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A history of the Dwightmares, I through V

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

If you’re counting and we know you are, this trade would amount to Dwightmare VI, the latest version in the Nets’ long pursuit of Dwight Howard which goes back to 2011. Back then, Howard was seen as the second best player in the NBA, after LeBron James. You could look it up.

In case you’ve forgotten and we know you haven’t, here’s a summary of I through V with new information we‘ve accumulated over the years.

DWIGHTMARE I - November 2011

As the NBA lockout winds down, the Nets approach the Magic about a trade for Howard. Howard is interested in playing with the Nets newly acquired point guard and his old friend Deron Williams.

It was to have been a three-team deal that would have had the Nets send three unprotected first round picks -- in 2011, 2013 and 2015 -- to Portand for Gerald Wallace who would have then been packaged along with Brook Lopez and two other Nets picks, their own in 2017 and the Rockets 2011 pick. In return, the Nets, then in New Jersey, would have received Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. The Magic rejected it, angering Howard who thought the deal was done.

Nearly five years later, J.J. Redick recounted to Adrian Wojnarowski how certain Howard was about his impending trade. The then 25-year-old had told his Magic teammates 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.’”

Of course, it didn’t. There was a lot of bad blood between Howard and the Magic front office and between the Nets and Magic who believed the Nets had tampered with their player, although they never filed charges with the league. It’s a good thing they didn’t.

DWIGHTMARE II - March 2011

Oh, the horror. The Nets thought they had a deal at the deadline, pushed back to March 15 because of the lockout. It was the most simple of all the deals, according to Peter Vecsey who reported them after it all fell apart.

The Nets would have sent Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Mehmet Okur’s expiring contract and two or three (lottery-unprotected; at least in one case) No. 1 picks for Howard, according to Vecsey. Hedo Turkoglu, who the Nets would have had to take back in the off-season deal, would not have been involved this time. The Nets no longer owned the salary-cap flexibility needed to assume his $23.8 million deal over the next two seasons. Also, The Nets wouldn’t have had to acquire Gerald Wallace to satisfy the Magic desire for an additional veteran.

On the afternoon of March 14, Howard, in a prearranged conference call, told Magic owners Richard and Dan DeVos, CEO Alex Martins, GM Otis Smith, his then agent Dan Fegan and his parents — he was opting out of next season’s contract, clearing the way for the trade.

“I believe that you will see Dwight traded to New Jersey tomorrow,” one source “close to the process” told Marc Stein, then of ESPN. Billy King had even asked Dr. Riley J. Williams III, the Nets medical director, to come in early the day after the deadline to expedite Howard’s physical.

Then, after the Magic played the Spurs that night, Howard changed his mind ... and the Nets franchise. He decided on the plane to opt in, ending trade talks. J.J. Redick on how it happened.

“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 —

He did not call, text or email the Nets. When the plane landed, Magic front office personnel were on hand with the papers he needed to sign. Those who worked in the Nets front office, on the other hand, were unaware of the turn-of-events until they woke up the next morning.

Fearing they could lose Deron Williams, then a free agent, without another star, Billy King and Bobby Marks panicked. They called the Trailblazers and asked about Gerald Wallace. The Blazers were in rebuild and very interested in getting high picks. So they said yes. The Nets sent Mehmet Okur’s expiring deal, Shawne Williams, and a 2012 1st-round pick (Top 3-protected) to Portland for the soon-to-be 30-year-old. The pick turned into Damian Lillard, who became rookie of the year. It was the worst move King made ... until the Boston Celtics deal 15 months later.


Howard’s people reportedly put out rumors in June that Deron Williams, then a free agent, wouldn’t sign with the Nets without Howard. Both Yahoo! Sports and ESPN posted stories that D-Will wanted another star in Brooklyn and his name had to be Howard. The Nets denied that Williams had made any such demand but they did talk to the Magic before they finalized the deal with the Hawks for Joe Johnson. Billy King told Orlando that the Nets were about to dump some assets they had planned to use in a Howard trade. Did the Magic want to talk again? No, said the Magic. We’re cool.


While the Magic were cool, Howard and Dan Fegan, his agent, were not. They were still pushing the Nets hard to trade for Howard as late as July --even after the Johnson trade. So, the Nets made a final offer of Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, unprotected first round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 for Howard, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. The Magic again rejected the Nets.

The Dwightmare finally came to and end a month later, we thought. Shortly after 1 p.m. ET on August 10 the NBA approved a four team deal that sent Howard to the Lakers and another 11 players and multiple draft picks to other destinations, most notably Andrew Bynum to the 76ers.

The Nets thought they had made a much better offer to the Magic’s new front office. For whatever reason, the Magic did not.

DWIGHTMARE V - June 2017

On the Tuesday before the 2017 Draft, the Nets didn’t know if they would be able to make the deal that would bring D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn. The talks had stalled the previous weekend. So Sean Marks began to look around, Adrian Wojnarowski reported after the Draft.

The Hawks had been deep in negotiations Tuesday with the Brooklyn Nets on a deal, league sources said, but that bid to unload Howard was foiled when Brooklyn made a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to trade Brook Lopez and a first-round pick for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.

Just as the Hornets are now, the Hawks were looking to move Howard who at that point had two years and more than $45 million left on his deal. Who would the Nets have sent out? Woj didn’t discuss that.

And so here we are again. This time, though, it looks real.