Free-agent buzz: Nuggets keep Nene

The Denver Nuggets have reached agreement with free-agent center Nene on a five-year contract that could pay him as much as $67 million, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Nene, 29, was one of this summer’s top free agents, and his return gives the franchise an anchor for its rebuilding efforts. The Nuggets also acquired Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Nene’s contract guarantees him $65 million, plus bonuses, sources said.

Nene has spent his entire NBA career with the Nuggets, but made clear at the start of free agency he was willing to leave Denver if he didn’t receive the right offer. The Nuggets had offered Nene a four-year, $50 extension at the end of last season, but he turned it down and was upset team officials hadn’t made the proposal earlier.

“I learned last season that this was a business,” Nene told Yahoo! Sports last month. “No matter how nice you are to people, no matter how nice people are to you, this is a business. I did my best for the team and they waited and waited to extend me. I was like, ‘Oh, OK, all these years playing good, doing your best and they still test you.’ That’s not about family, love and somebody liking you. It’s a business.”

The New Jersey Nets, who are focusing their efforts on trying to acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, and Indiana Pacers also had interest in signing Nene.

ESPN.com first reported Nene’s signing.


Crawford could make decision Wednesday

Atlanta Hawks free-agent guard Jamal Crawford will probably decide Wednesday whether to accept an offer with the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks or Sacramento Kings, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been trying to recruit Crawford. “I’m doing my best to get [Crawford] to Portland Rip City,” Aldridge said on his Twitter account.

Crawford has been offered a two-year deal by the Blazers with a starting salary of $5 million. Crawford is from Seattle and is attracted to the opportunity to return to the Northwest.

Crawford also in intrigued by the chance to play with Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler with the Knicks. New York, however, can only offer a deal paying $2.5 million with its mini midlevel exception. Crawford played for the Knicks from 2004-08 and met with Knicks director of player personnel Mark Warkentien Sunday in Seattle. The Knicks also are offering Crawford a starting job.

The Kings have offered Crawford $6.5 million as a salary for this season. But Sacramento also already has a long list of guards in Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia and rookies Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas. Crawford has a strong relationship with Thomas, who is from Seattle. Crawford played for Kings assistant coach Keith Smart when Smart was on the Golden State Warriors’ staff.

The Hawks haven’t offered Crawford a contract, nor do they have interest in doing a sign-and-trade deal with him because they don’t want to cross the luxury-tax threshold. Crawford has already turned down offers from the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers.

Crawford averaged 14.2 points and 3.2 assists off the bench last season for the Hawks.


Warriors sign Brown to one-year deal

Free-agent center Kwame Brown has agreed to a one-year, $7 million contract with the Golden State Warriors, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

Brown, a 10-year veteran, has played for five teams in his NBA career, including the Charlotte Bobcats last season. The top overall pick of the 2001 draft gives the Warriors a rebounding and defensive presence.

Brown, 29, has become a solid role player in recent seasons, but is often criticized – including by former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant – for not living up to his draft status.

“With Kwame, because he was the first pick in the draft, people put expectations on him that were unfair,” his agent Mark Bartelstein said. “It wasn’t his fault he was drafted first. He wasn’t ready for the NBA. He was too young, there was too much pressure and he got thrown into the bonfire with Michael Jordan and [former Wizards coach] Doug Collins.

“He’s become one of the best post defenders in the league, and a coach knows he can guard anyone any night without ever needing to double. That has great, great value. That’s an effective player. But what happens when you were the first player picked, part of the [Lakers’ Pau] Gasol trade, you become the brunt of a lot of jokes.

“I’m not sure people realize how good of a season he had last year, because they don’t watch Charlotte as much as other teams. Going to Charlotte, playing for Michael Jordan, helped exorcise those demons from the years they had together in Washington. It was great for Kwame. He turned his career around. He showed what he could do with a starting center job.”

New coach Mark Jackson is trying to install more of a defensive philosophy with the Warriors, and Brown, a 7-footer, gives him someone to help protect the basket. Brown averaged 7.9 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Bobcats last season.

“Listen, he was beaten up badly early in his career – mentally, emotionally – and to his credit, he’s proved everyone wrong,” Bartelstein said. “For him to go to Golden State, where Mark Jackson wants to build around defense, is going to be great for him. He will thrive there.”


Lakers sign McRoberts

The Los Angeles Lakers have reached an agreement to sign forward Josh McRoberts to a two-year contract using the mini midlevel exception starting, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

McRoberts, 24, will make $2.5 million this season. He averaged career bests of 7.4 points (on 51.5 percent shooting) and 5.3 rebounds in 72 games for the Indiana Pacers last season. He is expected to help fill in for the loss of Lamar Odom, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

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Updated Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011