1. Beware The Ides of March: The latest -- as of 9:20 a.m. -- is that Magic center Dwight Howard is staying in Orlando. But that could change in a second. It did 8,000 times on Wednesday. Howard is now expected to opt into his contract and not exercise his early termination option. But the Magic want him to sign some paperwork to make it official. Will he? Won’t he? The Nets have been in hot pursuit of the game-changing center. He’s wanted to play in Brooklyn, and even demanded a trade to the Nets in December. The two teams were in trade talks last night according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. If Howard is really staying, it would put a major dent in the Nets’ plans.
2. Making D-Will happy: Deron Williams has reiterated time and time again his desire to remain with the Nets after this season -- assuming they put the right pieces around him. Howard remains the piece. But if the Nets can’t get him, they’re going to have to look in another direction. Regardless, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com that there’s “no chance” the Nets trade Williams and blow it up. According to ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, sources say the Nets would rather start from scratch than trade for a collection of players they don’t want. This makes perfect sense. If D-Will bolts for Dallas, so be it.
3. Plan B? Howard was Plan A. GM Billy King has said he has several contingency plans, though, in case that didn’t work out. Throughout this process, the Nets had been hopeful of giving max contracts to Howard and Williams and trying to free up cap space to also be able to sign impending free agent Brook Lopez, who figures to receive a significant raise. The Nets could still look to move the likes of Jordan Farmar ($4.25 million option next season), Johan Petro ($3.5 million in 2012-13), Anthony Morrow ($4 million) and Shawne Williams ($3.1 player option) in an attempt to clear as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2012.
4. Gathering assets: The Nets have Lopez, promising rookie MarShon Brooks, two first-round picks in the 2012 NBA draft (their own and Houston’s lottery protected pick). Emerging small forward Gerald Green, who is playing on his second 10-day contract, could be a keeper going forward. The Nets have several expiring contracts coming off their books. Kris Humphries ($8 million, no-trade clause) could be attractive to a contender, while Mehmet Okur ($10.9 million) has a massive expiring contract. Maybe the Nets end up making a move that surprises all of us, a la D-Will last season.
5. No sleep till Brooklyn: Obviously if this whole Howard-to-the-Nets-dream blows up, it’s going to feel like doomsday. The Nets have been trying to sell this vision for a while now and always seem to be coming up short. On the bright side, they’re moving into $1 billion Barclays Center next season and the No. 1 market in the world. It would be a small consolation, though, if they’re not able to make a big splash by 3 p.m. Thursday.