Nuggets Extend $2.7 Million Qualifying Offer to Linas Kleiza
The Nuggets on Monday extended a $2.7 million qualifying offer to Kleiza, who bolted as a restricted free agent last summer to sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the Greek team Olympiakos. The move is a formality since the Nuggets had to extend that qualifying offer by the end of the month to keep Kleiza from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and the amount of the offer is specified by collective bargaining agreement according to Kleiza being drafted No. 27 in 2005.
Kleiza can opt out of his Greek contract by July 15, which would leave him again as a restricted free agent. Kleiza's agent, Bill Duffy, who did not return a message left by FanHouse, told the Denver Post that Kleiza "very likely'' will stay in Greece.
However, a source close to the situation said the native of Lithuania hasn't entirely dismissed opting out but likely wouldn't do so unless a satisfactory NBA deal was in place for him to sign.
There's no chance Kleiza would give up $6 million next season with Olympiakos to take a one-year, $2.7 million deal with the Nuggets. However, if the Nuggets or another team could work out a multi-year deal to Kleiza's liking with an annual salary a good bit higher than that, it's not out of the question Kleiza could opt out of his Greek contract.
Teams can start negotiating with players July 1, and the NBA landscape will come into play much more clearly after then. So Kleiza will have a two-week stretch to see what the Nuggets or any other team might come up with to entice him to return to the NBA. If Kleiza were to opt out of his Greek contract and sign an offer sheet with another NBA team, the Nuggets would have seven days to match it.
The source said Kleiza enjoyed his time in Denver and wouldn't rule out a return at some point. However, a one-year, $2.7 million deal, even though it would get Kleiza to being unrestricted in the summer of 2011, wouldn't cut it.
The qualifying offer is merely a mechanism to keep Kleiza a restricted free agent for NBA purposes. If he were to opt out of his Greek deal this summer, he would have Bird rights and could sign a much larger deal with the Nuggets or he could sign an offer sheet with another team that has salary-cap room available.
Kleiza averaged 17.1 points last season in helping lead Olympiakos to a Euroleague runner-up finish. Before that, he averaged 8.3 points in four Denver seasons.
The Nuggets were ready to offer Kleiza a four-year, $25 million contract extension just before the Oct. 31, 2008 deadline to keep him from becoming a restricted free agent last summer. But the offer was withdrawn at the last instant due to the Nuggets about to trade for guard Chauncey Billups, meaning they would take on additional big dollars in future seasons.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson