Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri happy to discuss hoops

Denver executive VP of operations covers wide range of topics

Less than 24 hours before NBA players were set to begin voluntary workouts, Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri stood on the Pepsi Center practice court and gave a quick State of the Nuggets address.

Leaning against the wall, Ujiri covered a variety of topics, including the team’s philosophy heading into free agency, the potential of Denver’s young big men and the obligation to regain the respect and trust of the fans who have waited for the NBA to return.

“We feel like we owe them. We owe the fans,” Ujiri said Wednesday. “That’s reality. They are a part of what we do. The frustrations that they felt, we felt for them. Especially in Denver, we had good momentum. We want to appeal to them to come out and support us.

“We appreciate them as fans and we’re going to do everything to help them believe in us again and believe in our players and the job we do and believe in our coaches and our ownership. I think all of us have all worked together to try and get the Nuggets back on track.”

Here are other highlights from Ujiri’s informal meeting with the media.

On unrestricted free-agent center Nene, who declined a contract extension last summer and opted out of the final year of his contract with the Nuggets:
“We made an offer right before July 1. Nene obviously opted out and went into free agency. I think he wants to test it a little bit. We respect that. We respect what he’s doing. We respect Nene as a player. We want Nene back here and we are going to do our best to get him back here playing for the Nuggets. … We have always said Nene’s a Nugget.”

On restricted free-agent guard Arron Afflalo:
“We talked to his representation. We feel comfortable that we’ll get something done there.”

On approaching free agency knowing the potential of young big men Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos:
“We are going to give our young big guys a chance. In studying the free-agent class, we want to be smart here. We want to make the right decisions. Are we going to go out and do anything crazy? I would tell you I don’t think so. These young guys are going to play and they’ll get the opportunity.”

On Nuggets free agents Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, who have binding contracts in the Chinese Basketball Association until at least Feb. 15 (Chandler is a restricted free agent, and Denver still holds his rights):
“They left. I’m sure they had good reasons to do it. They wanted to play basketball. They’re playing basketball there. It’s a commitment, so we have to live with that.”

On rookie forwards Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton, the No. 22 and No. 26 overall picks in the 2011 NBA Draft:
“We have a couple first-round guys that haven’t even stepped on the court in Denver. Those are two guys right there we believe in. We believed in them in the draft, we believe in them now. We want to develop them. I think our situation is good, regardless of which way it goes, young, older, experienced or middle of the way. We’ll be fine.”

On staying active and prepared during the offseason:
“We were very busy. We did a lot of camps in Africa and tried to anticipate what your team would be like. You can only do those exercises 200 times a day and it gets old – but we kept doing it.”

On Mozgov (Russia), forward Danilo Gallinari (Italy) and point guard Ty Lawson (Lithuania) playing in Europe for the past several weeks:
“I thought that ended up working in our favor. They’re playing two or three times a week. You can’t ask for anything better than the situation these guys were in. They’re in shape and coming back almost in game-shape. Basketballwise, it’s 100 percent good for them and for us.”