Nene gone, but don't panic just yet

Nene is off the market.

The Brazlian big man signed a five-year, $67 million contract to remain in Denver, sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. The Nets had been hot pursuit of Nene, hoping to possibly pair him with Brook Lopez and form a dynamic frontcourt.

Their had been some reports that the Nets were offering Nene four years in the neighborhood of $60 million to $70 million. That no longer matters anymore.

Nene was never the Nets’ priority. He was always their contingency plan.

Orlando center Dwight Howard is and remains New Jersey’s No. 1 target. The Nets are willing to do whatever it takes to land him. And even if they don’t do so now, they won’t give up until he’s signed somewhere else in the summer of 2012.

Lopez. You can have him. Two future first-round picks. Take them.

The Nets want to pair Howard with Deron Williams. They want to have two superstars, two marquee attractions before they move into the $1 billion Barclays Center. And they believe they can lock up both long-term.

The Nets never viewed Nene as a player worthy of a max contract. In fact, from the start of free agency, they viewed no one on the market in that light.

Still, because they had so much cap space, they were confident they’d get either Tyson Chandler or Nene. But the Knicks swooped in out of nowhere to nab Chandler, and now Nene is headed back to the Nuggets.

The Nets made a pair of gaffes last offseason, overpaying for Travis Outlaw (five-years, $35 million) and Johan Petro (three years, $10 million).

They weren't going to make that mistake again.

Obviously, re-signing Kris Humphries now becomes a very realistic possibility. Both sides have said all the right things, it’s just a matter of finding a number that makes sense.

There have also been reports that the Nets may be interested in adding Josh Howard or Shawne Williams at the small forward spot.

Just don’t be surprised if they don’t.

Outlaw is a prime candidate to be waived via the amnesty clause, which would give the Nets $7 million in cap space, but if they don’t have a suitable replacement, they won’t make that move. And as it stands right now, they don’t.

Perhaps the prudent move at this point is keep Outlaw and try to fill out the roster with players on short-term contracts in order to spend 80 percent of the salary cap, while maintaining cap flexibility and continuing to acquire assets that can be used to trades.

Remember any free agent signed this season can be traded in 60 days or March 1, according to the new CBA.

It is understandable why fans would be angry and upset that their team has only signed Shelden Williams so far. But don’t panic just yet.

The Nets can still put together the best package for D-12, and Williams is healthy. That alone is going to produce more wins.

Plus, GM Billy King was hired for a reason. He knows what he’s doing.

He’s orchestrated several blockbuster trades before.

Last season, fans were devastated after the Nets missed out on Melo. They ended up with D-Will.

The Nene news may be difficult to swallow, but the time to panic isn’t now.