You've been held captive, we've been held captive, the whole danged sports world has been held captive by Dwight Howard for months. One of the main reasons to feel good about the Brooklyn Nets was how they, in a way no other team really did, decided they'd had enough and moved on with their lives, leaving the door open for a potential Howard trade but not waiting around and letting their roster rot. (Though now they have Kris Humphries for two years and a billion dollars.) There has been a sense, ever since the Magic made it clear they didn't like the Nets' offer enough, that Howard was going to end up a Laker. Last night, he did.
The deal isn't officially finalized — and with Howard, one should probably wait until we see him in a Lakers uniform to believe it, and maybe not even then — but it looks like this is the one. It's four teams. Here's who gets whom:
Lakers: Dwight Howard
Nuggets: Andre Iguodala
76ers: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson
Magic: Arron Affalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and three No. 1 picks (one from each other team)
Howard is still a free agent after this year, and the Lakers are betting that, even though he said he'll only re-sign with the Nets, a year with Kobe and Nash and Gasol in Los Angeles will change his mind. Considering how difficult it'll be for the Nets to get the cap space to sign him, that's probably a good bet.
The essential question, particularly for Nets fans (or, more accurately put, "the many people who are eyeing this new franchise thing with curiosity"), is whether what the Magic got out of this trade was better than the Nets' package. That was essentially Brook Lopez, Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and at least three first-round draft picks. We think they're close, though all told, we might have taken this package instead. But it's tough to argue with NBA.com's Steve Aschburner: "How can you trade the best center of his generation in a deal in which two other All-Stars switch teams (Bynum, Iguodala), yet wind up with neither of them?" The answer, of course, is that the Magic didn't have a lot of choice. They had to get rid of Howard, and they had limited places he would go or they could send him. The scary thing is that, because of Howard's general pain-in-the-arseness, this might have been the best they could do. Particularly because their general manager isn't even the one who made the deal.
Also: We know everyone keeps forgetting this, but Howard is coming off back surgery. We know that everyone is assuming that the Nash-Kobe-Gasol-Howard combo will be dominant, and if everyone's healthy, boy howdy will they ever be. But we'll see. Also, in case you were wondering whether or not, in the NBA, petulant, lying, confused man-children who stomp their feet until they get their way are rewarded ... they totally are! Other than his supposed desire to come to Brooklyn, Howard gets everything he wanted and now gets to go for a title with some of the best players in the world. Everyone will all love him in L.A. and forget any of this ever happened. Justice!
As for how this affects the Nets — and for that matter, the Knicks — well, the second-best player in the trade is now in their division. Bynum instantly becomes the best center in the Eastern Conference (or will at least battle Tyson Chandler for that honor; those two should have some fun battles), and Philadelphia is awfully interesting in what is suddenly a terrific Atlantic Division. (Poor Toronto.)
But mostly: Dwight Howard has finally been traded. It's finally freaking over. And also: Christmas Day for the Knicks just got a lot more fun.