As the fruits of Isiah Thomas’ labor continue to make the rest of the league look good — Gilbert Arenas being the latest beneficiary — the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence bemoans missed opportunities in the form of executives Bryan Colangelo and Kiki Vandeweghe.
Bryan Colangelo is expected to leave Phoenix after rebuilding the Suns into a Western Conference power. Colangelo is reportedly about to become the Toronto Raptors’ president, and business associates say he is resigned to leaving the Suns. Meanwhile, Kiki Vandeweghe is on his way out in Denver, where he rebuilt the Nuggets.
The Raptors have had their eyes on Colangelo since firing the overmatched Rob Babcock earlier this season. Colangelo scored his greatest success at Thomas’ expense, with his January 2004 deal to rid the Suns of Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway and their long-term, maximum-salary deals. That gave Phoenix the necessary cap room to sign Steve Nash as a free agent. In Toronto, Colangelo would be working in the same division as the Knicks.
“Toronto is going to wind up with one of the smartest young GMs around,” said one league official.
In Denver, Vandeweghe (above) is serving out the final season of his deal and will be on the market this summer. He has confided to friends that Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, with a reputation for being frugal, doesn’t intend to meet his salary demands.
While Vandeweghe made the mistake of overrating Kenyon Martin, he transformed the Nuggets from a team that won 17 games in 2002-03 into a playoff team the next year. That had never been done since the league went to an 82-game schedule in 1976. One of the keys to Denver’s turnaround came when Vandeweghe traded Antonio McDyess to the Knicks in June 2002 for Marcus Camby and a first-round pick that turned into Nene Hilario.
As fouled up as things are at the Garden, Colangelo or Vandeweghe might have been able to get the Knicks back on the right path.
Without disputing that either man would represent an improvement over Isiah Thomas, surely Lawrence recalls that Vandeweghe is the guy who made Nikoloz Tskitishvili the #5 overall pick?