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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Arron Afflalo signs deal with Nuggets

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DENVER -- Arron Afflalo is back with his old team in a new role -- leader.

Afflalo, a restricted free agent, signed a five-year deal with the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday and will start practicing with the club Wednesday. He expects to be a leader on a young squad after spending his first four years learning from other veterans.

Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the five-year deal, with bonuses, would pay out in excess of $43 million to Afflalo, who was coveted by numerous top teams that generally presumed that the Nuggets would match any offer sheet to the 26-year-old.

"It's kind of weird. I've been on, in my career, two very veteran teams," Afflalo said. "Early in Detroit and my last two years here. I gained a lot of experience and I learned a lot from those guys. I'm excited to be more of a leader of the team and help everything about myself personally and the team grow at once."

Denver's roster is stocked with young talent. Only four players -- Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Nene and Michael Ruffin -- have been in the NBA longer than Afflalo. Two players expected to make an impact this season are rookies Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton.

So despite being just 26, Afflalo is being looked at as a veteran sage for his younger teammates.

"We have a lot of young guys. It's going to be a challenge but we think we have some really good veterans," Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said. "Even though Arron's kind of a little boy himself, he's one of the older guys on the team."

Afflalo, entering his fifth NBA season, averaged 12.6 points last season and took on a bigger leadership role once Denver dealt Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in February. The team went 18-7 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.

Afflalo said he let his agent field interest from other teams but ultimately wanted to return to Denver.

"I always anticipated being back. Obviously I had to respect the process of being a free agent," he said. "The timing of the lockout and training camp starting probably made it seem a little more difficult. I always anticipated being a Nugget. I got my true first opportunity to flourish as a player here. I'm truly grateful for that."

Afflalo's signing comes less than a week after Denver locked up its other restricted free agent, Nene, for five years. Ujiri said bringing back both players was important to try to establish a foundation in Denver.

"Both of them were a huge priority for us," he said. "It's not only two starters getting back, which is a huge part of your team, just being able to continue consistency. They're going to teach the young guys a lot about our culture, the way we play and just growing as a team.

"I don't think there are many of the big-time stars screaming to come out here. We have to create a culture and our free agents can create this culture and create this atmosphere and system here to make Denver a place where players want to come and play. These players are very, very important to us."

Ujiri said the Nuggets are not looking to make another splash in the free agent market.

"Majorly, I think we're done," he said. "There might be minor tweaks here and there but I think after seven, eight, nine days of training camp we're looking forward to the season opener."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.