Ujiri facing former team when Raps visit

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:53 PM ET

DENVER — It was one month to the day on Monday when Masai Ujiri came of age as an NBA GM.

Having seen his old team in Toronto lose its franchise face for what amounted to a draft pick, an asset that would fetch James Johnson from the Bulls, and a trade exception, which, among others, brought in Alexis Ajinca, Ujiri faced a similar dilemma when he inherited the Carmelo Anthony mess in Denver.

Unlike his former boss in Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, Ujiri knew that Melo wanted out of town.

As Melo would later say: “I’m not going to pull a Chris Bosh.”

Had Bosh gone to Colangelo much like Melo did when he went to Nuggets management, you know Colangelo would have peddled his main piece, even if the Raptors were vying for home court in the playoffs.

What is striking about Ujiri is the bluntness he expressed when he grudgingly traded Denver’s best player to the Knicks.

“We feel we got killed in the trade because we lost a couple of pretty good players,” Ujiri said. “Obviously, Carmelo Anthony. I feel sad for the city of Denver. I feel bad that this was done on my watch. To lose a guy like that. And also Chauncey (Billups). But I think we had to do it.”

Of course Ujiri had to do it because there was no other course of option.

To his credit, he held on, kept George Karl and his staff updated daily, and pulled the trigger that brought back multiple pieces.

Ultimately, like any team, the Nuggets will be judged on how well they do in the playoffs.

One cannot lose sight of the simple fact that Anthony did lead the Nuggets to a berth in the Western final and nearly knocked off the Lakers.

Heading into Monday’s game against his former employer, Ujiri’s Nuggets were 9-4 since the Melo trade, continue to battle for home court in the opening round and are playing good team basketball.


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