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COLUMN: Nuggets, Avalanche owner must show more financial commitment

By Michael Nowels
On April 18, 2012

In 2000, Stan Kroenke purchased both the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets. At that point, Kroenke's claim to fame was his marriage to Ann Walton, daughter of Bud Walton, a co-founder of Wal-Mart, as well as his own success in purchasing and developing shopping centers. Now, he owns the majority of the St. Louis Rams and Arsenal FC in London, and his Colorado franchises are being left behind.

This past year, the Nuggets were ranked 28th of 30 NBA teams in salary spent. They are currently in position to be the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, a moderate success for any team but a big accomplishment for a squad that does not see much financial support from its owner.

The Avalanche finished just outside the playoffs in 2011-12, spending less than 300,000 dollars more than the New York Islanders, who had the lowest salary total of any club in the National Hockey League.

Both Colorado franchises have strong, young nuclei, poised to become major players in their own leagues within the next five years. The only question is this: Is Kroenke willing to put up the money for his forgotten Colorado franchises to be successful?

In 2010, Kroenke opted to buy more stock in the Rams. The NFL does not allow its owners to own other major professional sports franchises, so he gifted both the Nuggets and the Avalanche to his son, Josh. Perhaps, he truly believed his son would be successful as a governor of two major sports franchises, but it's more likely that he just decided to do anything to get his football club.

With 15 players from the 2011-12 roster potentially coming off the Avalanche's books this offseason, management will have plenty of salary cap flexibility to make some quality moves.

Josh Kroenke and General Manager Greg Sherman would be wise to re-sign late-season acquisitions Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn, who provided a boost for the club. They should be run out of town if they don't re-sign Erik Johnson and Ryan O'Reilly, as both made great strides during the season, and Matt Duchene, whose injuries did not allow him to gain much traction this year.

The Nuggets are a different story. Only aging point guard Andre Miller has a contract that expires after this season. While head coach George Karl has a strong affinity for Miller, his play has become wildly inconsistent this year, and he is not worth his $7.8 million cap hit. But for a lower price, he is a valuable veteran presence.

We all remember the frustrating Carmelo Anthony saga, which was actually handled fairly well by Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri, as the franchise received several young, talented pieces. Both the Nuggets and the Avalanche are on the verge of becoming contenders in their respective sports. It's now up to the Kroenkes to decide if they will be all-in when the teams' cores reach their prime.

- Michael Nowels is a sophomore elementary education major and weekly columnist for The Mirror.


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