DENVER (AP) – Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri keeps tinkering with the roster as the playoffs draw near, trying to find just the right mix for coach George Karl.
Ujiri dealt away big man Nene at the trade deadline to free up money, presumably to help pull off this move: Agreeing to a five-year deal Sunday with versatile forward Wilson Chandler that’s worth nearly $37 million.
Chandler has been itching to hoist up jumpers again in the NBA, even showing up to a Nuggets game last month where he received a rowdy round of applause from the Pepsi Center crowd and casually chatted with teammates in the locker room after the contest.
He played overseas for Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association during the lockout, averaging nearly 27 points and 12 rebounds in 32 games. Once the NBA season started back up, Chandler was ineligible to return until his team and FIBA, basketball’s governing body, signed off.
When all the hurdles were cleared, he returned to the Mile High City.
“It is great to have Wilson back on our roster,” Ujiri said. “It was a very unique situation signing a talented free agent in the middle of the season.”
The 24-year-old Chandler arrived in Denver last February as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. Chandler was an instant spark, helping the Nuggets go 18-7 down the stretch before falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
At 25-20, the Nuggets are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.
And Chandler could once again be a big addition down the stretch.
On Thursday, Ujiri orchestrated a three-team trade that sent the injury-prone Nene to Washington, with the Wizards shipping JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to Denver and Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers. Washington also picked up forward Brian Cook in the deal along with a second-round pick in 2015 from the Clippers.
The Nuggets turned around and waived Turiaf on Sunday.
Denver signed Nene to a new five-year, $67 million contract in December. He was averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in an injury-plagued season. But the low-post presence of rookie forward Kenneth Faried made Nene and his big contract expendable.
Faried had a career-high 16 rebounds in a 98-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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