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The Nets need to strike fast because Howard will probably decide all he wants is a pony before the day is out.
If there's ever a documentary made about people destroying their reputations overnight, there should be a spot in it for Dwight Howard.
The only bad thing you could say about the Magic center at this time last year was that he probably could stand to work a little harder on free throw shooting and developing a more varied offensive game. Otherwise, though, he was a good teammate and a franchise icon whose smile was his umbrella.
It feels like it has been a lot more than a year since anyone thought those things about Howard, who has spent the last year refashioning himself as a self-absorbed, paranoid coach-killer with the decision-making abilities of a dehydrated six-year-old.
Howard's latest salvo was to accuse the Magic of blackmailing him into picking up his option for next season (which he now denies, but those who believe any word out of Howard's mouth deserve what they get at this point).
That's a pretty bold move to make when you've spent the better part of a year extorting the franchise for whatever shiny thing is in front of your face. The Magic fired their coach, fired their general manager, bent over backward to give Howard what he wanted and got another trade demand over the weekend for their troubles.
Howard didn't specify the Nets as the one team he's willing to re-sign with after a trade, but no one doubts that he's got his eyes on Brooklyn. You could ask why a team would be interested in Howard after the way he has conducted himself over the last year, especially in light of his totally untethered to reality take on Orlando's "blackmail," but the talent still trumps all in basketball.
The hardest thing to understand is why Howard, who is adult in age if not behavior, chose to pick up that option if, as he claims, he never stopped wanting a trade. He could have signed anywhere he wanted as a free agent, but chose to wreck the Magic from within instead and that's something he'll never live down.
There are other teams interested in trading for Howard, even without the "guarantee" of re-signing from a man who couldn't fulfill a promise with a gun to his head, and no one would blame the Magic for getting a little less of a return if it means keeping Howard from his desired home. The Nets seem to agree since they are proceeding without Howard for the time being.
Gerald Wallace will re-sign with the team when contracts are allowed on July 11 and the team is believed to be close to a deal with the Hawks for shooting guard Joe Johnson, who is almost talented enough to make you ignore the fact that he's wildly overpaid. If both happen, it should boost the Nets' chances of keeping Deron Williams even if Howard winds up crying in a different corner of the country.
On the other side of the river, the Knicks are talking to Steve Nash about coming aboard. In order to pay him more than the minimal scraps available in New York, there's talk of a sign-and-trade that would send Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and/or other spare parts to Phoenix for Nash.
It's definitely scary to think about Nash's back issues on a team that's already dealing with Amar'e Stoudemire falling apart, but there's not much to dislike about a trade like that after watching Fields crash and burn since the end of the first half of his rookie season. If the Knicks can retain Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak -- and there's still no reason to think they can't -- adding a player like Nash would make for a very interesting roster heading into next season.
Even if they can't get it done with Nash, the Knicks will have other options to bolster the backcourt before working on new deals for the two players delivered back to the fold by an arbitrator's ruling. None of them are as exciting as Nash, but they'll also come with a lot less drama than Howard.
After Amar'e, Melo, Tyson Chandler, Linsanity and Mike D'Antoni's ouster, that's not a bad thing.
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