Two reports filed in the last 24 hours by CBSSports.com are undoubtedly heartbreaking for Nuggets Nation. First, Royce Young published this article claiming — contrary to owner, Michael Heisley’s earlier statements last season — that the Grizzlies will match any contract offer presented to Marc Gasol, according to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Today, Ken Berger is reporting that, “One of the surest bets of the soon-to-begin 2011 NBA free-agent period is that Nene wants out of Denver.” Berger later goes on to state how Dallas and Miami are on top of Nene’s wishlist, but due to neither team having enough cap room to sign the 29-year-old free agent, a sign-and-trade would have to be completed in order to finalize the deal.
I think I speak for most Nuggets fans when I say this is a scenario we were all very well aware of, but didn’t necessarily want to acknowledge. When Nene opted out of his previous contract back in July, surrendering $12 million, it was pretty obvious that the possibility of him returning to the Denver Nuggets was virtually non-existent. After all, you don’t give up that kind of money just to test the free-agent waters so that you can eventually re-sign with the same team in the end.
If this is truly the end of the Nene’s tenure in Denver, the Nuggets should be extremely proud. Always a model citizen and great teammate, Nene was one of the few players during the “Thuggets” era who never complained, always did his job, played defense and was never concerned with his individual numbers. In fact, Nene was almost unselfish to fault. With Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups’ departure in February of last season, many believed Nene would take over as the go-to offensive threat down low. This expectation was never fully realize though, and Nene continued his quest to share the ball in the typical unselfish manner we’d come to know for so long.
Although I desperately still want Nene to re-sign with the Nuggets, should he manage to land on a title-contending team such as the Mavericks or Heat, I couldn’t be any happier for him. He’s been extremely loyal to the Nuggets, and Colorado in general, for the first near-decade of his career and at this point in time if he wants to peruse a championship, I certainly won’t be the one holding it against him. In fact, that very notion is a testament to his desire to win above all else.
From the Nuggets points view, although it absolutely sucks losing Nene, it would be wise to hope that he lands on a team with no cap room as this would force that team to perform a sign-and-trade with the Nuggets who would then be able to receive assets in return for Nene’s services. Although in this scenario, Nene would have to take less money than if he signed outright with a team who’s salary is under the cap.
As for Marc Gasol, I still believe the Nuggets should throw a max-contract offer his way just to see what happens, but unfortunately (in this circumstance) the way the new CBA is structured, the Grizzlies will be able to offer him much more than we can, and logically, there’s no reason Gasol should turn it down to come to a worse team like the Nuggets.
All I have to say is: The frightful dream of Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos holding down the center position for the Nuggets during the entire 2011-12 campaign is starting to look more like a reality with each passing day.