According to Nets general manager Billy King, the Nets are probably not going to give the injured Brook Lopez a contract extension before the deadline of January 25. This is very bad news for Nets fans as it is appearing like the Nets are putting all of their eggs in the Dwight Howard basket, and if we don't acquire him via a trade or free agency by this offseason then this franchise will be primed to be a bottom-dweller of the Eastern Conference for years to come.
As most Nets fans already know, Deron Williams is probably not going to re-sign with the team this offseason unless the Nets and King get him some help—which, in a perfect world, would be Howard.
However, with the recent inclusion of the Clippers onto Dwight's preferred destinations list, it is looking less and less likely every day that Howard will be a New Jersey (basically Brooklyn) Net before the start of the next NBA season.
Now, with the news that the Nets probably won't extend his contract presumably due to the serious injury he is rehabbing right now, the Nets bear the possibility that Lopez, the Nets' franchise cornerstone before the team acquired Williams, could leave in free agency while Williams and Howard sign with teams not based in New Jersey/Brooklyn. Fear not, Nets fans, as the situation I just proposed is the utterly worst possible scenario that plays out this offseason, but it is a possibility.
If the Nets go 0-3 this offseason and lose Lopez, Williams and Howard, then the Barclays Center will be christened by a destined lottery-team that will unfortunately have to build around whomever the Nets drafted with their certain-to-be high first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft in June. I, as a die-hard Nets fan, am horrified to hear this possible situation written down as it is just might happen exactly as I described.
Will the Nets sign Dwight Howard after this offseason?
On the other hand, the non-extension of Lopez could be a good sign for the Nets as it gives them the flexibility to offer both Howard and Williams max contracts this offseason, which is an advantage for them over other potential suitors on the dynamic point guard and athletic-out-of-this-world center (I'm looking at you, Mavericks and Lakers—clear some cap).
Presumably, if the Nets were able to sign Howard and Williams somehow this offseason and they still had some cap room to give Lopez a little raise from his current salary, Lopez might want to re-up with the Nets and would most likely play as the power forward in the revamped Nets offense.
If the second situation worked out for which I would be beyond ecstatic, three of the Nets' starters would be bonafide stars at their respective positions, and the team would possibly challenge the Heat and Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference year in and year out.
Enough with all of that optimistic talk. The Nets might face one of the craziest ever scenarios regarding the future of the team for a decade to come revolving around which team Howard ends up with. If Howard doesn't sign with Brooklyn and heads to a different team, Williams and Lopez would probably follow suit in departing the Nets, and the team would be beyond screwed.
But if Howard finds his way to Brooklyn, Williams and Lopez will probably stay as well, making the Nets a playoff contender for the first time since the trades of Vince Carter and Jason Kidd around five years ago.
It is truly unbelievable how much depends on just one move, but it is the way of the future with the emergence of super-teams which the Nets would be with Howard, Williams and Lopez. I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible with this delicate situation right now but I, like all Nets fan, should face the fact that there is basically a 50-50 chance this team is either doomed or set for the future, depending on the decision of on 6'11" center currently on the Orlando Magic.