Brooklyn Nets History Vault: Nightmare On Dwight Street

The Brooklyn Nets are in a state of transition right now. This month Mikhail Prokhorov bought out Bruce Ratner and his partners for the Nets and various other commodities. Then Lionel Hollins was fired as Head Coach and General Manager Billy King was reassigned (allegedly) to other advisement duties in the organization (aka, as you were, just don’t get seen) on a Sunday afternoon. As of this writing, there have been no replacements and the team is the cautionary tale of NBA teams going forward of what not to do in ways of dealing with the luxury tax and future draft picks.

This is a long descriptive way of saying that the Brooklyn Nets are a dysfunctional mess. No doubt about it.

But would you believe that this franchise could have been in even worse shape?

Forget the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry deal on draft night. There was a worse deal the Brooklyn Nets (then in New Jersey) could have done that REALLY could have destroyed the franchise.

Think I’m lying? Why don’t you call Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers and see how they’re doing these days.

Back in March of 2012, the Nets franchise was preparing for a major trade deadline deal with the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard. Yes, that Dwight Howard, you know the starting center for the Houston Rockets who the Nets swept this year.

Around that time, the Nets were making the transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The Nets had just traded for Deron Williams and there were questions about his future, considering he hadn’t signed his extension yet. At the time the Nets had to keep him, considering the assets that were given up, including the number three pick overall Derrick Favors. The franchise had to show Williams that they were serious about surrounding him with talent, especially after the shock of leaving a perennial winner in Utah.

The Dwight Howard deal was supposed to be “Plan A”.

The day before things were supposed to go down. Dwight Howard himself told the Nets that he was not going to exercise his player option and become a free agent. This, in theory, was no surprise considering he was not getting along with coach Stan Van Gundy and his assumed “Wanna be Shaq” like behavior and go to a bigger market. He had went as far as letting his intentions known in training camp.

Fast forward to 2016 and J.J. Redick’s interview on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast, Vertical. He described what went down…

Dwight’s free agency’s approaching, he wants to go to a bigger market, which is every player’s right to choose where they want during free agency, and I want to say that there’s a deal on the table right before the season started, right after the lockout ended, for him to go to Brooklyn. And I can remember being in the shower after practice, one of those first practices - we had like a week of practice, and then the season started. We’re second day, third day, whatever it was, and him saying ‘I love you guys, I’m heading to Brooklyn, trade’s going down later tonight.’

Then came the big change of heart. It didn’t go down like DeAndre Jordan getting shipped off somewhere so the Los Angeles Clippers could make their last plea. It went down like this.

J.J. Redick on the Vertical…

“So we play the game, we get on the bus, and we get on the plane, and then I was kind of in the back of the players section, listening to music and then all of a sudden I notice that guys are kind of goofing around, and they start taking pictures, and it’s like, this is our last time together. We’re gonna take pictures. So they start taking photos of each other, I think someone had posted a photo on Twitter.

And then like after five minutes, Dwight’s just like,  ‘you know what, I love you guys. I’m coming back.’

And really, that was it! That was it! There was no, like - there wasn’t a heart to heart, it was just he was having a good time on the plane, and decided he wanted to come back. And I’m sure there was more to it than that, but…

There was more, J.J., much more…

Then came that awful press conference where Howard professed his love and commitment to the franchise. It was awkward and not a soul believed a word he said. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith basically described that phony statement to a “T”, saying something wasn’t right behind the scenes and basically blasted him for being so disingenuous.

I don’t know Stephen A. Smith personally, even though we both went to Winston Salem State University, but after Dwight Howard threw Stan Van Gundy under the bus to management trying to get him fired and to have the audacity to smile to Van Gundy’s face during that fateful interview when Stan found out, showed Smith’s evaluation in spades. Believe me, no one believes that LeBron James wasn’t in on the idea that David Blatt was fired, but compared to Dwight Howard’s act, LeBron deserves an Oscar for “Favorite Actor In A Coach Firing”.

Instead, Billy King in a knee jerk reaction to save face that he was known for (like the hiring of Lionel Hollins) traded Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a first-round pick for Gerald Wallace. That pick turned into Damian Lillard.

Here was the initial plan to get Howard to Brooklyn…

The Nets would have sent three unprotected first-round picks in 2011, 2013, and 2015 to Portland for Gerald Wallace. Then Wallace would be packaged with Brook Lopez and two other Nets picks for Howard, Hedo Turkgolu, and Chris Duhon. Orlando, who had seen this movie before when Shaquille O’Neal left, surprisingly rolled the dice and said no.

Reports were still leaking out that Dwight Howard was pushing the Nets to trade for him well into the offseason. The Nets made a final offer of Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, and three unprotected first-round picks 2013, 2015, and 2017 for Howard, Jason Richardson, Duhon, and Earl Clark. The Magic again said no.

Now if you are a Brooklyn Nets fan who was upset about what went down, get on your knees and thank God. Dwight Howard eventually went to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three team deal and left after one injury-plagued year and set that franchise back that has an effect to this day. Howard left $30 million on the table to take less money in Houston, where he is paving his way again for the exits.

Here’s what would have happened in Brooklyn had the trade went down. Somebody would have hurt his feelings (remember Avery Johnson was the coach back then) and Howard would have bailed. At least Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Gerald Wallace, and Jason Terry had some type of professionalism. Does Howard?

I’ll wait.

If you think the Lakers look bad after a year with Dwight Howard, think about where the Nets would be with Dwight “Fly By Night” Howard’s antics.

Billy King had better thank his lucky stars the Brooklyn Nets never found out.