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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Sources: Nuggets seek Nene extension

By Marc Stein

We have our first surprise of the final 2 days of trade fun that the NBA’s long-running Melo Drama did not consume:

The Denver Nuggets, according to sources close to the situation, are already pitching a contract extension to Nene.

It had been widely assumed around the league that Denver’s center would shoot to the front of the trade line as soon as a Carmelo Anthony deal finally got done … and assuming there was enough time before the deadline for the Nuggets to work on follow-up deals.

But teams that have been calling for Nene -- and I’m told that more than half the league has rung Denver in recent weeks to register interest in the Brazilian big man -- are gradually being informed that a key element of the Nuggets’ post-Melo plan is trying to convince Nene to stay.

Although his love for the city is unquestioned, Nene has the right to opt out of his contract at season’s end and is poised to walk away from the $11.6 million he’s scheduled to make in 2011-12 to become a free agent. One source briefed on the state of negotiations told ESPN.com on Monday night not to completely rule out a trade, but confirmed that A) Denver’s immediate intent now that six-plus months of Melo-induced limbo is over is to try to reach terms with Nene on an extension before the June 30 deadline and B) a trade closer to the draft is the more likely escape route for Nene if talks don’t go anywhere.

The short-term impact is that a clutch of teams that planned to be lobbing in trade bids for Nene up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade buzzer, headlined by Houston and Miami, have become increasingly resigned to the fact that he won’t be made available this week as so widely presumed.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are confident that they can quickly acquire at least one future first-round pick for newly acquired Raymond Felton if they want to move him before this week’s deadline, but sources say there is some sentiment within the organization to wait until closer to the draft before rushing into such moves, even though Ty Lawson is already in place as Denver’s point guard of the future.

The thinking there: It might be better to wait until June, in a year when the draft is seen as very weak some four months out, to allow for more time a better handle on the value of the picks that the Nuggets are being offered.