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Thursday, September 7, 2006
Warkentien named VP in Nuggets' front-office shift

Associated Press

DENVER -- Mark Warkentien has a fancy new job title -- vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets.

As for what duties come with his new title, he's not sure.

But he's open to anything that comes up.

"I pride myself on being a great employee," Warkentien said. "Whatever role they need from me, I'm there. I'm old school. What do you need me to do?"

Warkentien's promotion was one of the moves the Nuggets made Thursday as they juggled their basketball operations office.

Rex Chapman was named vice president of player personnel and Bret Bearup adviser to the Nuggets. The team also moved Masai Ujiri to director of international scouting.

Denver severed ties with assistant general managers Jeff Weltman and David Fredman.

"We feel we have a well-balanced front office team in place to continue our pursuit of an NBA championship," Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement.

After serving as the Nuggets' director of player personnel last season, Warkentien was in charge of the team's 2006 draft. He's been the Nuggets' chief negotiator on basketball matters since May.

"I think [my role] is an evolving process," Warkentien said. "Anywhere you go there's a consensus that has to be developed."

Chapman has worked in the front office for the Minnesota Timberwolves and as a scout and director of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns. He worked for TNT as a commentator for the playoffs in 2004 and '05.

Chapman played for the Charlotte Hornets, Washington, Miami and Phoenix in his 12-year career. He was the eighth overall pick by Hornets in the 1988 draft. He retired after the 1999-2000 season.

"It's always good to have an ex player helping out," Warkentien said. "I can't tell you how many meetings I've been in with different NBA franchises where a thought comes into the conversation by an ex-NBA player and you're like, 'Holy smokes, that's a good thought.'

"In Rex's case, it's doubly good. He can temper that ex-player thinking with the realities of having been in management before."

As for Bearup, Warkentien said he's in the perfect role as an adviser. He's an attorney and a former player at Kentucky. In 2001, Bearup ranked among the Top 100 in The Sporting News' Most Powerful Sports People of the Year.

"I'll stack our adviser with anybody," said Warkentien, who's known Bearup since Bearup was in high school. "You take any successful businessman, they've all had guys they can lean on for advice. He's as influential as anyone in the sport. My guy has played ball and knows ball. He's got a sharp eye for talent."

With a new staff in place, it's time to get down to business. The Nuggets won their first Northwest Division title in 18 years last season but bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the third straight year Denver lost in the first round.

"What we need to do and the means of going about it can be two different things," Warkentien said. "You can play checkers, but sometimes you've got to play chess."

Like last year, when Denver signed point guard Earl Watson. The Nuggets eventually traded him in a four-team deal in February that netted the Nuggets players like Reggie Evans, Charles Smith and Ruben Patterson.

"That wasn't exactly a classic checkers move," Warkentien said. "There wasn't a burning desire for a point guard. [Earl] is a quality player and a good asset, and he became an excellent chess move. At the trading deadline, we turned him into a couple of pieces that won us a [division] championship."