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.''