DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri wasn’t exactly a household name when he got the job 8 months ago; he wasn’t even their first pick. Now Ujiri may go down as the guy who saved the Nuggets’ season.
When the Nuggets traded away Carmelo Anthony, the next day head coach George Karl came out and told the media he felt the team could go 18-7 with the new roster and he hit the nail right on the head.
“George is always right,” Ujiri joked with CBS4’s Gary Miller. “We felt that we wanted to build this team and I think chemistry is a big thing. And coming into it you hope that you get the chemistry right away. We got the chemistry right away … our guys played hard and here we are.”
Ujiri looked at Karl’s old teams and saw the kind of players he had success with and tried to bring those types of players to Denver.
“He does have success with very skilled players; he has success with players who play hard, give it their all; and those are the kind of players we have,” Ujiri said.
Ujiri’s strategy was not to negotiate in the newspapers, radio and television and there were people in the media who said Ujiri was a young general manager and weren’t sure if he could pull off the trade.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” Ujiri said of the criticism. “Our jobs; you are put on this platform and people are going to criticize; even now people are going to criticize when it’s going kind of well. That comes with the job.”
Ujiri said he fell in love with basketball when he was 13 years old in Nigeria.
“I played the game on an outdoor court and I just kept growing and growing and loved to play … it’s such a neat thing, basketball is a unique sport and I fell in love with it even though there’s a greater sport in Africa with soccer.”
Even though the Nuggets are currently in the playoffs, Ujiri is still thinking ahead about what the team needs to make it better.
“We did this (trade) to build. It’s not for this playoffs, it’s for next year, for two years, three years to come; have a solid foundation to build a championship team, which is what everybody wants. And we have a good foundation and a great coach.”