Nene makes it official, he will be a free agent

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This has been expected for a long time, and it doesn’t mean he’s leaving Denver, but it is official now:

Brazilian center Nene is opting out of the last year of his deal the Denver Post reports and will test out the free agent market. Whenever the doors to that market open after the lockout.

Nene was set to make $11.6 million next season, but this is not really that big a risk for him — he is the best center on the market right now and he will get paid for it. Teams (and fans) saw in the finals how much having a big center who can defend the rim and rebound matters in today’s NBA and there are a limited number of guys who can fill that role. Nene is one of them.

There will be demand for his services from a number of teams, but that doesn’t mean he is leaving the Nuggets. Nene will find that the top teams on his wish list of contenders — Boston, the Knicks and there are others — will not have the cap space to sign him at the numbers he wants. Which may make Denver more appealing.

Nene repeatedly has said he would like to retire in a Nuggets uniform. But he expressed concerns about his situation in a wide-ranging interview with The Denver Post after the season.

“I’ve been here for nine years,” Nene, 28, said in early May. “If that doesn’t work how you want it, you need to sit down and evaluate everything and see what you can do.”

This will be one of the big free agency stories to follow. I look forward to following it and not writing about percentages of “basketball related income.”