ESPN analyst and former Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups is a legend in Denver. He's the best basketball player from Colorado, and the man who took the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference finals alongside Carmelo Anthony in 2009. He's also consistently been linked with the Nuggets since his retirement.
Billups and the Kroenke family ownership have kept in close contact, and at several points it seemed that Billups would be in position to take a leadership role within the organization. On Friday, Billups spoke with AM 1340 in Denver and made it clear that he's very much interested in joining the front office, but that he wants to be with a team that isn't rebuilding, and who really "want to win," whatever that is:
"If the right role was available -- and I've always made known, I haven't been quiet or private about it at all. I've always had a passion to run a team, to put together a team," he said.
"That's always been a passion of mine. I think I could do a phenomenal job at that.
"I think that I could be successful either way, but it would have to be the right situation. I'm not going to just take a job to take a job.
"I want to be somewhere with somebody where they really, really want to go win. They're just not OK with mediocrity -- and I'm not saying that's what [the Nuggets] are 100 percent -- but it has to be the right situation for me."
The question is where Billups would fit. Tim Connelly has done a tremendous job in correcting the mistakes made in the first two years of his tenure by fixing the culture, and his draft record (Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic) has been incredible. The Nuggets have cap space, flexibility, veteran assets, young players, three picks this season and a likely pick from Memphis next year.
It wouldn't make a lot of sense to demote or move Connelly, who's done a great job, and just received a multiyear extension last winter. Team President, however, makes a lot of sense. Owner Josh Kroenke is the current holder of that title, but his interests are spread across the various Kroenke Sports holdings, including Premier League club Arsenal. Kroenke will always hold a voice in the organization, but it would be easy to move Kroenke to some other title and slide Billups into "President of Basketball Operations." Connelly would handle the day to day and oversee the draft, and Billups would hold a voice in the room and help to recruit free agents, the biggest talent he could bring.
The implication in Billups' comments brings to question how serious the Nuggets are about winning, which could be a swipe at the Kroenke's spending habits. The team has been notoriously cost-conscious when it comes to front office personnel in the past, one reason why the decision to extend Connelly for more money was significant.
We'll see if the Nuggets seek to add Billups, which would do good things for perception, and could help them take a step forward, or if the two sides remain, politely, apart.