COMMENTARY | As the trade rumors involving Dwight Howard begin to gain traction, one team that was once among the frontrunners to make a bid to acquire the All-Star has reportedly lost interest.
According to the New York Daily news, the Brooklyn Nets are happy with Brook Lopez as their center and will not make a play for Howard via trade or in the offseason should he elect to test free agency. It's yet another sign that the Lakers' season has taken an incredible turn in the wrong direction after so much promise.
What a difference half a season makes. The Lakers are 17-24 and in third place in the Pacific Division. Dwight Howard is right in the middle of a circus of a situation in Laker-land with the wrong coach running the wrong system with the wrong players.
Howard hasn't been awful this season, but he hasn't been himself, either. The numbers don't tell the whole story -- he's averaged 17.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 38 games played in 2012-13, but in doing so, he's struggled to find any rhythm within the framework of the new offense under head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Why are the Nets sticking with Lopez? Even though he hasn't rebounded at the same rate as Howard, his production is similar. He's averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a career-high 2.1 blocks per game. Additionally, he's no t nearly as much of a liability at the free-throw line, which is a major concern to any team late in games. This season, he's shot at a 74 percent rate and is a 79 percent free throw shooter for his career. Howard is right around 50 percent for this season and his career.
Still, there are bigger reasons:
The NBA isn't that far removed from its "Dwightmare," where Howard effectively held the Orlando Magic franchise hostage before eventually being traded out of Central Florida. He's made no commitment to Los Angeles at this point, and he's shown a propensity for wavering on nearly all aspects of his game and contract situation.
In his post game interviews, he's cited everything from not getting enough shots to lack of effort as being the culprit for the Lakers' woes this season.
The Nets don't want any part of that.
While looking at the numbers doesn't show a glaring decline in production, watching Howard play absolutely does. The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year is clearly not himself, and is still suffering from the effects of back injury that caused him to miss the end of last season after undergoing surgery.
A torn labrum in his right shoulder caused him to miss three games in January, and it's uncertain whether or not he's completely free of pain in that respect, either. The bottom line is that if he's damaged goods, then teams will shy away from him or be unwilling to give what the Lakers feel is market value.
Even if the book on Howard is being exaggerated and he's not immature, soft or injury-prone, then the Lakers are still hurting him by association. Their gross under-performance has teams like the Brooklyn extremely tentative to make a move for him and reevaluating their take on Howard.
It's ironic and amazing all at the same time. It wasn't long ago that Lakers fans were talking about a 17th banner at Staples Center.
Again, what a difference half a season makes.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as Southern California-based sports journalist. In addition to being an award-winning Yahoo! Contributor, he writes regularly for SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor of Sports Out West.
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