Nene Could Opt Out Of Denver Nuggets' Contract, Become Free Agent

Nene, the Denver Nuggets' best big man and starting center, told Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post that he may opt out of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent. The Nuggets are on the hook for $11.6 million for the Brazilian in 2011-12, but Nene can execute a player option to join an otherwise light free agent market.

From Dempsey:

[I]t's not all about the next contract for Nene. There is a large component of appreciation that Nene says is missing, and that's proving to be equally as important as the dollars.

"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."

It's unclear exactly what Nene is referencing in terms of lack of appreciation, though it's no secret that the center was looking for an extension from Denver last season, when the Nuggets were otherwise occupied with finding resolution on Carmelo Anthony. The public opt-out threat could be a continuation of those negotiations, in hopes of signing an extension before the new collective bargaining agreement kicks in, much like Zach Randolph recently did with the Memphis Grizzlies.

It's not clear, though, where Denver is headed, having traded 'Melo for a relatively young return. Nene is 28, which certainly is well within his prime. But if the Nuggets are looking to commit long-term, they need to assess how far away they are from a title run, and whether the Brazilian will be fit to help.

Nene would join Marc Gasol (a restricted free agent) as the top centers on the market. Samuel Dalembert is a similar but older and less offensively skilled comparison who will also be a free agent.

Via Pro Basketball Talk. For more on the Nuggets, visit Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.

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