Storylines and subplots are aplenty as the Brooklyn Nets are in Southern California to take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center. Tops on the list is neither the Nets' five-game winning streak nor Mike D'Antoni's probable debut as Lakers head coach.
Dwight Howard, the man who dearly wanted to be a Brooklyn Net, will be in the building -- wearing the purple and gold and playing with a serious chip. D12 left the basketball world mystified last season after he waived an early-termination clause in his contract that would have likely paved a yellow-brick road to Brooklyn. Part of Howard's desire to wear Brooklyn black and white was his tight relationship with Nets point guard Deron Williams. The two talked about being teammates while helping lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, but once Howard chose to finish out last season in Orlando, Williams was reportedly upset.
Howard was asked on Monday after practice if he had talked with Williams to settle any differences. D12's response? "Smooth things over. Why? That was my decision, my life. If he's upset because I made a decision for me, so be it. If he doesn't want to be friends because I'm on another team, so be it. There's no need to smooth things over."
Whether this carries over to the court or turns out much ado about nothing and all's fair in love and war, time will tell. What's clear through the early portion of the 2012-13 NBA season is that the Nets and Lakers have both emerged from the Dwightmare as winners -- especially with L.A. recovering from a 1-4 start and the firing of head coach Mike Brown. While Howard is averaging 11.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 20 points over the Lakers' first 10 games, the Nets are flourishing from the moves they made before and after the Howard nonsense.
Brook Lopez has been front and center. Part of the reported trade proposal with MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and four first-round draft picks, Lopez was granted a four-year contract extension. He's responded by averaging 17.8 points and 2.75 blocks to help Williams (18 ppg, 8 apg) pace the Nets to the 6-2 record entering the Showdown at Staples.
"He’s tough. He knows how to score," Howard, averaging 17.1 points and 12.9 rebounds in 28 career games against the Nets, said of Lopez. "They look for him a lot in the offense, they have a lot of great plays."
Howard has also played tough and scored to make a good first impression with his new employers. He's posted four straight double-doubles and looks poised to flourish under D'Antoni's speedball system while providing a critical defensive element. The thought of Howard in Brooklyn remains tantalizing, but with both teams thriving in the early going, neither harbors any regrets.
"Everything happens for a reason and there was a reason why I didn't go to Brooklyn. There's a reason why I'm here in L.A," Howard said. "I'm here now in L.A. and there's no need to talk about what might have happened. I'm happy with the team here in L.A. and the fans have always been great here. And now that I'm on the team, since day one they've been unbelievable - to me and to this team. So I'm just happy about that. There's no need to talk about the past."
That's because the present and future is looking pretty good for all parties.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC