Published: June 24, 2013
DENVER - Take a deep breath, Nuggets Nuts.
The NBA franchise is in good hands.
Is that a fuzzy feeling or what?
The Nuggets and their capable leadership are making like CarGo and knocking it out of the ballpark.
Team president Josh Kroenke watched the NBA executive of the year, Masai Ujiri, skip town to become general manager of the Raptors. Kroenke filled the position with Tim Connelly, a Ujiri clone with the charming people skills and scouting background to flourish at altitude.
Kroenke also took a bold swing, fired the reigning NBA Coach of the Year and replaced George Karl with the best possible choice for head coach.
Welcome to Colorado, Brian Shaw. As a developer of young talent - and an outdoorsman - you will fit in. Shaw's formal introduction as Nuggets coach is 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Since when did the Nuggets start making smart move after smart move?
The lingering fear of this mass exodus from Pepsi Center was the unavoidable feeling the basketball dark ages of the late 1990s and early 2000s were on their way back.
Seventeen-win seasons are a fun trivia question, not a fun time.
Fear no more. In Shaw, the Nuggets hired a coach with five championship rings as a player and assistant coach. Shaw is a native of the Bay Area who can help the Nuggets forget their humbling playoff defeat to the Bay-Area Warriors.
"Good choice by Mr. Kroenke," point guard Ty Lawson tweeted.
I wrote on June 6 that Shaw was the man for the Nuggets.
I was right, and Kroenke made it right.
I appreciate that Shaw knows what it takes to turn a pretender into a contender. There's a big, big difference, as we saw in these NBA Finals. The Nuggets are built on a talented foundation but have a long way to travel before reaching the level of the Heat and Spurs.
I wondered if the triangle offense would work with this roster (I'm told the triangle will be an option, not a foundation, of Shaw's system) and why so many teams with coaching vacancies passed over Shaw. Media reports suggest he interviewed for roughly a dozen jobs.
But I spoke with trusted NBA scouts who couldn't find a negative word about the former Pacers assistant head coach. Not one.
"He's a teacher," one scout told me.
That reputation was the selling point. These Nuggets don't need a best friend; they need a teacher who has been there before, and recently. After six seasons on the Lakers staff, Shaw spent two seasons helping to mold a work-in-progress roster with the Pacers.
The similarities between these Nuggets and Pacers are striking: youthful but wayward talent trying to learn the difference between good highlights and good basketball.
Shaw helped turn Roy Hibbert (Javale McGee?) into a center to be reckoned with; helped turn Lance Stephenson (Wilson Chandler? Evan Fournier?) into a starting shooting guard in a conference final; helped turn swingman Paul George (Danilo Gallinari?) into an All-Star.
Look, I was a believer in Karl. There were times, though, when I wondered if the NBA's third-youngest roster appreciated Karl's basketball wisdom.
With Shaw, 47, their belief will be automatic.
For all of the hullabaloo around the Nuggets this offseason, we would be wise to remember the bottom line:
The Nuggets are nailing it.