- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Howard said he has thought about what it would've been like to be a Net, but things never unfolded the way he once wanted.
“You always have those regrets or whatever, but the one thing I try to do is live without regret,” Howard said following Houston’s morning shootaround.
“Like I said, everything happens for a reason. There was a point in time where I thought this [Brooklyn] was the best place for me to play basketball. I guess things didn't happen the way I wanted them to.”
The Nets and Orlando Magic had multiple conversations about Howard from December 2011, when he first requested a trade, until July 2012, when Brooklyn backed out of the talks and instead re-signed center Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60.8 million contract.
There were concerns that Lopez, a restricted free agent at the time, was going to sign an offer sheet with another team. The Nets thought they were going to land Howard at the 2012 trade deadline, but he surprisingly decided to opt in to the final year of his contract at the last minute. Howard was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in August 2012.
“I think when I opted in that kind of changed everything,” Howard said. “But like I said, Houston’s a great place. I love where I’m at. I found a great home here.
"Even though I won’t be playing here in Brooklyn, I have a lot of friends and family here, so it’s always fun to visit those people.”
Howard had been injured the previous two times his teams faced the Nets in Brooklyn.
“I think it’s gonna be fun,” Howard said of playing in the $1 billion arena. “I’m looking forward to it. I was thinking about that earlier when we started going out to the floor. I know a lot of people from Brooklyn, so it’s always fun to come back here and see a lot of people that I know. I think I have to go to [Junior’s] Cheesecake.”
An odd scheduling quirk had the Rockets playing at Madison Square Garden Thursday, flying home and facing Utah Saturday and then coming back to the Big Apple to take on the Nets.
“I wish we could've stayed in New York a little longer,” Howard said. “Get a little shopping in, just being in the city, it’s a fun place to be.”