While Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard butt heads in Los Angeles, the Nets organization is in the position of putting theirs together and coming up with an enticing package to bring the disgruntled Howard to Brooklyn.
A league source told the New York Daily News that the Lakers stars got into a heated argument following a New Year's Day loss to the 76ers, and Bryant referenced and agreed with Shaquille O'Neal's assessment of Howard being soft.
Howard was restrained from attacking his teammate, according to the source, and it only highlighted the center's unhappiness with Bryant since the start of the season.
"Look at the difference between our team and (the Clippers)," Howard said after Friday's loss to their Staples Center roommates. "They just play together. They share the ball. Everybody's excited when something happens."
The rift between the no-nonsense Bryant and the child-like Howard — combined with Howard's pending free-agency — allows the Nets to position themselves as prime contenders to make a deal for the center's services.
Howard has not committed to the Lakers beyond this season and if he isn't re-signed, the team risks losing him without anything in return. Meanwhile, the Nets wait in the wings maybe getting ready to pounce.
The Nets — specifically guard Deron Williams — talked about getting Howard from the Magic all last winter until a deal featuring Nets center Brook Lopez fell apart. Howard later claimed Brooklyn was his desired destination after he was sent to Los Angeles.
Lopez, who is in the midst of a breakout season after undergoing foot surgery, can't be traded until Jan. 15 because he signed a four-year, $61 million deal in the summer.
The Nets have been running hot and cold this season but have to ask themselves whether or not the addition of the somewhat slumping Howard would supplant the surging play of Lopez.
Williams, the Nets' $100 million man, probably thinks so.