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Does Josh Kroenke think we're stupid?

Harrison Wind Avatar
June 7, 2022

Josh Kroenke had his chance. In his first time speaking with the Denver media in years, Kroenke had a golden opportunity on Friday to usher the Nuggets into the post-Tim Connelly era with confidence and conviction. The stage was set. The spotlight was on.

And he failed.

Kroenke played all the hits. He read right from the Kroenke handbook. The latest C-level memo that was circulated throughout the Kroenke Sports and Entertainment empire? Kroenke recited pretty much every line of it during the 35-minute excuse-filled, zero-responsibility taken briefing he gave at Ball Arena last week.

On the ongoing dispute with Comcast that’s heading toward the majority of Nuggets fans not being able to watch their team on local TV for the fourth-straight season, Kroenke kept to the same talk track that the organization has hidden behind since 2019. He took no responsibility for this never-ending saga that’s killed so much fandom and at the same time kept a new generation of Nuggets fans from falling in love with this team.

“The landscape of media is changing more rapidly than it ever has,” Kroenke said. “Technology is changing more rapidly than it ever has, and the distribution of that is changing more rapidly than it ever has.”

“I want to make sure that all the fans out there know that I am equally frustrated as they are, if not more so.”

Translation: Be prepared for another season of no Nuggets on Comcast.

On a potential practice facility, that’s no longer a luxury but an expectation for an NBA team in 2022 (the Nuggets and Rockets are the only two teams with single-court practice gyms), there isn’t encouraging news either. Plans of a Kroenke-led redevelopment project surrounding Ball Arena leaked last month, and there’s ample space adjacent to where the arena currently sits to build a facility.

But that project still feels far off from even breaking ground. It’s hard to believe that this current iteration of the Nuggets and Avs will get to enjoy that facility if/when it gets built, even though Kroenke pledged they would.

Here’s Kroenke’s quote from Friday.

“As an organization, KSE is publicly committed to continued improvements in and around Ball Arena…plans are in place to build a facility that will not only make Nugget players coaches and staff very proud but the city of Denver very proud as well.”

And here’s Kroenke in 2017 on when there will be a new practice facility.

“Yeah, we’re in talks with a couple of different groups. A project that big, we just got to make sure we do it right, because we don’t want to have to redo anything down the road. But they are fun conversations. I know it will be a great thing for not only the Nuggets, but for the city as well.”

I’m not hopeful that we’ll see shovels in the ground in the immediate future.

On paying the luxury tax next year, Kroenke said they will, but it’s not like they really have a choice. The contracts that Denver already has on the books for next season (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., etc.) will likely push Denver over the $149 million luxury tax line. They’d have to perform some gold medal-worthy salary cap gymnastics to avoid it. That’s a PR hit that ownership just can’t take right now. The Nuggets will pay the luxury tax. Just how deep they’ll go into it remains to be seen.

It was certainly a lot of window dressing for the topic du jour of this rare Kroenke presser: Connelly, whose sudden departure from the basketball operations department that he’s led for the last nine years rocked the organization from top to bottom. Privately, Kroenke was distraught after Connelly informed him that he was leaving Denver around two weeks ago. Publicly, he’s done the right thing and backed Calvin Booth. I do genuinely think the Nuggets feel confident with their current GM captaining the ship.

But Kroenke still couldn’t help himself on Friday. He took zero responsibility for losing Connelly, who never wanted to leave Denver, to a division rival that Kroenke categorized as “desperate.” He also tried to distance himself, or maybe set the record straight on what the ultimate decision-making process at the top of the KSE org chart looks like.

“My dad’s the owner,” Kroenke said. “I’m just making sure I don’t screw everything up on a day-to-day basis for him.”

Just like the Nuggets lost Connelly this offseason, it’s not hard to imagine Denver losing Booth in a similar fashion a few seasons from now if he excels in this role. Just to be clear, as of now, Booth is still the Nuggets’ general manager even though a now-deleted tweet from the official Nuggets team Twitter account during Kroenke’s presser called him their new president of basketball ops. I’d expect a new contract extension for Booth soon, but we’ll see how long Denver ultimately holds onto him.

It’s almost as if Kroenke laid the groundwork for another rival team to hire another Nuggets executive in a few years. Kroenke shared on Friday that he tries to have a “revolving shark’s teeth kind of system” in place when it comes to the Nuggets, so that if a top exec does get poached, there’s a replacement lined up. He’s constantly bracing for his people to get hired away for higher-paying jobs.

It never should have come to this. Plenty of people close to and within the Nuggets organization think that if Kroenke extended Connelly in March when he handed Michael Malone an extension, Connelly would still be in Denver. Even if an offer from Minnesota included some sort of equity component, there are some around the franchise who think Connelly would have declined it if his future was taken care of by the Nuggets.

It’s just another example of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment doing things by their book and on their schedule. In many ways it’s archaic. It’s old school. It’s traditional in a sports world that’s constantly trying to push the envelope and innovate. The thing is it’s worked for many of its clubs. The Rams just won a Super Bowl. The Avs are in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets are a contender, and it remains to be seen just how much losing Connelly affects their trajectory.

It’s the ‘Kroenke Way,’ and their culture of excuses is never going to escape Denver as long as this ownership group is in charge.

None of this was KSE’s fault. Altitude has gotten bullied by Comcast for the last three years and there’s nothing they can do about it. A practice facility is tough to build due to zoning regulations and the countless hoops they have to jump through. Kroenke likes to say the Nuggets have never shied away from paying the luxury tax, which is another talking point that was repeated Friday, even though Denver hasn’t paid it in over a decade. In 2018, the Nuggets traded Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and a future 1st and 2nd round pick to the Brooklyn Nets solely so they could duck the tax again the following year.

And the start-up Timberwolves who have won three total playoff games in the last 18 years? They made a “desperate” offer that the Nuggets just couldn’t compete with to poach one of the NBA’s top basketball executives from Denver.

That’s the Kroenke Way.


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