Dwight Howard saga dominates NBA's second half - National Post

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With the first half out of the way, here is a look at some of the stories to watch in the second half:

What will happen at the trade deadline?
Dwight Howard is the big fish. At this point, it feels unlikely that the Magic, at 22-13, will trade the game's best centre. Although, Howard is as good as gone, so they would be smart to follow Denver's lead last year with Carmelo Anthony and cash in as well as they can this year before Howard leaves in free agency.

Howard is the only superstar on the market, but there are plenty of contenders looking to fill obvious needs. The Clippers need a shooting guard, and could dangle Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe. The Lakers need a point guard, but have very little to offer teams aside from a trade exception. The Rockets still would like a big man, after failing to land either of the Gasol brothers this off-season. With the Western Conference so unsettled, it is likely every contender will at least try to make something happen.

What will the New Jersey Nets do with their roster?
It is not often that a 10-25 team is intriguing, but the Nets could go a few different ways before the season is out. Here are the realities that make the Nets' position unique: 1. They are poised to move to Brooklyn next year, and will be looking to bring some star power with them. 2. Deron Williams, acquired from Utah last year, becomes a free agent after the season ends. 3. They have been looking to bring Howard aboard to ignite Brooklyn and appease the point guard.

If they cannot pry from Howard Orlando, would they have enough faith in bringing him to town in the off-season that they would let Williams hit free agency at the same time? The Nets could buy, sell or stand pat, and it would make some sense.

Which Boston Celtic, if any Boston Celtic, gets traded?
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents to be. Paul Pierce is playing at an all-star level. Rajon Rondo might have been irreparably damaged by the trade rumours for Chris Paul in the off-season. The Celtics are 15-17, and general manager Danny Ainge has frequently said he does not want his team to die of old age. With no history of attracting free agents, Ainge might decide he is better off improving his team via trade.

Who will finish with the best record in the league?
Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City each entered the break with 27 wins. In the Eastern Conference it is not such a big deal — Miami beat Chicago despite not having home-court advantage last year. However, the Thunder are 15-1 at home, and would love to have that advantage in a perspective NBA Finals.

Who will get the lottery balls?
Unless they turn things around, the Bobcats will be the worst team in the league, therefore earning the best shot at Kentucky forward Anthony Davis in the draft. They have four wins coming into the break. Washington, the second-worst team, has seven.

However, there are eight teams (Toronto, New Jersey, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Sacramento, Phoenix and Golden State) with between 10-14 wins, without a good shot at the playoffs. One spurt of inspired play and they could find themselves with some suddenly worse odds at lottery success.

Which teams will miss the cut in the Western Conference playoffs?
Only 4-1/2 games separate the West's third seed (the Clippers) from its 10th-best team (the Timberwolves). The Mavericks, Lakers, Rockets, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Nuggets are all sandwiched in between those teams. Two of them will fall short of the post-season.

• Email: ekoreen@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

27 Feb, 2012

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