The basketball world was stunned by the announcement that former Denver Nuggets Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien was hired by the New York Knicks

What does this mean for the Nuggets?


We, as Nuggets fans, may have a problem on our hands, his name is Mark Warkentien.

When Wark's contract was not renewed in August, it took many people by surprise. It was supposed that if anyone was going to survive the front office turmoil of the summer, it would be the former executive of the year. Apparently those of us who assumed that were wrong. Dead wrong.

As I have discussed previously, Wark could be a hard man to get along with. My experiences and even fellow Denver Stiffs writer Andrew Fienstein’s experiences with him could be described (again, credit to Andy) as “prickly”. Yet there is no doubt in my mind the man knew how to work a deal. Whether it was a desperate Nuggets team dealing for Allen Iverson in 2006 because of a 15 game suspension of Carmelo Anthony. Or acquiring Chauncey Billups in 2008 for AI while under strict orders to not go over the luxury tax line. Or getting J.R. Smith and Arron Afflalo for what can only be described as a “steal” in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

These things should leave Nuggets fans with the feeling that it is inevitable that Carmelo Anthony will be a New York Knick. I'm fairly certain this will be the case BUT this does not mean Melo will be dealt to the Knicks via trade. As Ken Berger pointed out in his column about the Warkentien hiring in New York, Wark is convinced that Melo won't "lose" as much money as has been projected if he signs with the Knicks as a free agent. Also there appears to be some lingering bad blood between Wark and Stan Kroenke. This was a telling passage in Berger's article:

But it is difficult to predict how Kroenke, who is still ultimately calling the shots behind the curtain while his son and Ujiri handle the day-to-day business, will respond to the Knicks' hiring of Warkentien. It is possible, according to one source who understands Denver's still complicated organization dynamics, that Kroenke would stubbornly recoil from any talks with the Knicks and refuse to give Anthony his wish — or give Warkentien the satisfaction.

And here, about the proposed "contract" offered Warkentien in the summer:

Warkentien, the 2009 NBA executive of the year, was let go along with fellow front-office type Rex Chapman in a complete purge of the Nuggets' management team. This was after Warkentien had been insulted with an offer to take a roughly 50 percent pay cut — with some of the difference possibly to be made up through incentive clauses. (And maybe some Wal-Mart coupons.) 

Any Nuggets fan, in my view, should be alarmed by the erstwhile "Executive of the Year" being offered contract that contained a 50 percent pay reduction (and was also on a one year shoe string). Was Stan Kroenke just preparing for the new CBA contretemps? Only he and Mark Warkentien know for sure. All that matters now is the summer's dispute has now become the winter's full blown problem. How Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke operate from here on out will say alot about their mettle as executives.

It’s no secret Wark and Melo were close. Heck, Wark and half the organization were close considering George Karl considered Warkentien a friend and assistant coach (also close to Melo) Tim Grgurich was so upset Wark was fired he left the organization entirely. Add to that Wark’s good relations with Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin and, particularly, J.R. Smith and you start to see the big picture.

Wark's arrival in NY does NOT mean that Melo will be part of some convoluted Warkentien-esqe labyrinthine trade. In fact, it doesn't mean that at all, in my opinion. I believe this just seals the deal with Melo going to the Knicks regardless. As Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld points out:

Warkentien isn't going to deliver a deal with some inside knowledge of the Nuggets because the issue with Denver is first, they are not sold they need to trade Carmelo before the trade deadline and second, the Knicks don't have players the Nuggets covet.

All in all you have to be left wondering how the Nuggets would look if Warkentien was still here. It’s very clear Melo trusted Wark, and I’m inclined to believe that he would have been much more inclined to listen to what Wark had to say IF pseudo-executive/adviser Bret Bearup was let go (it’s well known Bearup wanted to trade Melo long ago). I think Melo was going to leave regardless of who was here as GM, but Warkentien would have made a deal by now. Most likely it would have been a smoother operation and the deal would have been very creative.
The biggest question is; what the hell is going on with the Nuggets? Since the Nuggets don’t publicly comment on anything we have ZERO idea. We don’t know what the plan is other than guessing intent from proposed trades. No signal as to what the plan is for the future at all other than hunkering down for a protracted lockout. I haven’t been this concerned about the fate of the Nuggets than I am today. OVER HALF of the Nuggets roster for next season is either an expiring contract, a buyout clause (Chauncey Billups) or have player options (Nene, Carmelo Anthony). I’m starting to understand Carmelo when he talks about “uncertainty”.
I keep hoping to have my pessimism on the Front Office turned around. It’s a dwindling hope at this point.