Nenê Re-Signs with Denver Nuggets, Keeping New Jersey Nets Cap Space Intact for Dwight Howard Pursuit

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Denver Nuggets re-signed forward/center Nenê to a five-year contract worth $67 million, according to multiple reports Tuesday night, with ESPN's Marc Stein (by my unofficial observation) tweeting the news first. The burly Brazilianear had a four-year, $64 million offer from the New Jersey Nets, but chose to stay with the one NBA team he's ever known over the chance to anchor a front line with Brook Lopez when the Nets move to Brooklyn before the next season.

A Western club re-signing its top frontcourt player, oddly enough, has bearing on the Orlando Magic's goal of doing the same when Dwight Howard hits free agency next summer. Had Nenê chosen New Jersey, it would have limited its long-term salary outlook, complicating its pursuit of Howard.

Instead, the Nets' salary cap is mostly clear for 2012-13, making a run at Howard possible and giving them some leverage; if the Nets stay far enough below the cap, it can afford to sign Howard outright as a free agent. And if Howard makes clear the only team with which he'll play is Brooklyn--as Carmelo Anthony did with the New York Knicks last season--he and the Nets can effectively force Orlando to trade him there or risk losing him for nothing come summer.

Again, that outcome is contingent on the Nets being fiscally responsible and Howard ruling out Orlando, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Los Angeles Lakers, which are reportedly the other teams to which he's considering committing long-term.

But New Jersey's cap situation remains rosy, according to ShamSports' salary figures. Assuming it waives Travis Outlaw via the amnesty clause--in the first year of a $35 million contract, the veteran small forward shot 37.5 percent and averaged just 9.2 points per game--the highest guaranteed salary it has on the books will be Anthony Morrow's at $4 million. In addition to Morrow, New Jersey has $3.5 million committed to Johan Petro and could owe Jordan Farmar $4.25 million if he exercises his player option. It will have cap holds on center Brook Lopez, All-Star point guard Deron Williams, and whichever draft picks it signs from the 2011 and 2012 classes. That's all. Clearly, Nenê's choice to stay in Denver will make New Jersey redouble its efforts to lure Howard.

Conspiracy theorists will note Dan Fegan represents Nenê and Howard, and thus could have steered the former toward the Nuggets in order to keep open the possibility of the latter playing in a larger market than Orlando. Please note that's merely a theory some folks may have in response to this news.

What do you make of the Nets' chances of landing Howard, in light of their losing out on Nenê?

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