We’re not exactly laying out the opening sentence of a doctoral thesis in economics when we say that professional sports—sports at all levels beyond high school, really—are businesses.
The money exchanged at a single NBA game, for instance, could be enough to fund some American towns for a decade. Police, fire, dogcatcher, those street-sweeping things that roll by at 4 a.m., the whole nine. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly certainly understands it as such:
"I've already let all the other guys in different front offices around the league know that we're open for business,” Connelly recently told the Denver Post’s Christopher Dempsey. “... If you really study our team, we have a lot of flexibility."
Yo, Tim! This isn't the grand opening of a Tractor Supply Co.! These are human beings, man!
In all fairness and for the sake of context, Connelly was referring to what he sees as a crucial offseason for the Nuggets, whom he’s hoping can go “all-in” in taking their fortunes to “the next level.”
As Dempsey aptly points out, Denver’s near-future road map depends heavily on where it’ll be picking in the upcoming 2014 Draft, one that many experts believe could be the best in a decade:
That question begins to get clarity May 20, when the draft lottery takes place in New York. Connelly will be on hand for that, and Nuggets coach Brian Shaw will be the team's "face" on stage when the lottery results are televised. Barring luck in moving up, the Nuggets are slated to pick 11th in the June 26 draft.
Once the Nuggets know where they pick, they can begin the process of putting together a plan of how they will proceed in the draft and then free agency. For Connelly, who has finished his first season as general manager, it's the start of a big offseason.
The draft might offer a temporary, excitement-tinged respite from the fallout of a disappointing, postseason-less season, but not even a little lottery luck does a playoff rebound make.
Denver regressed significantly in its first full season under head coach Brian Shaw, even if, as Connelly himself noted, some of the reasons were beyond control:
It was a rash of injuries, the likes of which I've never seen before. We saw a lot of growth in some of our guys. I love Brian, and I love what he did in the most difficult of circumstances — a first-year coach taking over a team that won 57 and having all the injuries? I can't say enough good things about Brian and the staff.
So that settles any imagined coaching controversy.
With $65.5 million in committed salaries heading into the 2014-15 season, per ShamSports.com, the Nuggets don’t have much recourse beyond lateral movements—hence Connelly’s apt, if somewhat crass, comments about being “open for business.”
There is certainly enough talent to parlay into getting a bigger piece, even if Denver ultimately lacks the depth of assets to reel in a legitimate, franchise-changing superstar.
Whatever his rhetorical strategy, Denver’s new GM is clearly out to shake things up, in the process fostering a legacy apart from that of Masai Ujiri, Connelly’s much-ballyhooed predecessor.
So long as that strategy doesn’t result in poor Evan Fournier going for $0.89 on Beezid.com, we’re sure it’ll wind up being a sound one.
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