EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At this time a year ago, the Dwight Howard soap opera was going full throttle, and it seemed he might succeed in forcing a trade from Orlando to the Nets to realize his stated desire to join forces with point guard Deron Williams. But that dream took a strange detour that landed Howard in Los Angeles with the Lakers, who make their only appearance in Brooklyn this season Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
It's uncertain if Howard will play because he's day-to-day with a right shoulder injury. As for Williams, he said this is not the time to look back at what might have been. After all, he's playing on a winning team with All-Star center Brook Lopez.
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"No, I don't think like that," he said Monday after practice. "We're happy with Brook; we're happy with the team we have now. It's not a 'shoulda, coulda, woulda' scenario."
Williams said the Barclays atmosphere will be exciting, "especially if Dwight plays." But as for his current relationship with Howard, Williams said they're no longer close. "Not really," he said. "I mean, we haven't talked as much as we have before everything went on."
Why? "I don't know. I don't know what the reason is."
Maybe it has something to do with Howard's indecision. At the trade deadline last March, he signed an agreement to remain in Orlando through 2012-13. After last season, he again requested a trade to the Nets before ultimately accepting a deal to the Lakers.
That trade precipitated talk of a title with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, but at the moment, the Lakers are 22-26 and in danger of failing to make the playoffs. Howard reportedly has feuded with Bryant, and in an ESPN interview that aired Monday night, he was non-committal when asked if he wants to remain a Laker when he becomes a free agent in July. "Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win a championship," he said. "Nothing else matters at this point."
He attempted to put a lid on speculation about his future, adding, "I understand what the Lakers want, and I also understand that right now, there's no need for all the circus and all the stuff that happened last year to start back up."
In the meantime, Williams said he's looking forward to playing against the Bryant-Nash tandem for the first time after facing them individually for so many seasons in the Western Conference.
"Steve's not really the Steve he was in Phoenix, going there and playing off the ball more," he said. "But together, they're a deadly combo because they do so many things well. Any night, Kobe's a threat to go off for 40. We've got our hands full."