Nets Strike Out Again, Need Dwight Howard Before Things Get Ugly

ORLANDO FL - FEBRUARY 08: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts to a foul during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Amway Arena on February 8 2011 in Orlando Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this Photograph user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The New Jersey Nets have failed in free agency ... again. The team desperately needs to pull a trade for Dwight Howard, and soon. Also in The Hook: Kwame Brown, DeAndre Jordan and setting cash on fire.

The New Jersey Nets clearly wanted Nene, the Brazilian center who spent his first nine seasons with the Denver Nuggets. Reports suggest that the Nets offered Nene the max on a four-year deal, $64 million. Instead of taking that, Nene opted for the comforts of home, taking $67 million over five years from Denver -- a decent per-year haircut.

Nene is off the market. Marc Gasol, who stayed with the Memphis Grizzlies, is off the market. David West, gone. Tyson Chandler is not only gone, but signed with the Nets' bitter rival in Manhattan. The Nets have all of that cap space left, and the market is being torn down for the year. Either Kris Humphries or Carl Landry is the best big man left on the market. Pardon my lack of excitemezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The Nets are in a pickle, considering that Deron Williams is months away from unrestricted free agency and the team as constructed is heading for a sub-.500 season. (The team went 7-18 after the All-Star Game.) The Nets have relatively little in the pipeline: Derrick Favors and the draft pick that became Enes Kanter were sent off for D-Will, and while a bad season would give the Nets a good pick in a great draft, selling Williams on, uh, John Henson or Perry Jones could be a quixotic effort. The Nets need to ensure that Williams re-signs; to ensure that Williams re-signs, the Nets need to get better now.

So it's all on the Dwight Howard chase, with reports suggesting that the Nets have re-doubled efforts to land the eternal Defensive Player of the Year. I'm not exactly sure what the Nets can do in addition to what they've already offered -- that'd be Brook Lopez and two draft picks -- but there is talk about swelling it into a four-team deal that would get Orlando another useful player.

We've talked about the New York Knicks learning from their mistakes in the great LeBron chase of 2010; the Knicks actually bucked conventional wisdom and didn't repeat the LeBron chase by holding out hope (and cap space) for Chris Paul. The Knicks surprised everyone and latched on to Tyson Chandler, who fills a more immediate need. The Nets entered 2011 free agency well behind even the Knicks, and still need a second star to take the load off of Williams. They tried to add a second strong player (though I hesitate to call Nene a "star"), struck out and will try again. While the Knicks had the option of trying to fill a need this year or gambling on CP3 next year, the Nets really have no choice but to swing hard until one pops off the bat just right. 

The other variable is time. The Magic seem far less rushed than the New Orleans Hornets when it comes to pawning off their superstar. Orlando might even think it has a chance to save its relationship with Dwight. That's a problem for the Nets, considering that the season can get out of hand quickly and New Jersey would seem to have no other serious options for improvement. The Nets need to put this thing on rails.

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BURNING MONEY

Much was made of the Golden State Warriors' seemingly hilarious $7 million, one-year deal with Kwame Brown. OK, it's pretty hilarious. Kwame is not terribly good, he's certainly not $7 million good and the Warriors are being really silly this offseason.

But Kwame isn't the Warriors' silliest attempt at improving the frontcourt. That would have been that massive $43 million offer to DeAndre Jordan.

The L.A. Clippers had no choice but to bail the Warriors out -- with Chris Kaman likely to be involved in any possible Chris Paul trade, L.A. needed a center in place. That Jordan is Blake Griffin's best friend and is popular in the locker room helps, too. I hesitate to think that Golden State knew all along that the Clippers would keep Jordan; after all, to make room for Jordan, the Warriors blew their amnesty clause on Charlie Bell (who is on a $4 million expiring contract) and rescinded its option to match Reggie Williams' contract.

The Bell thing is bizarre. Clearly, Mark Jackson and portions if not all of the Warriors' front office want nothing to do with Andris Biedrins. You don't sign Kwame for $7 million if you think Biedrins is rotation material. (The Warriors also have Ekpe Udoh, a second-year player whose defense will be his calling card, for both frontcourt positions.) But if the team believes so little in Biedrins, why not take his $9 million annual hit off of the books instead of Bell's smaller, shorter hit? Do the Warriors not think that they could use $9 million in cap space in each of the next two seasons? They clearly don't believe in Biedrins. What's the point of keeping him around?

It'd be even worse if the Clippers hadn't matched on Jordan -- then the team would have had a $10 million center with limited ability to produce anything but rebounds and blocks playing in front of a $9 million center with limited ability to produce anything but rebounds and blocks. Kwame, of course, isn't good at either, but is a solid post defender, one who does the things that don't show up in the basic box score.

The allure of youth fools us all, and it's wonderful to gauge the reaction to the Jordan offer and the Brown signing. Lest we forget, Kwame wasn't actually a bad player three years into his pro career (where Jordan is now). He was a massive disappointment as the No. 1 pick, but he had a PER above 15 and some decent promise. He was basically where Jordan is now: young and big, with a few useful skills. 

The L.A. Lakers gave Brown a three-year, $25 million deal when he was 23, the age Jordan is now. That contract was widely considered a massive failure by L.A., and the only good that came of it was when the Lakers flipped it as an expiring contract in the Pau Gasol trade. Jordan is getting paid more per year for a longer span than Brown was at this age. So while the Warriors will be dishing out $7 million for a 2011 Kwame Brown that isn't worth that much, they could have been spending $43 million for a 2005 Kwame that definitely wasn't worth that much.

I hope, for the sake of basketball, that Jordan learns how not to foul, improves his conditioning and is everything that Blake Griffin needs in L.A. But history doesn't tend to show that bets like Jordan or Kwame are likely to pay off.

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The Hook runs Monday through Friday. See the archives.

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