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AP Source: Ujiri to leave Denver for Toronto
Leiweke was hired last month after a successful period in charge of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS.
A native of Nigeria and the first African-born GM in America’s four major sports, Ujiri has deep roots with both teams.
He was a scout for the Nuggets from 2003-07 before joining the Raptors as director of global scouting. He was promoted in 2008 to assistant Raptors GM and returned to Denver on Aug. 27, 2010, where he was handed the Melo-drama with Anthony demanding a trade to the New York Knicks.
After finally engineering the blockbuster deal that next February, Ujiri famously apologized, saying, “We feel we got killed in the trade.”
But it turned out to be a win-win for both teams: Denver landed a bevy of young players, trade exemptions and draft picks Ujiri used to retool the roster, and the Knicks got a bona fide superstar to build a team around.
Danilo Gallinari came over in the deal along with fellow starter Kosta Koufos, key reserve Wilson Chandler and emergency center Timofey Mozgov. The Nuggets also got Raymond Felton, whom they flipped for point guard Andre Miller and two draft picks, one of which landed them Jordan Hamilton.
They used trade exemptions from the deal to acquire Corey Brewer from Dallas and JaVale McGee from Washington. A first-round draft pick acquired in the trade was used to get starter Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia last summer, and Denver used a second-round pick from the deal to draft Quincy Miller.
That’s 10 Nuggets connected to Anthony’s departure from Denver.
Ujiri has extensive global connections. He played in Europe for six years and has scouted all over the globe, including Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. He’s served as the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program since 2002.
Last year, he drafted Evan Fournier of France and Izzet Turkyilmaz from Turkey and also earned praise for drafting Kenneth Faried with the 22nd pick in 2011.
Known for his candidness, Ujiri raised eyebrows in the midst of the Nuggets’ strong post-All-Star break run when he declared Denver wasn’t a contender yet. But he was proven right when the Nuggets were bounced from the playoffs in the first round again, this time by the Stephen Curry-led Golden State Warriors.
Ujiri also said that day he was confident he’d get a new contract in Denver this summer, saying, “Josh and I continue to have conversations. I’m very positive that things will work out.”
The long-term contract he seemed most concerned with getting done this offseason was Andre Iguodala’s, not his own. One day later, Kroenke added president of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche to his plate, and shortly after that, the Raptors came calling.
AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver and AP freelancer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.
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