My parents used to tell us about playing kick the can in back alleys. I never really understood the rules or the purpose of the game, but I feel like we are getting a pretty good look at the 21st century version every time news breaks about Dwight Howard.
The can has been kicked again, with the Brooklyn Nets signing center Brook Lopez to a four-year extension and effectively taking themselves out of the trade sweepstakes for Howard, for now. Howard made the last kick, when he withdrew his trade request on the eve of the trade deadline last season and declared he would opt in for the final year on his contract with the Orlando Magic.
Now that the Nets cannot trade Lopez this offseason, the Howard saga should mercifully come to an end. If only. The Magic reportedly made another plea to the 26-year-old All-Star center to stay with the team, and he again declined. The Rockets, who have the assets, and the Lakers, who would put Howard closer to his Twitter-stated goal of "chasing that ring," are apparently still interested, assuring that Howard will maintain his place in the SportsCenter crawl.
At this point, does anyone really care? Howard may be the biggest story in the NBA right now, but that is not very hard to do in the middle of July. His competition is the summer league, Team USA and Ray Allen, and even the outrage over Allen's move to Miami has worn off a bit.
Perhaps the most frustrating part for anyone following the Howard mess is that there is only one way for it to end. Howard probably is going to end up in Brooklyn. Most of us should be resigned to that fact by now. The Nets cannot trade Lopez at the moment, but they can come Jan. 15. Get ready for six months of speculation of whether the Nets and Magic will have a deal in place by then, along with the longer-shot rumors involving every other team that would like to have a player of Howard's caliber manning their middle.
The shame of the whole thing is that even when Howard gets what he wants, it is unlikely he will be satisfied. Nothing we have seen to this point suggests that he will be content in Brooklyn for more than a month or so. Once he realizes the inconvenience of getting from Atlantic Yards to the nightspots in Manhattan, or that the combination of him, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will force the Nets to gut the rest of their roster, he will be back at the microphone.
That reminds me of another activity to use with cans that does not involve kicking. Poke a hole in the bottom of two cans and attach a string to each. Then take away Howard's mic and replace it with one of the cans. Stick the other can in a corner of some empty room somewhere.
This way, Howard can say whatever he wants and nobody has to listen.