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Old 07-21-06, 05:11 AM
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Elson officially a Spur

Elson officially a Spur
A. Lopez, Rocky Mountain News
Friday, July 21, 2006

For three seasons, backup center Francisco Elson dutifully served as an affordable insurance policy.

On Thursday, the Nuggets decided his updated premiums were just a tad too high.

The Nuggets once again are sans Francisco after declining to match the two-year, $6 million offer sheet Elson signed last week with the San Antonio Spurs.

Because Elson was a restricted free agent, the Nuggets had seven days to match the Spurs' offer or wave goodbye.

"He moved up the ladder and deserves a bigger contract," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I'm happy for that. I'm happy that he went to a good team, but there's disappointment."

Not on Elson's part.

After playing for the league's minimum salary the past two seasons, the 7-foot, 235-pound Elson looked forward to a hefty raise and an opportunity for more playing time.

He started 54 games in place of injured big men Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin, but he averaged only 13 1/2 minutes in the 18 games he did not start. Elson never left the bench in eight other games.

Rarely did he complain, and he was productive when called upon, averaging 5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a starter. The Nuggets were 32-22 in those games.

"The guy did a (great) job for us," Nuggets player personnel director Mark Warkentien said. "We'll miss him."

That being said, the Nuggets were not willing to pay $3 million a season for a 30-year-old spot starter who has averaged 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in three seasons.

With San Antonio, Elson will compete for a starting job alongside perennial All-Star forward Tim Duncan. The Spurs pursued a center after trading Rasho Nesterovic to the Toronto Raptors and losing free agent Nazr Mohammed to the Detroit Pistons.

"It's going to be a great situation," Elson's agent, Calvin Andrews, said.

Elson flew to Europe on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment. He said last week he looked forward to joining the Spurs.

"I'm just eager to play," he said. "I want to do good things in this league. San Antonio is giving me a chance to be part of a championship organization."

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