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mavsfanforever
06-30-2003, 10:07 PM
By Mark Kiszla, Denver Post Columnist

Pressure is the lump in the throat caused by carrying an $18 million wad of somebody else's money in your pocket. Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe better not blow it. To fix the worst team in the NBA, he gets one chance and no excuses.

"We only get one swing at this," said Vandeweghe, given a rich allowance by franchise owner Stan Kroenke to splurge on free-agent players expected to turn the Nuggets from a league-wide joke to a serious contender. "A general manager gets to spend $18 million ineffectively only once in his career. So we've got to do it right."

So where do the Nuggets start? The answer might surprise you.

The No. 1 candidate on the list of Denver free agents should be a true NBA giant who owns an Olympic gold medal, has been honored as an all-star seven times and did not play a single second of basketball last season.

On the first minute of the first day of July, at the first instant Tuesday when Vandeweghe can woo free agents, the first place he needs to be is face-to-face with Alonzo Mourning, the 33-year-old center of the Miami Heat.

Why Mourning? He speaks the language of winning long foreign to the Nuggets. He has been invited to the All-Star Game more times than any other free agent on the market. He is a warrior under the basket unafraid to stand toe-to-toe with Shaquille O'Neal. He is healthy and inspiring, after recovery from a career-threatening illness. He is a bargain in an NBA economy where Jeffersons and Grants are tossed around like nickels and pennies. And he is a friend of New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd's, which cannot hurt.

While the Nuggets are forbidden from talking to free agents or dropping names of specific candidates until July 1, Vandeweghe makes it clear a team overflowing with needs must first fill gaping holes at point guard and center.

Start with Mourning. Signing him would be precisely the unconventional approach that makes Vandeweghe refreshingly unusual and potentially formidable as an NBA general manager, a species with such a phobia for pink slips that bold thinking is rare.

Far rarer than this center's impressive career averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds per game is Mourning's enduring love for basketball, even when the game has left him feeling forsaken. A center with Hall of Fame talent is available only because a kidney disease knocked Mourning from the court, threatened to kill him and forced what amounted to nearly two years of sick leave.

But miracles do happen, and "Zo" is no longer in mourning. He recently received medical clearance to resume his career. He admires Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik from previous years of working together in Miami. Mourning's courage and professionalism would be the two most valuable gifts anyone could give 19-year-old Nuggets rookie Carmelo Anthony.

Unlike fallen genius Pat Riley, who is feeling the heat in South Florida, the Nuggets can gamble on the center standing tall and strong for three years. The contract, of course, must be written to protect against health catastrophe. Perhaps the price could be finagled to maintain salary-cap flexibility for Vandeweghe, particularly if he could interest Miami in a sign-and- trade deal for center Marcus Camby, whose annual salary is $7.25 million.

Who would feed Mourning the basketball? Although Golden State's Gilbert Arenas, named the league's most improved player last season, remains a possible benefactor of Denver's wealth, the sledgehammer subtle hints from his agent that salary demands will start in excess of $7 million per year have the Nuggets wondering if it might be more rewarding to invest in Andre Miller, a restricted free agent the Los Angeles Clippers now seem prepared to watch lead a fast break to another NBA city.

And want to dream big? By signing Mourning, the Nuggets might actually get an audience with Kidd, who knows that Denver, along with New Jersey, San Antonio and Dallas appears to be among the few teams out there with the current capability to satisfy the whims of his wallet or ego.

Although Kidd jumping from the Eastern Conference champion Nets to a 65-game loser of the Denver's ilk seems like a fairy tale, here are two true things that could make him give the Nuggets a second thought. Mourning wrapped his arm around Kidd like a big brother at the 2000 Summer Olympics. And Kidd so enjoyed the relationship his personal dream team would include the 6-foot-10, 261-pound veteran center.

Mourning could not ensure the Nuggets would land Kidd or a playoff berth, any more than he can offer a 100 percent guarantee of health. But playing it safe with every last cent of Kroenke's $18 million would only get Vandeweghe fired.

What better person to show the Nuggets anything is possible than a center whose career was left for dead? After a decade in which the local NBA franchise has fumbled clumsily in the dark, let the sunshine in.

"Why wait? Why not go for it?" Vandeweghe said.

Let a new Mourning dawn in Denver, daring to be great.

Mandyahl
07-01-2003, 12:04 AM
this is scary for sure. a chance to get kidd and mourning, plus they have melo and nene? it seems like a pipe dream right now though.

TripleDipping
07-01-2003, 08:46 AM
If those two are after money, they'd consider Denver. With the age that they're at now, I don't see why they would prefer money over championship though... unless all other teams offer a lot, lot less money than what Denver if offering.

madape
07-01-2003, 09:02 AM
Mourning is definitely after the money. This is a real possibility.

MavsFanFinley
07-01-2003, 10:10 AM
I still believe that we have an advantage over Denver where Mourning is concerned. We can't offer him money, but we can offer him his best chance at a championship.

We'll see just where Mourning's true agenda is by where he signs.

TripleDipping
07-01-2003, 10:38 AM
It is definitely a possiblity that Mourning's after the big bucks but I just can't see Kidd going to Denver for the money. The Nets can almost max him out anyway so why would he go to a rebuilding franchise for that extra few bucks.

madape
07-01-2003, 11:27 AM
"A career is short-lived, and I'm going to try to take advantage of the best financial opportunity that's out there, plain and simple."

http://www.forbes.com/media/faces/mourning_alonzo.jpg

Mandyahl
07-01-2003, 11:46 AM
maybe kidd likes melo or something? because i can't see any other reason for him to go to denver. it would make more sense for him to stay in nj than for him to go to denver.

u2sarajevo
07-01-2003, 11:47 AM
Originally posted by: Mandyahl
maybe kidd likes melo or something? because i can't see any other reason for him to go to denver. it would make more sense for him to stay in nj than for him to go to denver.

I think that is posturing for a larger salary. True, Denver's future looks bright, but I think Kidd want's to win now.

Mandyahl
07-01-2003, 12:00 PM
good call, u2.

jayC
07-01-2003, 05:07 PM
It aint gonna happen. 1) if he wanted the money he would stay in miami. Miami has already said that it won't spend money on just anyone might as well be Zo. 2) He only has two years left on his contract and just adding ZO to denvers roster doesn't make them a playoff team let alone a contender. 3) Miami is just as bad with perhaps just as bright of a future.
Wade
Butler
Jones
Grant
ZO not bad and in the east that squad with ZO limited minutes could make the playoffs in the east.