Just when you thought the Nets were out, Dwight Howard pulls them back in.
The Lakers have lost three straight games, creating more speculation about how they're going to make things work with their talented but clearly ill-fitting roster over the course of the season. According to Stephen Bondy of the Daily News, those problems spilled over into a locker room confrontation between Howard and Kobe Bryant after their New Year's Day loss to the Sixers.
Per Bondy, the two players had to be separated from one another after Bryant referenced Shaquille O'Neal's criticisms of Howard as a soft player. Bondy quite reasonably surmises that continued deterioration could lead the Lakers to try to get some return on Howard before he could leave as a free agent after the season.
The urgency to make things work in L.A. and the continuing inability to make it work halfway through the season is only going to stoke more speculation that the Nets are going to try to turn Brook Lopez and assorted other baubles into Howard.
It helps that Lopez has fully rediscovered his game in the first months of the season so it is at least plausible that another team would want him. The Nets spent heavily to get Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, though, and their other assets can almost certainly be topped by another team.
While Howard has admitted that the Lakers have about as much chemistry as a rock and a pile of dirt, he has also said that he has no designs on leaving the team. After last season's disgraceful dithering between wanting to be traded (but only to where he wanted to go) and wanting to stay, however, it's hard to take anything Howard says particularly seriously.
In the end, any rush to embrace this rumor says more about the Nets than it says about the Lakers. They failed to get Howard, spent a ton of money on other players and find themselves still in need of the superstar that's going to push them into the championship-contender level that they've prematurely elevated themselves to in the last couple of years.
While no one would argue that Howard would be a grand acquisition for the Nets, especially since he and Deron Williams could trade coach-killing stories on road trips, it's just another example of the Nets striving for big splashes at every turn. If it works out and Howard is playing for Phil Jackson next year, all will be fine.
If it doesn't, though, the Nets will just continue to be the poster boys for over-promising and under-delivering. Remember that the deals signed by Lopez and Kris Humphries this offseason were designed to be tradeable as much, if not more, than they were designed to be ways to build a winner in Brooklyn.
Always searching for the next big thing is not a sustainable business model which means they either need to land the big fish or turn their attention to other modes of team building once and for all.