Knowing they can’t afford to go down 0-3, Wiggins compared Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game with the Wolves’ overtime victory over Denver on the regular season’s final day that pushed them into the playoffs and sent the Nuggets home. “I think it’ll be crazy, kind of like the Denver game,” Wiggins said. “Fans were just screaming and into the game the whole time. We’re home. The fans will be into it. I’m excited. I know the guys are too.”
But Torrey Craig, as has always been the case in his professional basketball career, will now be waiting for a call, ready to hop on a flight, however cramped, at a moment’s notice. “I have no clue,” Craig said when asked about his immediate future. “I really don’t. It’s been a roller-coaster of a season with a contract and the way things have gone, but now that it’s over I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know what will happen, so I’ll just wait and see.”
Storyline: Torrey Craig Free Agency
Instead Ujiri had networked his way up through the NBA to earn management control of the roster in Denver. It was an amazing story. Rival team executives were hoping to fleece the rookie GM from Nigeria. Some of them expressed condescending pity for him, telling reporters how sorry they were to see Ujiri’s new career being sabotaged by one of the NBA’s best young players. Ujiri expressed nothing but gratitude for their sympathy. He had a young face, an easy smile and a native rhythmical accent that extended his vowels, and if his peers were patronizing then he would take no offense. He did not mind being underestimated.
During his job interview to become GM of the Nuggets, Ujiri had told Josh Kroenke that the trade for Anthony needed to be turned into a bidding war between the Nets and the Knicks, because they were rivals within the New York market who each needed Anthony and couldn’t bear to see the other team claim him. Ujiri also warned Anthony that if he wanted to play for the Knicks, then he would need to make things right with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, who had attended Anthony’s wedding in New York that summer.
Sitting among the 320 guests at the reception and absorbing these aftershocks of The Decision were Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke and his son Josh. It was a wedding unlike any they had attended. Not only was it being filmed for a reality TV series, but many of the toasts were focused less on the happy couple and more on how Anthony should escape his obligations in Denver. After the Kroenkes had sat through a number of humiliating statements involving their team, word was relayed to their table that Anthony wished for Stan Kroenke to stand up and make a toast of his own that would let everyone know of his and Josh’s presence, in order to put a stop to their embarrassment.
“I said, `Melo, I think you really need to apologize to the Kroenkes,”’ recalled Ujiri. “I said, ‘I think you need to talk to them and say, “Hey, it wasn’t the way I thought it would be; people were drinking a little bit, and even then people should not talk like that.” And apologize and take responsibility for it.’ I said to him, `Melo, we’re trying to make this thing easy on everybody. I don’t know which way it will go. I couldn’t tell you where you will be traded to. But I could tell you one thing: Let’s make good steps, and this is a good step to make.”’