Nuggets’ Warkentien has asked for permission to speak with Blazers, source says

Mark Warkentien, Denver Nuggets vice president of basketball operations, has requested permission to speak with the Portland Trail Blazers, a league source told The Columbian.

Warkentien is still employed by the Nuggets, but he is the final year of his contract with the team.

News of Warkentien’s desire to speak with the Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix was originally reported Monday evening by the Denver Post.

Asked Tuesday about the report, Warkentien responded via text message that he is only concerned with helping the Nuggets achieve a third consecutive Northwest Division title.

“Only focus besides draft is free agency, and making our team better,” Warkentien said.

Warkentien spent 10 years working with the Blazers. He reached the position of director of player personnel before his tenure with organization ended in 2004.

Warkentien joined the Nuggets in 2005, and was awarded NBA executive of the year in 2008-09.

Warkentien’s reported interest in speaking with the Blazers comes a little more than two weeks after he was scheduled to meet with embattled Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard.

A day after that meeting was cancelled, Warkentien’s name was linked to the Blazers’ GM position.

Pritchard is under contract through at least 2010-11. But his future with the organization has been uncertain since Tom Penn, former Portland VP of basketball operations, was fired in March.

Pritchard acknowledged June 15 that the Blazers have hired a search firm to find a possible replacement to fill the job he currently holds.

Portland has been evaluating Pritchard’s job performance since the end of the 2009-10 season, which saw the Blazers post the organization’s second consecutive 50-win season and earn a return trip to the playoffs.

Blazers president Larry Miller said June 8 that Pritchard’s evaluation is ongoing.

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