Transcript: Nuggets executive VP of basketball ops Masai Ujiri
Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri met with the media Thursday to talk about the three-team trade that sent forward Nene to the Washington Wizards and brought centers JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf and a second-round pick to Denver.
Here is the complete transcript, followed by a statement issued by team president Josh Kroenke.
“We just made a trade today. I think it has come out in the media already. We traded Nene for Ronny Turiaf and JaVale McGee. It was a three-way trade. Nick Young went to the [Los Angeles] Clippers. We exchanged second -round picks. We got an extra second-round pick from the Clippers.
"It is a tough day for us. Nene, I think, played here for nine seasons. For us to do something like this has been something that is very hard. Nene has been great to this organization; his family, everybody around him. We wish him the best but we felt that the best thing for this organization is that we wanted to go a little bit younger. We got JaVale McGee, a big 7-foot-0 center. I spoke with JaVale McGee, and he is very happy, he is very excited.
"We had two options for him which was to come on a 7 a.m. flight or a 3 p.m. flight tomorrow and he chose the 7 a.m. flight. That’s how excited the kid is. He knows it’s going to be a new start for him. He knows all the little issues and things that people always talk about and he understands and we spoke about that. He is coming with his agent B.J. Armstrong who played for the Chicago Bulls who is a great influence on him.
"We are excited. We felt that we needed someone athletic, somebody that can protect the paint a little bit. We’re happy, we’re happy that we were able to get JaVale McGee. He just turned 24 years old. We know it’s the last year of his deal coming up this summer. We felt that rather than doing something this summer, we felt that we wanted to see him for a couple of months on our roster and then we can really evaluate his talent. I think if there is a year where you want to experiment a little bit I think this is the year.
"It has been plenty of ups-and-downs, injuries, and all the factors that have gone into the up-and-down season. During the year where we had a few guys injured, a few of our young guys got to play and we got to see some of the upside that we can have and some of the excitement that they bring, what we’re kind of looking for and what kind of inspired the organization.
"Josh [Kroenke] and I had been talking about it for a while - maybe to go younger and try and build. This opportunity came and we know sometimes you have to do drastic things like this, but we felt that if we had waited maybe we lose this player in the summer, so we decided to jump on it now." "It’s a very tough day for, I know, the Kroenkes (and) the organization. This deal came kind of out of the blue, but it is something we thought about and the big picture of things going forward. We have to compete with those other teams, athletically; this player gives us this opportunity.
On if he has spoken to Nene yet:
“I haven’t spoken to Nene yet. We have spoken to his people, to his agent but I haven’t had the chance to speak to Nene yet. The deal didn’t get done until a few minutes ago, there are a lot of deals done and there was a back log.”
On if Nene responded to the challenge of being the go-to-guy of the team:
“We thought he did, but he was bugged by little nagging injuries here and there and so he couldn’t really establish consistency with I don’t know how many lineups we have changed out there. That was difficult to do, but we had faith in him and we rewarded him in the summer. We had complete faith in Nene. We just felt that there was going to be a time where we were going to go in another direction.”
On whether the Nuggets are concerned about making a big move in the midst of a playoff run:
“Yes we are. But it is during year when we can afford to do that. Young guys, throw them in and go out and play and maybe get your face kicked a little bit but get some experience and then we know who they are. This is a year that we can afford to do that. We didn’t do it in the intention of not making the playoffs. We did it with the intention of big picture, make the team better and that’s kind of how we feel.”
On Kenneth Faried’s play being an influencing decision:
“It was a factor. We felt like it was some of his play there that gave us confidence. Faried can play the game and contribute. When we look at JaVale McGee, he is a young player; it is almost how we looked at [Danilo] Gallinari and a couple of the guys that we got in the trade last year. They are young but they got a couple years of NBA experience, so we can build from that and teach them our culture; they can play under a great system with George Karl. Historically, guys that come here get better and if we look at the progress that [Kosta] Koufos and [Timofey] Mozgov, even if it is this little, that they have made from last year to this year we can’t wait to see what progress JaVale McGee will make in a year, even if it is that little with a player that is that athletic and that big that likes to run the floor and will protect the rim. I think we will see a good player.”
On the confidence of “taming” McGee:
“One-hundred percent. We have done our homework. We have talked to tons of people. And we all do crazy stuff, and I think he will grow up. I think he is really excited about the new opportunity to come here and come play on a team that runs, that plays a style that he likes, and just a new home.”
On the plans for Ronnie Turiaf:
“We will waive Turiaf and that gives us a roster spot, and with that roster spot we hope to get Wilson Chandler done in a couple days here, hopefully.”
On how this affects cap space:
“Going forward, yes we saved some money, but we did it for the talent and going into the summer, obviously McGee is going to be free so we will have to figure that out. Next year is Ty Lawson’s year or Mozgov’s year going forward so good flexibility is what I think we got with our team.”
STATEMENT FROM JOSH KROENKE
“This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the business of basketball. Nene has been one of the longest-tenured members of the Nuggets in franchise history. Our respect for him as a talented player and an exceptional human being cannot be overstated. He and his family have meant so much to this organization and the city of Denver. We want to thank them for their dedication to the Nuggets community on and off the court.
“We are excited about acquiring a highly regarded player in JaVale. He has impressed us for many years. He has tremendous potential and our coaching staff is looking forward to working with him.”