11:59 am Aug. 31, 2012
The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are both trying to sign free agent small forward Josh Howard, according to multiple reports this week. This makes a lot more sense for the Knicks than it does for the Nets, given the rosters both teams have already assembled.
Howard, 32, was once among the N.B.A.'s best small forwards, combining a strong ability to score in bunches with elite defending.
But a knee injury robbed Howard of much of his skill, limiting him to 35, 18 and 43 games over the past three seasons. His shooting percentage has dropped, his ability to shoot the three-pointer has disappeared, and the quickness that allowed him to defend so well hasn't been in evidence.
Essentially, both teams would be bringing Howard in with the hope that the knee surgery that ended his 2011-12 season has fixed him up enough to resurrect his career. And this isn't a bad bet to take with someone who would be at the very end of the bench.
But let's say Howard regains some of his form: how is he going to get minutes in Brooklyn? The starter at small forward is Gerald Wallace, and Mirza Teletovic is expected to play significant minutes there as well. The Nets also need to find time for Kris Humphries at power forward, along with backup Reggie Evans. Perhaps Howard forces them to play three forwards at times if he excels, but that sends Brook Lopez, the team's center, to the bench.
The Knicks, however, don't have a true small forward to back up Carmelo Anthony, with Steve Novak more of a shooter and aspirational defender than actual small forward. Chris Copeland, who played the last five seasons in Europe, has to prove he can play at the N.B.A. level.
Howard would be a good bet to see significant minutes if he came to the Knicks and showed some rebound to his old form; he'd probably get time merely be playing as well as he did last season, given the team's other options at the position.
The Nets are probably just doing their due diligence.