With the Denver Nuggets having lost out on free-agent shooting guard Flip Murray to the Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday, sources told FanHouse the Nuggets are now looking strongly at small forward Ime Udoka.
Meanwhile, Szczerbiak, who had been linked earlier in the summer to Denver, is still looking for a job.
"Yes, the economy has affected the market, there's no question about it,'' Szczerbiak said in an interview Thursday with FanHouse. "I just have to take my time.''
Murray agreed to a one-year contract with Charlotte for the biannual exception of $1.99 million. That left the Nuggets, who are looking to sign a wing player and waited several weeks to see if Murray would accept their $1.1 million minimum contract offer, suddenly having to look for somebody else.
Sources said Thursday night the Nuggets are intrigued by Udoka, who played the past two seasons for San Antonio. While Udoka has a modest career scoring average of 6.0 over five seasons, he is known for being a strong defender.
Szczerbiak said earlier Thursday that Denver remains an option for him. Before it was learned about Charlotte's agreement with Murray and the Nuggets' interest in Udoka, he was asked if believed he was Denver's backup choice behind Murray.
"I really have no idea at all,'' said Szczerbiak, who averaged 7.0 points last season with Cleveland and has a career average of 14.1.
The Nuggets, allowed to start early because they are one of the NBA teams heading overseas, begin training camp Saturday. Most teams start Tuesday.
Szczerbiak, who is believed to want more than a minimum deal worth $1.3 million, said he has received a guaranteed offer from a team. But he would not reveal the team or the amount of the offer.
Sczcerbiak was asked if he is willing to miss the start of training camp while waiting for the right situation.
"We'll see,'' he said. "I'll have to weigh everything.''
Prior to committing to the Bobcats, Murray, who averaged 12.2 points last season with Atlanta, was the NBA's top remaining free agent. The Nuggets, who are over the luxury-tax threshold, would not offer Murray the biannual exception, which is why he bolted to the Bobcats.
The Nuggets have been searching for a wing player since the early-August departure of small forward Linas Kleiza to Greece. The Nuggets believe J.R. Smith could move into the role of being Carmelo Anthony's backup at small forward in addition to playing shooting guard. That's why they had targeted Murray, who can slide to point guard but not to small forward.
The Nuggets had remained steadfast in their wait for Murray. They also had looked in free agency at wing players Desmond Mason, Keith Bogans and Rashad McCants. But all are now off the market, with the Houston Chronicle reporting Thursday that McCants will sign a non-guaranteed contract with Houston.
Showing how tough the market is, Mason also settled for non-guaranteed money with Sacramento. Bogans, as first reported by FanHouse, was able to a get a guaranteed minimum deal from San Antonio.
The Nuggets did trade Wednesday for journeyman small forward James White, who has a non-guaranteed contract, mainly to get a free look at him in training camp. While the Nuggets are still seeking to bring in a perimeter player, it's not completely out of the question White could end up being their guy if other options don't pan out and White is a surprise in camp
For now, though, the Nuggets are looking at Udoka, 32. Denver only would be offerering a one-year minimum contract worth $959,111.
There's not a lot left in the NBA when it comes to free agency. Excluding Udoka, Szczerbiak and restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson, who are ready to re-sign with New York, players remaining include guards Jerry Stackhouse, Stephon Marbury, Joey Graham, Bobby Jackson, Brevin Knight, Jacque Vaughn, Tyronn Lue, Juan Dixon, Chucky Atkins and Jamaal Tinsley; forwards Stromile Swift, Gerald Green and Donyell Marshall; and centers Melvin Ely, Chris Mihm, Robert Swift, Lorenzen Wright and Jake Voskuhl.
Few, if any, of the remaining players will be able to get guaranteed money. But Jackson is hopeful, having already turned down invitations to training camp by Detroit and Miami because neither team would give him guaranteed money.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com.