May 3, 2011, 1:02 PM EST
Whenever the NBA gets around to having a free agent signing period after the lockout — an intense, condensed free agent signing period — Nene might make a lot of money. He might be the biggest name on the board.
That is, if he opts out of the $11.6 million he would get next year. And it feels more and more like he is going test the free agent market (even though talks about a three-year extension have taken place). Ask Nene why leave and he says it’s because he is not happy with the Nuggets, reports the Denver Post.
“I’ve been here for nine years,” said Nene, 28. “If that doesn’t work how you want it, you need to sit down and evaluate everything and see what you can do….
“If I play happy, if I enjoy the game, my game improves,” Nene said. “I did my best for the team, for the city. I tried to do my best for the fans. But the (Nuggets) need to understand you need to see the return on the other side, or you need to look for it. You need to look for it sometimes.
“They don’t realize all of the sacrifices I made. When you don’t feel appreciated, it’s hard.”
In a league where real centers are hard to come by, Nene has real value. He is a good defensive and rebounding center who also scored 14.5 points per game shooting 61.5 percent. Just about every team could use that.
The money Nene likely will draw will be comparable to what he would get if he picked up his option, maybe a couple million more. Players of his ilk are in the $12-$13 million a year ballpark. He likely would get a long-term deal however, he’s only 28 so teams may well offer whatever length the new collective bargaining agreement will allow.
He was key to a lot of Denver’s post-Carmelo success. Nene cannot carry a team, but he can be a key cog at a hard-to-fill position. The Nuggets need to find a way to convince him he is appreciated in Denver or they will have a big hole to fill in the middle.
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