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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Nuggets hope to re-sign Nene

Associated Press

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets aren't quite ready to get the season started.

First, they need to fill out their roster.

The first order of business is bringing back free agents Nene and Arron Afflalo when teams can agree to terms with players starting Dec. 9.

Bringing back Afflalo will be easier than re-signing Nene.

Afflalo is a restricted free agent and Denver can match any offer. Nene opted out of the last season of his contract and is one of the most sought-after players on the market.

Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri said he has talked to Afflalo's agent and he feels "comfortable that we'll get something done there."

The Nuggets offered the center a contract extension but he said he wants to test the market, which makes re-signing him more challenging.

"We made an offer right before July 1. Nene obviously opted out and went into free agency," Ujiri said. "I think he wants to test it a little bit. We respect that. We respect what he's doing. We respect Nene as a player. We want Nene back here and we are going to do our best to get him back here playing for the Nuggets."

Nene averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 75 games last season, his ninth with the Nuggets.

If the Nuggets aren't able to bring him back it will leave a big void in their frontcourt. Forwards Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler signed contracts with teams in China and are obligated to play out the season, which ends in March. Chandler is a restricted free agent and Martin is unrestricted.

The Nuggets would be interested in bringing back both players once the season ends in China.

"We've kept up with those guys. Kenyon is playing well, Chandler is playing well," Ujiri said. "We have to call everyone's agent individually. Generally the rule out there is, you go there, you stay there until the season ends."

Forward Danilo Gallinari (Italy), center Timofey Mozgov (Russia) and guard Ty Lawson (Lithuania) are playing overseas but have opt-out clauses in their contracts.

"I thought that ended up working in our favor," Ujiri said. "They're playing two or three times a week. You can't ask for anything better than the situation these guys were in. They're in shape and coming back almost in game-shape. Basketball-wise, it's 100 percent good for them and for us."

Without Nene, Martin and Chandler, Denver would field a much different frontcourt. Mosgov, Gallinari, Al Harrington and Chris Andersen would be the most experienced players returning. First-round picks Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton would get plenty of playing time as rookies.

The Nuggets will also look at free agency.

"We are going to give our young big guys a chance," Ujiri said. "In studying the free-agent class, we want to be smart here. We want to make the right decisions. Are we going to go out and do anything crazy? I would tell you I don't think so. These young guys are going to play and they'll get the opportunity.

"We have a couple of first-round guys that we believed in them in the draft, we believe in them now. We want to develop them. I think our situation is good."