Linas Kleiza Signs Raptors' Offer Sheet
FanHouse's Chris Tomasson reported last week that Kleiza was open to returning to the NBA. A source close to the situation confirmed to FanHouse the offer sheet being signed. The source said everything came together quickly earlier this week. Kleiza flew to Toronto on Wednesday morning to see the city and eventually sign the offer sheet.
Kleiza left the NBA for more lucrative pastures a year ago, skipping restricted free agency to join Josh Childress at Olympiakos in Greece. As such, the Nuggets still have the option of matching Kleiza's offer sheet, bringing the forward back to Denver at that price. With Olympiakos, Kleiza was the Euroleague's top scorer for the 2009-10 season. He was also named to the All Euroleague first team.
The source who confirmed the signing of the offer sheet said it's not certain if the Nuggets will match. The team likes Kleiza, and liked him enough in October 2008 to nearly sign him to a four-year, $25 million contract extension, more than he's getting now. But the offer was pulled off the table at the last moment when the Nuggets were about to trade for Chauncey Billups, taking on additional future salary.
The Nuggets do like Kleiza, but the team have been watching costs in recent years.
"Denver is all he knows in the NBA," said the source of Kleiza having played all four of his NBA seasons from 2005-09 with the Nuggets. "He would have no problem going back."
In four seasons with the Nuggets prior to his Greek sojourn, the Lithuanian made his name as a tough, versatile scorer with solid (if imperfect) defensive chops. The problem in Denver had always been the presence of another talented small forward: one Carmelo Anthony. Kleiza is ill-fitting at either shooting guard or power forward, and when Anthony is neither injured or suspended, the minutes just aren't there to give Linas the run he deserves. In Toronto, Kleiza would be wedged behind Hedo Turkoglu. Given what we saw from the Turk last year, I think Raptors coach Jay Triano would have little trouble finding minutes for Kleiza at the expense of minutes for Turkoglu.
The Nuggets have seven days to decide whether to match Toronto's offer. The teams could also end up working out a sign-and-trade deal.
FanHouse's Chris Tomasson contributed to this report.