A week after it looked like restricted free agent forward Wilson Chandler would surely sign a contract with the Nuggets, doubt is creeping in. It comes in the form of an Italian team and a lack of progress in contract negotiations. Wilson has yet to work out a deal with the Nuggets and global basketball web site Sportando reported on Twitter Monday that Chandler is in "serious talks" to play with an Italian team for the rest of the season.
That same website also reported on Twitter early this morning that the Italian team in question, Olimpia Milano, has no interest in signing Chandler -- so it could be nothing more than a negotiating ploy.
Chandler spent the evening of February 20 in a suite with Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and both sides talked optimistically about getting a deal done. Chandler then went to flirt with the Toronto Raptors last week and waited for his letter of clearance from the Chinese Basketball Association, where he played during the lockout.
Chandler received his letter of clearance yesterday, according to Chandler's agent, Chris Luchey. This means Chandler is free to play in the NBA. Now all he needs to do is decide if he wants to do that, and for which team.
Chandler has until tomorrow to sign an offer sheet with another NBA team, which the Nuggets could match. After tomorrow, the Nuggets are the only NBA team Chandler can sign with and play for this season.
Luchey has said Chandler won't sign a one-year deal with the Nuggets and the team has said it has no interest in bringing him on just for the rest of the season. Chandler might want a deal just for the rest of the season because it would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Nuggets won't do this because they would then risk losing him and receiving nothing in return. And as a restricted free agent, Chandler has less control in this negotiation than the Nuggets do.
Chandler is looking for a long-term deal, as the Nuggets appear to be, but if the sides can't agree on terms, Chandler could sit out the rest of the year or head to Italy, then test restricted free agency again next season.
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Toronto is the only other team Chandler reportedly visited, but Luchey said six other teams have interest. The Indiana Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been tossed around on the Internets, but the Nuggets will be able to offer him more money than any other team.
The Nuggets are likely weary of spending too much money on someone who will essentially be backing up Danilo Gallinari, who they just handed a four-year, $42 million extension. Chandler, who came to the Nuggets last year in the Carmelo Anthony deal, has averaged just under fourteen points and five rebounds for his career and could certainly start for several teams.
The best case scenario for the Nuggets is that tomorrow passes without another squad extending an offer, at which point the team would still have Chandler under contract even without signing him to a long-term deal. The Nuggets could then try to work out a long-term contract or a trade to get something of value in return for the small forward, even if he chooses to sit out the season or flee to Italy.
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