voice and approach when he returns this season. It's hard to have the same impact when you miss a whole year.
Finally, on the draft pick:
Q: Given your Irish background, do you bring any luck to the draft lottery?
A: "I hope so. We have a small chance of being in the top three. That would be fantastic. If we end up where we’re supposed to be at 11 or 12, it’s still a great asset to have either to pick a really good player or use that pick as part of something bigger. It’s the best day of the year to improve your team. Historically, it’s where you get better – draft night."
Two things. I'm Irish ... If being Irish had anything to do with luck in the lottery and draft the Nuggets wouldn't have selected Raef LaFrentz in 1998 and I would have won the powerball by now. Secondly, this gives you a greater window into the Nuggets approach with that particular draft pick should it fall to 11 or 12. Could there be an even bigger move in the future?
All in all, you get the feeling the Nuggets are in no way interested in taking any steps back this season. Depending on your point of view that could be a good or bad thing. However, Connelly gives you the unequivocal feeling that the Nuggets want to dramatically improve this season. What will that entail?