Nuggets Close to Extension on Karl, Want Nene, Smith Back
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said after Thursday night's 89-75 win over Boston that negotiations are nearly complete on bringing Karl back for next season.
"We're pretty close on that,'' Kroenke said in an interview with FanHouse. "We've been doing that throughout the process and we just had to cut it off at times because we had to focus on Melo.''
The Nuggets started negotiations in December on bringing back Karl, in the last year of his contract. There were some delays due to trade talk regarding Carmelo Anthony, the star forward who was dealt Tuesday to New York.
"Hopefully, soon,'' Kroenke said about when a deal on Karl will be announced. "George is somebody we want to keep here and, obviously, you can see him (Thursday), he does a great job with what he has. We'll hopefully get something done. We want George here for a long time.''
Kroenke declined to speculate on the length of Karl's contract extension, but sources previously have said three years is the expected number. FanHouse had reported last month Karl would return to the Nuggets next season, with Anthony being traded not being a factor.
"Yeah,'' Karl said at the time about wanting to come back without Anthony. "I'm hoping to be in Denver next year.''
Karl's agent, Bret Adams, arrived in Denver on Thursday for discussions Friday with Nuggets brass.
Kroenke also said Thursday the Nuggets are working on an extension for center Nene, who can opt out of the final year of his contract this summer and become a free agent. And he reiterated what Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri had told FanHouse in December about the Nuggets wanting to re-sign guard J.R. Smith when he becomes a free agent this summer.
"We're very interested in extending Nene,'' Kroenke said. "I've been having preliminary talks with his agent (Dan Fegan). We hope to have him here for a long time. I can't give you a time frame (about it getting done) because it's a negotiation. But I have good relation with Dan Fegan, and Nene is somebody we'd love to have here. ... It's been a gradual process (regarding Nene) because of the Carmelo stuff. Now, we can actually focus on other things.''
Nene, who is making $11.36 million this season and is due to make $11.6 million next season, is eligible for a three-year extension before he must make a decision by June 30 on whether to opt out. Nene, who told FanHouse on Tuesday he wants to stay in Denver, said after Thursday's game he wants to get the most years he can, which would be three and take him through the 2014-15 season. But Nene, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal in the summer of 2006, wouldn't discuss money requirements.
"I hope (the extension) gets done,'' Nene told FanHouse after totaling 12 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Celtics, making Denver 2-0 since the Anthony trade. "And I want it to get done (soon).''
While there had been rumors about Nene and Smith possibly being dealt by Thursday's trade deadline, the Nuggets gave no consideration to moving either. Both Kroenke and Ujiri had been been assuring Smith in recent weeks he wouldn't be dealt.
"Yeah, they've been talking about it for a while,'' Smith said. "So they're a man of their word.''
OK, Smith admitted he still wasn't 100 percent sure he would stay with the Nuggets after he saw what happened Wednesday when Deron Williams was stunningly dealt from Utah to New Jersey.
"They traded D-Will without him even knowing, and he's the franchise player in Utah,'' Smith said. "I was just waiting to see what happened.''
What happens next will be a lot more in Smith's hands. He said yet again he wants to re-sign with Denver after he becomes a free agent July 1.
First, Smith must find a new agent. He had been with the Wasserman Media Group, with Arn Tellem as his lead agent and Smith working closely with Thad Foucher. However, Smith said he recently left due to "personal reasons'' and is now in the market for a new representative.
Smith didn't offer a timetable to find one. But there's nothing that can be done immediately since Smith, who signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract in the summer of 2008, can't sign an extension due to that being only allowed for players on deals of four or more years.
"I plan on being here and I want to be here,'' Smith, who had told FanHouse that in December and reiterated it early this month, said about re-signing with the Nuggets. "If they can work something out, yeah.''
The Nuggets are very serious about bringing back Smith, making a base salary this season of $6.03 million.
"I think J.R. has a chance to be part of a great young core going forward,'' Kroenke said. "We're excited to have him. We want him here in Denver (next season). I know he's said he wants to be here publicly. I've had conversations with him where he said he's excited about the future. ... Yeah, hopefully (the Nuggets can re-sign Smith). ... We love him here. I've got a great relationship with J.R., and I know our fans are happy to still have him.''
Smith has had a number of off-the-court problems since arriving Denver in 2005, namely spending nearly a month in jail in the summer of 2009 due to a reckless driving conviction in a 2007 accident that killed Smith's passenger. He's had many clashes with Karl due to erratic play, although Karl has said Smith's approach has been better this season.
"J.R., he's had his ups and downs over the years,'' Kroenke said. "And I know that he and George have had their struggles. But I think that he's really starting to grow up, and we're really excited to have him.''
Kroenke said the Nuggets also want this summer to re-sign starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who will be a restricted free agent.
"We're going to have our two shooting guards both up this summer, and so we'd love to have them both back,'' Kroenke said.
The Nuggets want a lot of their top figures back next season. It's refreshing to them they want to return after Anthony had asked to be traded last August and finally was granted his wish after five months of negotiations.