Dempsey: Warkentien rumors worrisome

By Chris Dempsey

About a week or so ago, reports surfaced that Portland is interested in
Mark Warkentien, the Nuggets vice president of basketball operations,
becoming its next general manager.

Currently, Kevin Pritchard is the Trail Blazers’ general manager. But
after team president Tom Penn was recently fired, Warren Legarie — agent
for Miller and Pritchard — openly wondered if his other Trail Blazers
client was next.

It’s an odd story, rife with everything from controversy to a conspiracy theory that Warkentien himself has a hand in what might happen to Pritchard. Warkentien denies any involvement, by the way. But that’s not nearly the point of this piece.

The point is it would be extraordinarilybad for the Nuggets if he were to go.

Portland isn’t the only team interested in Warkentien. He is the single most-wanted free agent in the Nuggets’ organization right now, and the team should take the necessary steps to keep him.

As he works on others’ contracts, Warkentien has no contract of his own beyond this season. He is one of the least-paid professionals in the NBA in his position. But he has been the backbone of what the Nuggets are right now — a team among the league’s elite with a shot at winning an NBA title. He is the reigning league executive of the year.

He’s proven he can find talent to improve the Nuggets, even with financial constraints in play. When Dahntay Jones left for more money, he traded for Arron Afflalo. The Chauncey Billups trade was the big prize, but the smaller acquisitions (Johan Petro and Renaldo Balkman via trade; Ty Lawson via draft; Chris Andersen and Anthony Carter via signing) are the ones that have helped the team thrive and survive when key players have gone down. Warkentien constantly travels to watch future talent. He was a fixture at NBA Development League games in Broomfield.

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