Big baby Dwight Howard leaves the Nets in the lurch

Richard G. Carter | 10/12/2012, 4:17 p.m.
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"You have to go to a museum to see a frame like this..." -Joe Mantegna, "House of Games" (1987)

Power forward Glen Davis of the Orlando Magic is known throughout pro basketball as "Big Baby," but after the trade fiasco involving his teammate Dwight Howard and the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets, it is Howard who deserves the nickname.

Displaying the immaturity of a teenager and backbone of a jellyfish, the muscular 6-foot-11 Howard flip-flopped more than Mitt Romney. After asking the Magic to trade him to the Nets prior to the season, he waffled big-time before changing his mind and citing "loyalty" to Orlando in a bizarre "don't blame me," nationally televised news conference on March 15--three hours prior to the trade deadline.

Following Howard's childish gibberish, Miami heat superstar Dwyane Wade sent this from Twitter: "Loyalty hahahahaha." Uh-huh.

The Nets had eagerly awaited the big center's arrival, and their management felt it was a lock the night before Howard publicly punked out. In effect, Howard held the Nets and their fans hostage for months. During that time, the team signed players to one-year contracts, passed on solid free agents and didn't renew center Brook Lopez's contract.

Called "DCoward" by disappointed bloggers on the NetsDaily web site, frustration over the trade--which seemed like a slam dunk--became the "Dwightmare." Thus, when the Nets open the 2012-13 National Basketball Association season in the sparkling new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it will likely be without Howard, aka "Superman."

As far as this season is concerned, had the trade happened at the deadline, the Nets might well have a 22-28 record at this writing, with a good chance to make the playoffs. Instead, they are a pathetic 16-34, with only 16 games remaining.

Howard is the NBA's best center and strongly indicated he wanted to team up with his good friend, Nets' playmaker-supreme Deron Williams. He'd have been the face of the franchise in Brooklyn and was advised by agent Dan Fegan of lucrative endorsement opportunities in the big city market compared to Orlando, but he punked out.

Now that the smoke of the "Dwightmare" has cleared, let's flash back to how it unfolded and take a look at the who, what, why, when, where and how of the abortive trade. It was a roller coaster ride from the start.

Devised by GMs Billy King of the Nets and Otis Smith of the Magic, the original deal prior to the season would have sent Lopez and forward Gerald Wallace--obtained from Portland--to Orlando, with four first draft picks for Howard and forward Hedo Turkuglo. Howard was agreeable and displayed none of his phony loyalty then.

Smith was overruled by Orlando management, led by its billionaire patriarch, 86-year-old owner Rich DeVos, who was hell-bent on trying to keep Howard at least until after the Feb. 26 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. This seemed silly at the time.

Things began to sour for the Nets on Dec. 21 in the final preseason game versus the New York Knicks, when the 7-foot Lopez suffered a broken right foot. After regular play began on Dec. 25, the Magic compiled a good record and the Nets lost a lot more than they won. As the trade deadline approached, speculation over Howard to the Nets mounted and the "Dwightmare" was in full bloom.