It says pretty much everything you know about the state of basketball today — and the Brooklyn Nets' full-on face-first leap into it — that yesterday, a day in which they officially committed $305 million to seven players, will ultimately be remembered for the one player they didn't get. Honestly, though: Not having to obsess over Dwight Howard, at last, must feel like a relief. Now the Nets can get back to the business of putting together a real, living, breathing basketball team.
In the wake of the late-afternoon news that the Magic would not be trading Howard for Brook Lopez and a package of flotsam after all, everyone went back to work with the knowledge that we're probably only free from constant Howard talk for about five months or so, until the Nets can try to trade Lopez for him again. (The idea being that the Magic will be that more desperate to trade him when they're looking no return right in the face. Of course, by then we'll be dealing with a not-particularly-motivated-and-still-recovering-from-surgery Howard, whose value might never be lower. Howard never does himself any favors.) Fortunately, the Nets won't be sitting on their hands waiting for Howard for the next few months: They have plenty to do, what with the dirty business of launching a whole new franchise in a borough that hasn't had professional top-level sports in 50-plus years.
They're all over that, though. The Nets had been launching their rollout this week with or without Howard, and it'll be a whole shindig, starting with tomorrow afternoon's big pep-rally thing that will feature Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. (It's at Borough Hall, if you're free.) They'll be officially signing Brook Lopez to his "max" deal sometime today, too, and then the Nets will have their real, live team, the one they'll christen the new building with.
How's it look? Well, the starting lineup is pretty solid, with Williams, Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Bosnian forward Mirza Teletovic, and Lopez. Plus, now they have a bench and upcoming draft picks, since they didn't trade all of it for Howard, and they'll probably be bringing Kris Humphries back. (As much fun as it is to make fun of Kris Humphries, he's a terrific rebounder.) And don't forget Adam Morrison!
The Nets are probably not a title contender, not without Dwight Howard. But this is a good team that's going to matter their first year and is going to make the playoffs. Considering how little they had just a week and a half ago, and how much is on the line, that's a roaring success, Dwight Howard or not.
Not that you're still not going to hear Howard's name over and over and over for the next six months, because the man is just inescapable. At least the Nets will win some games in that time to distract us.