David Zalubowski, Associated Press
DENVER — George Karl was sad to see his big man traded away for more reasons than just his contribution on the court.
Nene also helped the Denver Nuggets' coach through his battle with cancer two years ago.
"There's a connection there that I hope I will always have with him," Karl said.
The Nuggets sent the talented yet often-injured Nene to Washington in a three-team deal Thursday, 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 Wizards and Nuggets both announced.
The Nuggets 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 recent play of rookie forward Kenneth Faried made Nene expendable.
Still, Karl will always hold a soft spot for Nene, who fought back from a serious knee injury in 2005 and overcame a bout of testicular cancer in 2007-08.
When Karl disclosed he was battling neck and throat cancer in February 2010, Nene was someone to lean on.
"His family was good to me through my cancer situation," Karl said. "There's more than just a basketball friendship there, there's a humanist, a mindfulness and soulfulness."
ESPN was among the first to report the trade.
It's the second straight season the Nuggets have orchestrated a deal at the deadline. They sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster deal in February 2011. That move fired up the Nuggets, who went 18-7 down the stretch before falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
The Nuggets, who are in the thick of the playoff chase once again this season, are without a superstar. Instead, Karl relies on his superior depth to wear teams down and McGee figures to help in that regard.
Turiaf is on the mend after breaking his left hand on Jan. 1, though Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri said Thursday night the plan is to waive Turiaf.
Denver remains hopeful of working out a long-term deal with Wilson Chandler, who played for with Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association during the lockout.
"We did (this trade) with the intention of the big picture. Make the team better," Ujiri said. "We felt that the direction of the organization at this time was we wanted to go a little bit younger."
The deal ends up costing the Clippers virtually nothing. Cook hasn't cracked their rotation since signing with the club before last season.
This also will be a homecoming for Young, a Los Angeles native and a two-time all-conference standout at Southern California before becoming a consistent NBA scorer in five seasons with Washington, averaging 17.4 points per game last season and 16.6 this year. The versatile swingman seems to be an ideal fit for the Clippers, who have been eager to add perimeter scoring punch to their talented lineup after losing veteran guard Chauncey Billups to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last month.
Although Young is notorious for his reluctance to pass, the Clippers have plenty of playmakers with Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and even Blake Griffin. Young, a free agent after the season, will be asked to provide some added offense as the Clippers move toward their second playoff berth in 15 years and just their second winning season in two decades.
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