It started (and ended) in the middle of a Wednesday night in March 2012.
The day before, Dwight Howard told the Nets that he would decline his player option with the Magic, setting up a trade deadline deal with New Jersey that would change the NBA. Nets executives had gone to sleep thinking the next day would show the way to Brooklyn.
Then, early in the morning of March 15, 2012, Howard decided on the team bus to stay in Orlando. There would be no deal, no explanation. Howard's decision ended the Nets best hopes of signing a second superstar for their move to New York and one chapter of the Dwightmare.
Now, comes J.J. Redick, then of the Magic, now of the Clippers, to describe what things were like that night and how the notoriously immature Howard decided. Here's what he told Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical...
So we play the game, we get on the bus, and we get on the plane, and then I was kind of in the back of the players section, listening to music and then all of a sudden I notice that guys are kind of goofing around, and they start taking pictures, and it’s like, this is our last time together. We’re gonna take pictures. So they start taking photos of each other, I think somebody had posted a photo on Twitter.
And then like after five minutes, Dwight’s just like, ‘you know what, I love you guys. I’m coming back.’
And really, that was it! That was it! There was no, like — there wasn’t a heart-to-heart, it was just he was having a good time on the plane, and decided he wanted to come back. And I’m sure there was more to it than that, but —
That was it. Good Time Dwight liked where he was, who he played with. Those same Nets executives who had gone to sleep to enjoy sweet dreams woke up to a nightmare. One said he found out about it on NetsDaily. So did Nets fans who filled NetsDaily with more than 15,000 mostly angry comments that day. That's still the site record. Later that day, of course, the Nets traded Mehmet Okur and Shawne Williams plus a lightly protected first round pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace. The pick turned into rookie of the year Damian Lillard.
The day's events surprised a lot of his teammates, too. Redick says. Howard had told them as early as training camp that he was headed to Brooklyn.
(Dwight)’s free agency’s approaching, he wants to go to a bigger market, which is every player’s right to choose where they want to go during free agency, and I want to say that there’s a deal on the table right before the season started, right after the lockout ended, for him to go to Brooklyn. And I can remember being in the shower after practice, one of those first practices — we had like a week of practice, and then the season started. We’re second day, third day, whatever it was, and him saying ‘I love you guys, I’m headed to Brooklyn, trade’s going down later tonight.’
That earlier proposal, a three-team deal, would had the Nets send three unprotected first round picks -- in 2011, 2013 and 2015 -- to Portand for Gerald Wallace who would have been packaged along with Brook Lopez and two other Nets picks, their own in 2017 and the Rockets 2011 pick, for , Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. The Magic rejected it, angering Howard.
There were various iterations as the season turned into the off season. Howard was still pushing the Nets to trade for him in July and the Nets made a final offer of Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, unprotected first round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 for Howard, Jason Richardson, Duhon and Earl Clark. The Magic again rejected the Nets.
Finally, in August, the Dwightmare ended with the Magic, 76ers, Lakers and Nuggets.swapping players, picks and rights. Howard wound up with the Lakers, where he spent an unhappy season with Kobe Bryant.
There's a lot more details in the conversation, if you can stand it. We can't.