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November 1, 2008 1:23 AM

Economics affected Kleiza's denied deal

By Chris Tomasson
Rocky Mountain News

There are some owners who consider their team a toy.
Stan Kroenke is hardly one of them. It's all business for Kroenke.
Kroenke has made that abundantly clear lately. First, there was last July's trade of Marcus Camby to the Clippers for next to nothing, a move that could save Kroenke more than $20 million.
Now, there's Kroenke's decision not to offer forward Linas Kleiza a four-year, $25 million extension.
Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien and Kleiza's agent, Bill Duffy, had been negotiating feverishly regarding a possible extension for Kleiza. Kleiza wanted one and Nuggets' management also was keen on one.
Warkentien and Duffy met twice over the summer, once in Denver and once in Oakland, Calif. They had breakfast last week in Venice, Calif.
Both said Friday, which was the deadline for Kleiza to sign an extension that would kick in next season, that a deal was close. But then came Kroenke's move.
Kroenke decided Friday morning that Kleiza would not get the extension because he wanted to maintain flexibility. The Nuggets still have great interest in signing Kleiza when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and they can match any NBA offer.
In case you haven't noticed, the economy is in shambles. And that no doubt will greatly affect the NBA this season.
Warkentien and Nuggets coach George Karl both said the salary cap could go down next season. That's because it's related to basketball-related income, and that income could fall this season due to the economy.
"Try to tell me what the midlevel exception will be next season?'' Warkentien said. "That's based on a computation.''
The midlevel exception is $5.558 million this season, but it's not of the question it could be lower in 2009-10. Kleiza's deal for next season would have started around the range of this season's midlevel exception.
But perhaps Kroenke felt no need to bid against himself. If the salary cap falls or remains flat next summer. Perhaps he felt no need to hand out big bucks now to Kleiza, when at least the same deal possibly could be available next summer.
"Mr. Kroenke did some analysis with his staff and this is what he came back with,'' said Duffy, who said Denver was the side that halted negotiations.
Duffy said he's fine with the move, and said Kleiza could end up making more money next season.
There is one wild card in all of this. Kleiza told the Rocky Mountain News on Friday he would consider going to Europe next summer.
"It's amazing what they're paying over there, so you can never rule that out,'' said Kleiza, a native of Lithuania who knows very well that Atlanta restricted free agent Josh Childress last summer signed a three-year, $20 million tax-free deal in Greece.
But next summer is a long way off. Obviously, Kleiza, who shot just 3-of-16 in his first two games, will need to get his game going again to really be courted.
But what Friday's move shows is that Kroenke really means business with his business. Due to the economy, attendance and revenue could fall for the Nuggets this season.
By next summer, the salary cap and the luxury-tax threshold could go down. Kroekne, after all, is determined not to pay the luxury tax beyond this season.
Kroenke apparently thought he didn't need to box himself for now with another significant long-term contract. So he didn't.
Stay tuned to next summer for more of Kroenke's version of "Mad Money.''


  • November 3, 2008

    11:40 AM

    kodijack writes:

    Josh Childress has lost money already in comparison to the U.S. Dollar, Kleiza's agent is blowing smoke.

    That being said I am not sure that 6 million is a year is a good deal for a guy that plays really well five games a year, pretty well three games a year, and disappears 74 games a year.

  • November 4, 2008

    12:19 AM

    Holden writes:

    The Iverson/Billups trade notwithstanding, which is freaking grand theft, in my opinion; the Nuggets might as well start making financial sense for Kroenke...the team has been the NBA's version of the Washington Generals since entering the NBA. Hey, without the our lovable Nuggies and the Clippers and the Hawks and the Nets...there would be no Celtics or Lakers or Spurs or Bulls. There is a place for losing franchises and always will be.

    Real Nuggets fans have come to accept this reality and, since they're also Broncos and, most-likely, Rockies and Avs fans, as well, as long as at least one of the teams is winning, that's OK.... The blockbuster (or should I say bankbuster?) deals given KMart and Camby made no sense and hamstrung the team from making deals. Really, the only guy who should be getting the big bucks is Melo, even though, as Lincicome wrote today, he has yet to do anything but tease fans with his talent. That he's so blue about his running mate of two years getting traded just shows where his priorities aren't.

    Kroenke has to be glancing over at his buddies, the Monforts, branding themselves up a nice niche of mediocrity, and thinking it could be a lot worse. Lackluster attendance in Coor's is a sellout at the Can. Why spend like a drunken sailor when you can play skinflint, sell about as many tickets and win (or should I say, lose) just as many games?

    Look, Kroenke has two championship banners hanging in the rafters--OK, so he inherited a team on the cusp of greatness and had Patrick Roy land in his lap...he still has the banners. Alas, the salary cap has bedevilled the Avs and the Nuggets have never stuck with a plan long enough to see if it would work. Teams need more than check writing owners...teams need quality guys like Joe Dumars, guys who know the game and what it takes to win.

    What has Linas Kleiza done for the Nuggets? Who's itching to steal him away from the Nuggets? Were I in Kroenke's shoes (wouldn't THAT be cool?), I'd have done the same thing. It's about time someone put a stop to this madness!

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    2:50 PM

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    12:39 PM

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