The Howard saga finally came to an end this summer.
We're less than a month away from training camps opening. NBA basketball is upon us.
For all intents and purposes, the offseason is over.
It's been an eventful stretch, these nearly three months since the Heat beat the Thunder to capture their second title in franchise history. There was a draft, a free agency period and a number of attention grabbing, headline screaming deals.
Now that training camp is not even a month away, we can look back and reflect on what a strange, wild summer it's been.
At times, it was good. At times, it was bad.
And at times, it was ugly.
Davis is the cornerstone of the Hornets' rebuilding.
After a free fall that sent them from being a fascinating fringe contender in the west to wards of the NBA state, the Hornets bounced back this summer.
Following the Chris Paul trade, the Hornets bottomed out and finished the year at 21-45, the worst record in the Western Conference and tied for the second worst mark in the league.
But they were soon sold to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and not too long thereafter, they won the Draft Lottery.
So, by the end of June, they'd not only managed to secure both Anthony Davis as well as Austin Rivers at No. 10, they'd unloaded a couple of really bad contracts (Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza) in exchange for Rashard Lewis, who they subsequently bought out.
They matched Phoenix's offer sheet for Eric Gordon, ensuring themselves a young, dynamic star in the making for a few years, signed Orlando's Ryan Anderson, last year's Most Improved Player, and got themselves enough help around the edges (Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick) to go with what they already had that. While they likely aren't yet ready to contend, they have laid the groundwork to contend in the not too distant future.
This franchise, which seemed on the brink of oblivion not too long ago, is now back in a big way. Good stuff.
The Knicks top free agent acquisition is 39 years old.
Knicks fans waiting and waiting and waiting for their franchise to get it right will have to wait at least another year.
Or maybe until James Dolan is no longer the owner of the team.
Never mind whether it was a smart move to let 25-game sensation Jeremy Lin bolt to Houston or why that decision was made. What the Knicks did do won't help them this year or next.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, the two players around which this team's axis spins, aren't getting any younger. This makes the Knicks' free agent signees that much more perplexing.
Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, two of the biggest name additions, are each 39 years old and will be expected to provide valuable minutes. The third big name addition, Ray Felton, is coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie season seven years ago and was last seen participating in a mutiny meant to overthrow his former coach in Portland, Nate McMillan.
The Knicks are tone deaf to what it takes to properly build a team. And although they did make a smart basketball decision in bringing in young, cheap, defensive minded 2-guard Ronnie Brewer as a free agent from Chicago, the move was too little too late,
If you're counting at home, the Knicks have won one playoff game since 2000. That's one.
It could be a really long year for McHale and the Rockets.
Give the Rockets a lot of credit for being as aggressive as they could be in the pursuit of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum or any other big name they could get their hands on.
But it was Lin who has the biggest name of anyone currently on Houston's roster. They did as much striking out this summer as a lot of Major League Baseball teams. And man is it going to cost them.
Take a look at this team's depth chart. There's no one, not a soul, who is even close to a sure thing (unless you want to count Kevin Martin and if you do, you're mistaken). All of the moving and shaking and taking on of extra draft picks to use in a potential deal has resulted in a giant number of rookies, no-names and flotsam.
The Rockets' roster looks like training camp will be one giant tryout. It's hard to imagine anyone, save for Lin, Omer Asik (for whom the Rockets strangely overpaid) or Martin being guaranteed much of anything here. Chandler Parsons is a nice, gritty role player, not a starting 3.
And all three of Houston's first-round picks, some of whom had to have been chosen to be included in a potential blockbuster deal, overlap in at least one way.
The only thing that could potentially be uglier for the Rockets than their offseason is their regular season. This feels like a 15-win team.
Nash will finally get a shot to win a ring.
Now in his twilight years and going nowhere in Phoenix, Nash, one of the league's best guys and players for years now, will finally get a real shot at a title after the Fourth of July sign-and-trade that sent him to the Lakers.
L.A. already looked pretty formidable with Nash in the fold before the acquisition of Dwight Howard. But now that Howard has joined up with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Nash, it stands to reason that the Lakers have an even better shot to come out of the West than Oklahoma City.
Nash hasn't played with talent around him like this in years, if not ever. When the Suns reached the Western Finals back in 2006, he was winning MVP awards and turning Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson into max contract stars.
But that group, which fell to Dallas in six games one year after losing to San Antonio in the same round, would never get that far again. The roster was changed, the other top guns went elsewhere and the coach changed twice. But Nash stayed and stayed loyal, refusing to ask for a trade even as the Suns backslid.
Now that he's in a winning situation, with a chance to be fitted for a ring, it will be hard to root against him.
Unless you're a Celtics' fan.
Lopez will be counted on in a major way for Brooklyn.
The Nets, about to move into their new, $1 billion palace in downtown Brooklyn, were singled out as the No. 1 preferred destination for Howard but could never work out a deal for him.
The fact that they were able to re-sign Deron Williams to be the face of their franchise for the next several years was a big, positive get.
But everything else they've done in the aftermath of not getting Howard doesn't look nearly as good.
Taking on Joe Johnson's brutal contract in the trade with Atlanta may have made Williams happy, but it wasn't necessarily the smartest business decision.
Then, they signed Brook Lopez, a center who has averaged fewer than six rebounds per game the past two seasons and is coming off a major foot injury, to a max contract.
They also brought back Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries for relatively big money and managed to hang on to promising youngster MarShon Brooks.
All in all, the Nets offseason wasn't really that bad. It was more fair, OK, meh.
And they will be better. But again, this is the Nets we're discussing. In relative terms, being better means finishing 10 games under .500.
In other words, it could have been a lot better.
Ray's departure was an ugly moment for both him and the Celtics.
It probably didn't have to end the way it did for Allen and the Celtics.
But it did. And it was ugly.
There had been whispers of some discontent on Allen's part leading up to his signing with Miami for half the money the Celtics were offering to come back to Boston on July 6.
But when he actually did go, we learned that things were a lot worse than we'd actually known.
Allen didn't speak to Rajon Rondo. He was angry at being sent to the bench in favor of younger, more effective Avery Bradley. He felt as though he was the one always being asked to make sacrifices for the good of the team. Far more than anyone else.
So he took a deep breath and left. But he didn't just leave. He left for the Celts' newest, biggest rival. The team that had knocked them out of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. The team that had crushed their hopes at one more improbable title for the original Big Three.
In the aftermath, we learned that Doc Rivers was unhappy with Allen for the decision. Celtics' fans were encouraged to boo their former beloved three-point shooting legend the first time he reappeared in Boston with his new team.
It was all pretty unseemly, especially considering the fact that Allen's name had never even been whispered when discussing any issues the Celtics have had since this whole era started back in 2007.
It didn't have to be this way. It didn't have to be ugly.
But it was.
Pretty ugly, eh?
It's good that the Dwight Howard national nightmare finally came to an end this offseason when he was traded to the Lakers last month.
It's bad that Howard wound up mostly getting his way despite his atrocious behavior throughout the entire ordeal.
What's ugly then?
He destroyed a franchise with his petulance. He ran a good coach out of a job because he felt like it, then screwed the team over anyway.
He waffled and wavered and went back and forth like a teenager trying to decide what to order at Applebee's.
He made himself the poster child for everything that's wrong with today's NBA superstar.
And it still worked out for him.
The Magic, meanwhile, were forced to take back about 25 cents on the dollar for him, and now need to start from scratch as they rebuild their franchise.
And what does Howard, who is still as tone deaf and self-absorbed as ever (and if you don't believe that, just take a look at the ad he bought in the Orlando Sentinel) get out of it?
As good a chance as anyone to win an NBA championship.
Ugly, ugly, ugly.