It was easy to see why Dwight Howard put the New Jersey Nets on his short list of teams where he wants to play next season. It also was easy to think he must be nuts to put them there.
Howard's upcoming free agency this summer was more a topic of conversation Wednesday than the actual game the Magic played against the Nets in New Jersey.
The hand-held signs were throughout the arena, urging him to come play for the Nets next season in the sparkling new arena that will open in Brooklyn. The verbal love affair from the New Jersey fans was there, too. The play of Nets point guard and good friend Deron Williams also is very attractive.
Yet the Nets (10-24) still are the Nets, an awful team with little hope for salvaging this season. And even in Brooklyn next season, they likely will remain the second-most popular basketball team in the city, a distant second behind the New York Knicks. They also will trail the Yankees, Giants and Rangers in the hearts of the area sports fans.
The Magic beat the Nets 108-91, leading from start to finish. Howard had 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists to lead a very balanced attack. The Magic had six other players score at least 10 points.
"I didn't focus on that (next season)," Howard said in changing the subject. "My focus is totally on getting us into the All-Star break on a positive note. My focus is on this team here."
The Magic (22-12) have won six of their last seven games and play in Atlanta Thursday night before the All-Star Weekend begins. In this first half of the season, there have been times when they have looked very good, like there are no distractions. And other times, when their defense has been bad, when they looked distracted by the speculation following Howard.
"We could have played better, me included, but we got the win. That was the most important thing," Howard said.
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