Still in free-agent limbo is Team Lithuania’s Linas Kleiza, with an apparent (and puzzling) lack of NBA interest in the former Denver Nugget resulting in few reported offers from the United States. In fact, currently winning in the rumored offer department for Kleiza are none other than good old George, Panayiotis, and Piraeus Olympiacos.
While Denver has put forth a $2.7 million contract offer – the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors haven’t publicly made known any equal deals; still, they’re kinda sorta interested – Olympiacos is thought to have anted up “substantially more money.” (Hey, if they’re rumored to be willing to pony up $5 mil a year to Allen Iverson, Kleiza could easily take, what, $4 million from the Angelopouloses?)
Nuggets captain Chauncey Billups, meanwhile, has made something of an appeal to Denver management via the media, saying that though he understands the man must test the free-agency waters, “We need Lino in Denver.”
Though most mainstream news reports suggest that Nuggets coach George Karl would like Kleiza to return, he also shockingly deployed the forward far less frequently in the 2009 post-season, stating that “putting as many playmakers on the court, rather than scorers, makes us a better team.” So … why would Kleiza re-sign there? Plus, budget-wise, it may simply come down to Kleiza or Anthony Carter, who would be signed for $2.7 million or less.
Though Kleiza is the rare European citizen who hasn’t played youth or professional basketball on The Continent and thus might view taking a European contract as a career-step backward, an offer from Olympiacos and its rich foreign-player roster spot are going to get more and more appealing as the summer rolls on.
FC Barcelona is also rumored to be interested in Kleiza.