Thomas was living in Miami, where he had become the men’s basketball coach at Florida International University in 2009 after leaving the Knicks. I told him of the competing offers, and that the Knicks might lose Anthony to the Nets unless they included Mozgov. He listened and then said, bluntly, that he wanted no part of the negotiations. I had called him in belief that he would want to know the status of the trade talks, on behalf of his ongoing friendship with Dolan. Thomas and I had been sharing information for years, he had provided me with insight on the new generation of AAU players who were seizing control of the NBA, and I believed he would be interested in hearing about Anthony.
“Nikola’s gonna be here for a long time,” Connelly said. “He’s a guy that’s been tremendous in how quickly he’s developed and a guy that we love. And he loves Denver. The sooner we can get his signature on a long-term contract, the better … whatever keeps him here the longest is best for us and best for the team.” If Denver declines that option, he becomes a restricted free agent, allowing the Nuggets to match any offer from another team. If Denver exercises that team option, Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2019.
Storyline: Nikola Jokic Free Agency
The Chicago Tribune reported in March 2000 that Spurs guard Avery Johnson was angering teammates with selfish complaining after being benched in several fourth quarters for Terry Porter, who was a better 3-point shooter. During a 92-81 Spurs loss at Cleveland on Feb. 15, 2000, Johnson and teammate Malik Rose argued over a defensive play when Cavaliers guard Andre Miller got a 3-point play. After the game, a nude Johnson tried to slap Rose in front of his locker while on his way to the shower, a source told The Undefeated. Rose lunged forward to hit Johnson and slipped and fell after stepping into teammate Mario Elie’s bucket of ice. Rose was held back by teammates Felton Spencer and Jerome Kersey. Still nude, Johnson started pacing around the locker room, throwing stuff around and breaking a television while having words for Popovich, Robinson, Rose and Porter about the team no longer being his. The Spurs didn’t re-sign Johnson, although the franchise did retire his No. 6 jersey after he retired, and he instead signed with the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets approach this offseason with fewer sizable holes to fill, but that doesn’t make these next few months any less important for a franchise that will soon no longer be able to hang its hat on year-over-year improvement or the promise of a rising roster. The gauntlet has been thrown down. And the nuanced work of finding out how to improve Denver’s roster, with more constraints than ever before, has already begun. “How many times can you be the bridesmaid?” Connelly said. “All of us are, quite frankly, sick at this time of the year of having a press conference.”