May 29, 2011, 7:00 PM EDT
The Denver Nuggets have a lot of offseason work to do. They have a lot of expiring contracts at key positions, they have positional logjams to sort out in advance of future draft picks they acquired in the Melo trade, and have to figure out what their identity going forward is. Top of that list, however, is signing Nene to an extension before he activates his opt-out and becomes a free agent. The Denver Post spoke to George Karl, who said while enjoying a well-earned vacation that he planned to speak with Nene, along with team executive Josh Kroenke and GM Masai Ujiri, and that he doesn’t expect the Brazilian Wonder to head anywhere.
Karl seemed optimistic that the Nuggets could persuade Nene to stay. The Brazilian is due to make $12 million next season but could sign a three-year extension with Denver, the team he’s played for his entire career.
“I have no problem with Nene expressing his opinions on his position. I think me and the organization very much want him here,” Karl said. “I think with the situation of this year, maybe he felt like he needed more contact (about the contract). (But) from what I know with my relationship with Nene and his love for Denver, I just think things are going to get worked out, I really do.
“I know (executives) Masai (Ujiri) and Josh (Kroenke) have kind of talked to him, and I’m going to follow up on that — I’m sure it will be in the next couple of weeks.”
Getting Nene to return is a huge part of the puzzle. With Nene in place the Nuggets only really have one positional need, at power forward with Kenyon Martin‘s massive contract expiring. They have options to not only start the season with talented players at the other positions, but have enough stock to trade for upgrades short and long-term. Without Nene, they have a huge hole at center and it would force a re-evaluation at the franchise level of their roster. So no big deal for Masai Ujiri, months after trading the franchise player and biggest star in team history, managing to win what seemed an unwinnable situation, he just has to turn around and convince an aging near-All-Star center to return to the Nuggets and not seek out a championship opportunity elsewhere. Another day in Ujiriland.
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