Chauncey Billups’ return to the Denver Nuggets in 2008 was like a lightning bolt. It electrified the fan base and sent a charge through the team that propelled them to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, their best postseason finish in nearly a quarter century (and since). And since his retirement in 2014, fans have suggested that a return to the Nuggets in a front office role could have a similar effect to a franchise that has fallen on hard times over the past three seasons.
Billups isn’t ruling out the idea, and on Friday he gave some indication as to what he’d like that role to be.
“If the right role was available – and I’ve always made known, I haven’t been quiet or private about it at all.”
The five-time All-Star and 2004 NBA Finals MVP joined Les Shaprio and Tyler Polumbus on Afternoon Drive on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7, where he suggested that he’d be impactful in a team-building role.
“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.”
That statement would suggest a GM or team president role – two jobs currently occupied by Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke. While it’s extremely unlikely that Kroenke, the son of owner Ann Kroenke, will be stepping down from his role, the idea of Billups taking over of Connelly might have some legs if Connelly (and coach Michael Malone) can’t right the ship in relatively short order.
Denver has combined for just 99 wins over the past three seasons and the fan base is beginning to show its discontent with that performance in the way of attendance. The Nuggets ranked dead last in average attendance during the 2015-16 season.
Kroenke and the other Nuggets executives have always had high praise for Connelly, who is in the middle of a significant rebuild in the wake of Masai Ujiri’s departure for Toronto. Michael Malone drew praise in his first season on the job, but the pressure will be on him to get his team at least over the 40-win plateau next season. Compounding that pressure is Billups’ revelation that he could also envision himself in a coaching role.
“I think I could also do a phenomenal job if I wanted to coach,” he told Shaprio and Polumbus. “I’ve seen it all – been around great coaches, bad coaches, great teams.”
Whether its in a coaching role or a team-building role, Billups does have one very big caveat about a potential return to Denver.
“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.”
That means he needs to see a team committed to success.
“I want to be somewhere with somebody where they really, really want to go win. They’re just not okay 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.”
Shapiro suggests that Billups would be the person, in either capacity, to finally be able to lure big-name free agents to Denver and put them over the top. That means the team must be willing and committed long-term to paying them.
Listen to the full interview with Billups, including his analysis of Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals, in the podcast below…
Catch Afternoon Drive every weekday afternoon from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s largest local sports talk lineup.