The Nuggets are reportedly negotiating feverishly with center/power forward/Nuggets stalwart Nene and his representation to get a deal done for the Brazilian before the NBA lockout kicks in at 12:00am on Friday. I'm glad the Nuggets are trying to re-sign the valuable Nene, but it's fair to ask: what took so long?
Around this time last year, our Denver Nuggets offered Carmelo Anthony a three-year, $65 million contract extension that, had Melo inked the deal, would have kept Melo in Denver for four more seasons (the final season on his contract plus the extension). The purpose of that contract extension offer was to show Melo that the Nuggets were sincere about keeping him in Denver and to avoid having their star small forward exercise his opt-out clause on July 1st, 2011. When Melo didn't sign that generous extension it became clear that the Nuggets had to deal him elsewhere, but at least the Nuggets tried to re-sign him.
The same should have been done for Nene.
Like Melo, Nene entered the 2010-11 season with essentially two years remaining on his contract: 2010-11 and a 2011-12 "player option" year, meaning that Nene could exercise his right to become an unrestricted free agent before the 2011-12 season or take the $11.6 million guaranteed to him were he not to. And yet while the Nuggets had no problem showing Melo some love last summer, they put any love directed at Nene on hold. Could such a strategic decision come back to bite them in the ass?
From the Nuggets' perspective last summer, I suppose they were hesitant to extend any of their veteran players pending Melo's own version of "The Decision" (the organization said as much during the ongoing, nauseating Melo-drama that ensued). They were probably bracing themselves for a post-Melo world resulting in a gutted team - something we would have seen had the Nuggets traded #15 to the New Jersey Nets as was rumored for months - and having Nene extended wouldn't fit with a rebuilding plan.
But I never saw the downside to attempting to extend Nene when attempting to extend Melo. And not because it would have shown Melo that the Nuggets were "serious" about winning in Denver, because Melo was gone no matter what (if you don't believe me now, you never will).
First, offering Nene a contract extension last summer would have shown the big Brazilian that the Nuggets were committed to him staying in Denver - the only city he has played in as a pro and the hometown of his now wife - regardless of where the selfish Melo ended up residing.
Second, were Nene to have signed the extension last summer, the Nuggets would have at least had the power forward position resolved should Kenyon Martin leave in 2011 while having the four-spot solidified should a Melo deal that kept the Nuggets relevant come about.
And third, were Nene to have re-signed a year ago and the Nuggets ended up gutting the team for a rebuild, an extended Nene would have given the Nuggets extra ammunition to pick up young players and/or picks during last week's draft.
Instead, the Nuggets played "wait-and-see" with their most consistent performer not named Melo, and have suddenly decided that they really, really, really want Nene to stay in Denver. Could it be too little, too late? Or will Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri be rewarded yet again for being patient and not panicking? Thus far, Ujiri deserves the benefit of the doubt having patiently waited for a great deal for Melo and then having his patience rewarded again by getting two players he wanted in last week's draft, without giving up much of anything to get them no less. Let's hope the third time is a charm here.
Of course, this wait-and-see strategy could ultimately backfire should Nene opt-out of his contract (as he's rumored to be doing having declined to play for the Brazilian National Team in the 2011 FIBA Americas Tournament for fear of injury) and become an unrestricted agent on Friday morning. And by backfire, I don't just mean on the Nuggets but on Nene himself.
You see, Nene and his agent might think they're being clever by forgoing a guaranteed $11.6 million next season (plus whatever extension Ujiri is willing to offer) when it's quite possible that the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement will prevent Nene from making such high figures on the other side of this lockout. Last I checked, $11.6 million was nothing to sneer at for a guy averaging 14.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg and has had a litany of past knee injuries and conditioning issues. Nene may be the Nuggets most consistent rock of a player, but he isn't an All-Star.
As aptly pointed out by the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla in his Tuesday column on the subject of Nene, the Nuggets and Nene are "not a perfect basketball marriage" but they do need each other.
The question now is; can Nene get over not being loved last summer and see to it to ink a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal to remain in Denver? Or will his bruised ego get the best of him, potentially costing him millions, but landing him in another professional basketball arena elsewhere?
Unlike the Melo-drama which lasted about eight months, the Nene conundrum will be over in about 48 hours.
On to the links...
Sandy Clough Interview
On Tuesday night, I joined FM 104.3 The Fan's Sandy Clough to discuss the Adrian Dantley non-renewal in greater detail and why the Nuggets didn't try re-signing Nene a while ago.
Nate Kreckman Interview
On Tuesday morning, I joined FM 102.3 The Ticket's Nate Kreckman and we talked about Dantley, re-signing Nene and why I'm not convinced Ty Lawson can be a starting point guard on a championship team.
Kiszla: Nene and Nuggets need each other
Mark Kiszla argues for Nene and the Nuggets to get a deal signed...already.
New (and former) Nugget Miller didn't speak to Coach Karl for years
Chris Dempsey writes about the relationship between Andre Miller and George Karl, and about how Miller may not be so happy to come off the bench next season.
Adrian Dantley says he was fired because he wouldn’t switch bench seats - Ball Don't Lie - NBA Blog - Yahoo! Sports
Kelly Dwyer gives Chris Tomasson and Denver Stiffs some mad love!
Next (and last?) CBA session Thursday - CBSSports.com
Ken Berger writes with doom and gloom about Thursday's final bargaining session between NBA owners and players.
Now that Faried, Hamilton and Miller are Nuggets, will Nene, Kenyon and J.R. Smith stay Nuggets, too? | All Things Nuggets — Denver Nuggets news — The Denver Post
Dempsey briefly discusses the futures of K-Mart and J.R., in addition to Nene.
Hill: Players learned from lockout - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
Grant Hill thinks the players’ union is better prepared to wait out a lockout after weathering one in 1998.