There was a time when Dwight Howard was going to be the star that opened up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
After the lockout ended just in time for the 2011-12 season, Howard was a disgruntled member of the Orlando Magic who spent the next few months trying to force his way to Brooklyn. He wanted to play with Deron Williams. The Nets were game, Billy King tried to keep the talks alive, but the Magic were trying to convince Howard to stay, and even if they made a move the Nets lacked the kind of assets the Magic wanted in return. Talks stalled out, but Howard had the hammer of being able to leave as a free agent at the end of the season.
Then right before the trade deadline Howard inexplicably signed a waiver saying he wouldn’t opt out that summer. He gave up all his leverage. He wasn’t traded and then missed much of the end of the season with back issues. That August he was traded to the Lakers, a marriage that lasted a year before Howard would up in Houston.
Monday night is the first time Howard will have played at the Barclays Center and he talked with Tim Bontemps of the New York Post about that effort to get to Brooklyn.
“It’s something that, at the time, would have been the best move,” Howard said Monday morning before his Rockets play the Nets at Barclays Center.
“But everything happens for a reason. I was looking forward to one day being in Brooklyn at the time, but I found a great home in Houston, our team is playing exceptionally well, and we have a great opportunity to do something special.”
Howard landed on his feet, but the Nets really did not. Without Howard and with a building to open Billy King was given orders by owner Mikhail Prokhorov to spend whatever it took, trade whatever assets he had to but assemble a team that would win right now. Ideally a championship. What they got was by far the most expensive team in NBA history, 44 wins and the second round of the playoffs.
However, that team was not built to last. Paul Pierce is gone, the Nets are struggling and they traded away most of the quality assets they needed to rebuild. Now that franchise is in position to start a rebuild that likely takes years and could be a mess.
Howard used the word regret when talking about how that all worked out, but now he’s in a good spot.
“Yeah, you always have those regrets or whatever,” Howard admitted. “But one thing I try to do is live without regrets. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. There was a point in time where I thought this was the best place for me to play basketball, and I guess things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to happen.”