At 4-11, the Brooklyn Nets aren't very good. They're at the bottom of the NBA in defensive efficiency and their offense isn't much better. Three players skipped the team's two-game road trip with injuries, and a fourth missed seven straight games heading into tonight.
Here's three things to watch on the floor that aren't soda as they take on the 11-5 Houston Rockets.
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Former imaginary Brooklyn Net Dwight Howard & the Houston Rockets host Brooklyn. (AP)
One day after the NBA fined coach Jason Kidd roughly the median family income for spilled soda, the 4-11 Brooklyn Nets land in Texas to take on the 11-5 Houston Rockets, led by one man that the Nets desperately tried to acquire two seasons ago.
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On December 9, 2011, Chris Broussard tweeted that the New Jersey Nets were Dwight Howard’s number one choice for his impending free agency.
The tweet came around one in the morning, and I was so excited that I called one of my closest friends (a Celtics fan) to brag that my favorite team was about to become a championship contender. In my excitement, I rang his house, not his cell, awoke his mom, and felt like an idiot. ... MORE →
At least once per day (okay, maybe not every day, but most days) someone on Twitter or that I know personally asks me about the chances that the Brooklyn Nets have to acquire unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard this offseason.
For those unaware, the Nets spent a better part of a full season in 2011-12 decimating their team, coming up with crapshot proposals with three and four teams involved, and putting on a fireworks show when Howard came to town in Newark (no, really, a fireworks show, inside the arena) trying to woo him, before the Magic eventually flipped Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers for spare parts in the offseason. Now, there's a report this morning that Howard wants to leave Los Angeles for good.
Here's Mario Elie's exact quote, if you can't get the video to play:
"Hopefully, Dwight Howard, you've got to come down to Texas, man. No state taxes, ain't no pressure down here. You don't have to worry about LA, Hollywood, or Brooklyn. Texas is great. The fans are terrific down here. We support. We're not like the Miami fans leaving when the game's not even over. (laughs) We stay until the end here in Houston. Come on down to Texas, Dwight."
Elie is currently a Brooklyn Nets assistant coach, listed alongside Popeye Jones, Doug Overton, and Patrick Spurgin (technically a player development coach). With new Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd looking to build a bench with significant coaching experience, all four may not make it to next season. Elie's mind is elsewhere -- even if Elie doesn't end up with the Rockets organization, he played for the team from 1993-98.
As for Howard, the Nets have no shot to acquire him anyway -- they're over the cap and can't sign him outright, and can't do a sign-and-trade since they're above the luxury tax apron; the team would need to shed about $30 million in salary just to get there. Not happening.
I was pretty panicked about the state of the Nets a year ago. And I still contend I had every reason to feel that way. The superstar defensive stalwart center the team had been chasing all year had just opted to finish the season in Orlando while indulging in a bowl of his “favorite candies” (I think at this point, it’s become a prerequisite for every rant of mine to mention Dwight Howard ACTUALLY being bribed by candy to waive his opt-out clause – good luck with this clown LA). On the same day, the Nets traded their lottery pick (with minimum protections) for a month-long rental of a nearly 30-year-old player who’s nickname was “Crash” based on his reckless, bone-crunching style of play. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez were expected to become free agents – unrestricted and restricted respectfully. And the team’s best player under contract going into the following season was a toss-up between a one-dimensional gunner (Anthony Morrow), or an all-offense, no-defense rookie who had lost the confidence of his coaching staff (MarShon Brooks).
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Speculation was sparked Thursday, just before Dwight Howard and the Lakers were about to get blown out on national television against their same-city rivals, the LA Clippers. Stephen A. Smith and Nets announcer Ryan Ruocco held their usual daytime radio show on ESPN Radio, 98.7 FM, NY. During the show, a caller asked the duo about a potential Dwight Howard trade to the Knicks. Ruocco responded by saying how Dwight's recent comments have sounded like a guy who will not be in LA next season. Smith agreed and shed even more knowledge on the former Orlando Magic center's thinking:
SAS: He's not happy being in LA, he's not happy playing alongside Kobe. No matter what he says...so I don't know what's gonna happen. Jim Buss is walking around telling everybody he's 95% certain Dwight's staying. Now; he can sign a 5 year deal for like $117 million I think, with the Lakers. He can sign for about 4 years and like $87 million with anybody else. But that 5th year is usually an option year. And so really it's like an extra $3 million as opposed to and extra $30 million on the contract....
I'm just of the mindset, and I had a reliable source tell me this, Dwight Howard will categorically deny it, but I trust my source; when they were playing Toronto, he sat there on the court and told Rudy Gay - "You messed up bad man, you should've waited and ended up with me in Brooklyn." that's what he told him. Now here's the problem; he doesn't determine that. He can't force his way to Brooklyn, he can't pull that off.
Now remember, the way the rules are stipulated now, you understand, the reality of the situation is that the Nets...he had his chance. Now if they want let go of Brook Lopez and they're able to unload Kris Humphries, you know, things of that nature, that could happen. But the Nets will have to be willing to capitulate and the Lakers have to be convinced that he's definitely going to leave. They've got less than a week. The trading deadline's rapidly approaching, it's February 21st, so it's a problem, but I'm just telling you...
RR: He's still saying that. He still thinks he's going to Brooklyn?
SAS: He still believes it.
RR: Is he just delusional or...?
SAS: Yes, he is...it's not that it's impossible, it's that he doesn't have the right to dictate anything. Now he's got an exceptional agent in Dan Fegan that can make some maneuvers, but if Dan Fegan had his way, he would've been in Brooklyn last year. You gotta remember when he opted in to stay in Orlando, he did that behind Dan Fegan's back.
RR: Dan was not happy about that, I'd assume.
SAS: Now Otis Smith, the former general manager for the Orlando Magic...understand that Otis Smith didn't like, back door Dwight or anything. When Dwight Howard came to him after they lost to San Antonio that Tuesday night, Otis Smith said go ahead and think about it. Don't make a rash decision. He didn't back door him. He wasn't sleazy or anything like that. Dwight Howard came, spoke to people and obviously, pressure from the family because the dad...the Orlando Magic organization did a phenomenal job of ingratiating itself with the Dwight Howard family. The father did not want him to leave, did not want him to leave. I'm telling you, I know what I'm saying. I met the father, I talked to the father. Father don't rate particularly fond of me. You understand because I looked him in the face told him where I stood on the matter...he wants...he wanted his son to remain in Orlando.
So my point is that when Dwight Howard opted in, he did it behind Fegan's back. Fegan had nothing to do with that.
RR: "Oh yeah, yeah, I know."
SAS: "So, if you could do it behind your agent's back once, you're very unpredictable...."
Smith's comments have to make fans wonder whether Dwight Howard to the Nets is still a possibility. Although incorrect with his estimations of the different types of contracts Howard could sign if he were to re-sign with LA or go elsewhere (it's really about 5 years, $100 million with LA and 4 years, $75 million elsewhere), the main point is that according to Stephen A., Dwight still yearns for Brooklyn. Also according to Stephen A.; Dwight still remains delusional.
Others around All-Star weekend are also trying to concoct ways in which a Dwight to Brooklyn move would be possible. Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com offered a scenario in which the Lakers and Nets could do a sign and trade deal to bring D12 to BKN. Unfortunately, with both the Nets and Lakers being severely over the cap, a sign and trade during the summer would be near impossible. Sheridan responded by saying this:
To tweeps dismissing Dwight scenario because tax teams can't do S&Ts, my cap guru says would be difficult but not impossible for #Nets.
In a conversation with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith this week, Los Angeles Lakers center and former apple of Mikhail Prokhorov's eye Dwight Howard confirmed that he's happy in Los Angeles, and neither anticipates nor welcomes a midseason trade. Howard notes that while his first choice destination was Brooklyn, it wasn't in the cards. "I know what I wanted to do. It wasn't allowed. And that situation is behind me."
"I understand about all the trade talks," said Howard. "But (Lakers president) Jim Buss has made it clear that nobody is getting traded. (GM) Mitch (Kupchak) has made it clear, and they're going to leave the decision at the end of the year up to me. But I think it's too early to separate this team."
Howard, who underwent season-ending back surgery last April and has struggled to return to 100% form since, says his back is about 75%. "This is my first year coming off back surgery. I really don't think people understand the severity of the surgery and how long it takes to recover."
As far as his expectations for the Lakers? "Getting to the playoffs and winning a championship. (It) hasn't changed."
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and small forward Metta World Peace will both sit tonight's game out vs. the Brooklyn Nets. Howard is nursing a shoulder injury that's kept him in and out of the lineup for the past few weeks, while the inappropriately named World Peace has been suspended one game for grabbing Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight around the neck and striking him in the jaw.
Without Howard or World Peace, the Nets' chances of winning increase drastically against a Lakers team that is just 8-18 on the road this season. Los Angeles will likely re-insert Pau Gasol into the starting lineup. They may also move Earl Clark to small forward and start either Antawn Jamison or Robert Sacre.
Recently, Brooklyn Nets fans have clamored to fill what seems like the team's #1 weakness: the need for a power forward/big man that can defend and score. As endearing as Reggie Evans' beard is, his lack of an offensive game has begun to wear on some folks, and it's clear he's best suited coming off the bench to provide energy in the second unit. Mirza Teletovic & Kris Humphries both have had hot & cold stretches all season.
But it isn't that easy. Nets GM Billy King can't just pick a great power forward off the Great Power Forward Tree, and boom, all the problems are fixed and the Nets cruise their way to championship behind their big man tandem of Brook Lopez and Great Power Forward. But similarly, there's no question that there are big men out there that the Nets can at least make a phone call about.
So we're going roundtable-style at The Brooklyn Game: our writers & analysts look at five potentially available power forwards (and the one center that we have to look at, because, well, we have to), how they fit with Brooklyn, and how realistic an acquisition is.