Keeping Score

How Dwight Howard’s Brain Could Derail The New Brooklyn Nets

The Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn next year, tried to acquire the hulking Orlando Magic center. But Howard is sticking around Florida. Will the Brooklyn team be a bummer?

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Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

Dwight Howard, of the Orlando Magic, smiles during a game against the Miami Heat at the Amway Center on March 13, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

The NBA’s March 15 trade deadline has passed, without any kind of blockbuster deal (unless you consider the Houston Rockets acquiring Derek Fisher from the Los Angeles Lakers, and Marcus Camby from the Portland Trail Blazers, earth-shattering news). The fate of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was the subject of the most breathless speculation over the last few weeks. Would the Magic trade him, presumably to the New Jersey Nets, a team desperate to secure stars as they prepare to move across the Hudson and East Rivers to Brooklyn? Howard could be a free agent after this season and he has given every indication that he is ready to move on, which presented Orlando with a stark choice; part with Howard now and get some talent in return, or have him walk at the end of the season, and be left empty-handed.

Or was it possible that Howard would stick around Central Florida?

The Howard psychodrama is over, at least for now. In the end, he opted to commit to playing for Orlando for another season, touting his loyalty to the only city he has called his professional home. His decision temporarily ends an annoying distraction for Orlando fans, and Howard’s teammates and coaches. But it might send another franchise, the beleaguered Nets, over the deep end.

It’s already been a rough year for the floundering franchise. New Jersey has a 15-29 record, barely ahead of the Toronto Raptors for last place in the Atlantic division. Since the Nets didn’t deal for Howard, New Jersey’s star player, point guard Deron Williams, is more likely to leave as a free agent after this season. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the best in the business, will surely try to lure Williams back to Big D, where the All-Star grew up. Maybe Howard can join him there after next season, creating a Dwight-Deron-Dirk (Nowitzki) dream team.

New Jersey now has to convince Williams it can sign Howard after next season, or offer enough young assets to trade for Howard or another star in 2012-2013. If you’re Williams, why take that risk, when riches, and possible championship rings, await in Dallas.

If Williams leaves, the Nets could be entering their new $1 billion Brooklyn arena with players like Gerald Wallace, whom the team acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers at the trade deadline, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar and Kris Humphries, aka Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband. For the new Brooklyn Nets, those aren’t the ideal names for the opening night marquee.

That’s the NBA, and sports business, really: years of planning – the Brooklyn arena was originally supposed to open in 2006, but litigation and financial difficulties delayed project – and millions of dollars in investment now carry more risk, because of the fickle nature of a hulking seven-footer fond of dressing up like Superman. Oh well. The Nets can take some comfort. No matter how badly the new Brooklyn team plays, something is bound to go haywire with their new New York City neighbors, the Knicks.

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