Where did Linas Kleiza's Contract Extension Disappear to?

Friday I kept checking the Post and News’ websites for confirmation that Linas Kleiza had been signed to a four year $25 million contract extension.

I checked and I checked.  Even after it became apparent that no news was coming, I checked some more.

Four years and $25 million seemed to be reasonable for both the Nuggets and Kleiza.  It may have been a tad higher than the Nuggets might have been able to get away with should they take a hard line and get lucky with him as a restricted free agent next summer, but why take the chance of Kleiza either having a monster year and being in the position to demand much more or alienating a player you want to keep around for the long term?

On Saturday news filtered out that the contract was a done deal until Stan Kronke himself stepped in and squashed it.  The question became why.  Why did Kronke shoot down what would appear to be a very reasonable deal?  The Rocky Mountain News blog post by Chris Tomasson linked to above assumes it is the economy, but I think there is something else afoot.

There did not seem to be an obvious answer until some news filtered out that the Nuggets were still in negotiations with the Pacers for Jamaal Tinsley.  According to reports if the Pacers were to step up their offer, the Nuggets would bite.

The source for the reports is once again coming from Peter Vescy, the NBA’s equivalent of a gossip columnist, but when combined with the Nuggets reneging from the Kleiza deal I am afraid that Vescey may be barking up the right tree for once.

The key is the salaries.  The Nuggets have committed salaries of about $53 or $54 million to six players for next season.  They are going to be in a position to pay at least one player five to seven million dollars while still being able to fill in the rest of the roster and stay under the luxury tax.  If the Nuggets sign Kleiza to that extension, then he is the player to receive that five to seven million in salary.  Why would the Nuggets do a 180 and decide to wait on Kleiza.  The only reason that makes sense is if they have another option for spending that money.

Enter Jamaal Tinsley. 

Tinsley makes just under seven million dollars this season and will make a hair more than seven million next year.  Could it be Denver realized that they could not extend Kleiza and bring in Tinsley?  Right now that is the only logical explanation.  Even if the Tinsley deal falls through they can still sign Kleiza to the same deal after this season that is assuming he does not explode and has a huge year.  However, the opposite would appear to be happening as Kleiza has been atrocious save the two free throws to send the Clipper game into overtime.  If he keeps playing this way the Nuggets will be able to sign him for four years and ten million bucks.

The Tinsley deal may or may not be a certainty at this point in time, but we can be sure that discussions are ongoing about bringing the black sheep point guard to Denver.

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