Nene recently told HoopsWorld's Lang Greene that he wants to "be a Nugget now and forever." I second that.

Now nine seasons into his NBA career, Nuggets starting center Nene is having his finest as a pro. Once one of the Nuggets least reliable and least durable players has evolved into the team's rock over the past three seasons. Now he should be rewarded with a contract extension.

I know what many Nuggets are thinking: wait in line. Currently due for a contract extension are Nene (should he opt out of his current contract thanks to a player’s option clause he’s sure to exercise), Arron Afflalo (a restricted free agent), Wilson Chandler (also restricted), Kenyon Martin (unrestricted) and J.R. Smith (also unrestricted). And while I agree with my colleague Jeff Morton that re-signing K-Mart is extremely important, I don’t agree that it’s the most important of the Nuggets looming offseason signings. Re-signing Nene (again, should he opt out) has to be priority #1, with the re-signing of Afflalo and Chandler a close second apiece.

Like K-Mart, Nene comes with injury concerns…despite missing just a handful of games over the past few seasons. Prior to the 2008-09 campaign, during which Nene admirably stepped in at center for 77 games in the absence of Marcus Camby, Nene missed 192 games over the previous four seasons thanks to a combination of freak injuries, a frightening health scare and bad off-season conditioning. At the time, it seemed as though Nene would be just another Nugget befallen by the franchise’s power forward curse that cost former greats like Calvin Natt, LaPhonso Ellis and Antonio McDyess would-be All-Star careers as Nuggets.

But thanks to a good Colorado woman (and I’m being serious here), a re-dedication to the game and the Nuggets medical/training staff, Nene got his act together in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since. He may not be an All-Star as many fans believe, but he’s damn close. More importantly, Nene – as described by head coach George Karl – is the Nuggets most “efficient” player. As we saw against Atlanta on Wednesday night, you can count on getting a little bit of everything from Nene in any given game: solid field goal shooting, good rebounding, a few assists, a few steals, a block and a number of defensive stops. Simply put, Nene is a possession-generator, something the up-tempo Nuggets need to kick off those fast breaks that bury their opposition.

Moreover, I’m still holding out the fantasy that Nene could return to power forward (as long as he doesn’t succumb to the curse, of course) if Timofey Mozgov can contribute 25 solid minutes per game at center. I’ve long maintained that we as fans were robbed of the Camby/Nene/K-Mart/Carmelo Anthony front line that should have dominated the Western Conference between 2004 and 2008, but were never able to for an assortment of injury-plagued reasons.

Unlike the Nuggets' last high profile free-agent-to-be (you know who), Nene's – and his wife's – first choice is to stay in Denver. What a novel concept! And thus, the big Brazilian's recent on-court performance and desire to be in the Mile High City should be rewarded soon into the off-season.

Nuggets-Related Links…

Tommy Dee of TheKnicksBlog brought me back to talk about the aftermath of the Carmelo trade…

Nene: I Want To Be A Nugget Forever – Basketball News & NBA Rumors –
There has been lots of speculation about the future of Nene in Denver, but the veteran center tells HoopsWorld he wants to remain a Nugget forever. NBA Blogs – Chris Tomasson " Post-Melo era working just fine
Chris Tomasson jumps from FanHouse to HoopsHype and continues his great work covering the Nuggets.

The Denver Nuggets could get some additional scoring punch vs. Orlando | All Things Nuggets — The Denver Post
The last time we all saw Danilo Gallinari, he was going all Carmelo on the Trail Blazers, scoring 30 points for Denver.

Since the trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, the Denver Nuggets are 9-2, heading into Orlando | All Things Nuggets — The Denver Post
Check this out. Thanks to last night’s win at Atlanta, the Nuggets have done something they’ve NEVER done – winning three-straight road games against winning teams by at least 10 points.

Pincus Report: Nuggets Strong, Bynum Stronger, Magic Not So Much – Basketball News & NBA Rumors –
The Denver Nuggets have been resilient after the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Other Notable Links…

The Worst Sports Fans in America: Lists: GQ
Guess who made the Worst Sports Fans in America? Nuggets fans will love this…

Grant Hill’s Response to Jalen Rose –
Grant Hill responds to comments about Duke by Jalen Rose in the ESPN film “The Fab Five.”