HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Dwight Howard is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Which means that he’s not a member of the Brooklyn Nets, and probably won’t ever be. What seemed like an inevitability on multiple occasions is now very unlikely.
The Nets had angled for Howard for a period of seven months, offering various packages that centered around 24 year-old Brook Lopez, cap relief, and multiple draft picks. Their first push came at the conclusion of the lockout, using their cap space to offer the Magic a ton of long-term salary relief. No deal.
Then, at the trade deadline in March, the Nets were ready again. And all along, it was clear that Howard’s top choice was to join Deron Williams in Brooklyn. But sometimes, players don’t get what they want. And Howard botched the plan by waiving his early termination option just hours before the Magic would have been forced to make a deal.
Perhaps he thought at the time that he could go to the playoffs with the Magic and get the trade he wanted in the summer. But then he got hurt, Otis Smith was fired, and when the Nets pushed for a trade again last month, new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said “no thanks.”
So when the deal with the Lakers was finalized on Friday, Williams didn’t have much of a reaction.
“Billy [King] did everything he could to try get a deal done,” he told reporters in London. “They didn’t want to deal with us. What can you do?”
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Deron Williams had checked out of the Dwight Howard rumors after Team USA’s Las Vegas training camp. Honestly. Too many twists and turns.
So when he woke up Friday and found out Howard was headed to the Lakers, his disappointment was only marginal.
“We went down that road,” the Nets’ franchise player said after Team USA made it to the gold-medal game by trouncing Argentina Friday night.
“Mentally I wasn’t in the Dwight sweepstakes anymore. It just got kind of old. I’m happy for him. I know he wanted to get out of Orlando. He did that and he’s going to a great franchise and I wish him the best of luck.”
The Nets basically moved on when they re-signed Lopez to a max deal on July 11, rendering him untradeable until Jan. 15. But they certainly would have been ready again if the Magic held on to Howard for that long.
Now, the door is completely closed, and the Nets are really moving on. The opportunity to team Williams with Howard is gone, but they’ll still be a very good team. Few teams can match a starting lineup of Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Lopez.
The focus goes back to Lopez. In the spotlight of all the trade rumors, he’s been scrutinized non-stop since December. He played just five games last season and must improve his defense and rebounding. But he’s still just 24 years old with plenty of potential for improvement … and plenty to prove.
“I think Brook is a great piece to have,” Williams said. “He’s been injured. He’s been on teams that don’t get much attention. I know he’s looking forward to having a big year.”