The homecoming in Atlanta officially lasted one year.
The Hawks traded Dwight Howard yesterday, and the No. 31 pick in Thursdays draft, to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for center Miles Plumlee, guard Marco Belinelli, the No. 41 pick. two pairs of socks and a worn jockstrap.
Howard is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and was once seen as one of the NBA’s best players. Atlantas willingness to deal him less than a year after signing him to a three-year free agent deal is not the shocker here. It’s the weakness of the package that he fetched in return.
Over the past few years, Atlanta has been a respectable Eastern Conference franchise that has put together a string of decent seasons. No, they did not have any true hopes of advancing to the Finals, but they were a competitive squad. Initially, Howard seemed like an upgrade down low once Al Horford left town for Boston. He helped the Hawks get to the playoffs for the 10th year in a row.
But with yesterday’s move, it’s apparent the 31-year-old center is no longer the Dwight Howard of old, but the Blight Howard of the present and the future. Atlanta’s management pondered that $47 million he’s owed over the next two seasons and simply said, “Nah baby, not gon’ be able to do it!”
Double XX Posse – Not Gonna Be Able To Do It 1992 Big Beat
While a 32-year-old LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his marvelous career, Howard seems far removed from his days as an intimidating, powerful rebounder, shot-blocker and difference-maker. The writing was on the wall, for those who actually paid attention to the Hawks’ rotations and substitution patterns in the playoffs, where Howard’s role in the team’s game plans shrunk game by game. When your highest paid player is riding the bench during crucial stretches in the postseason with regularity, it was only inevitable that a change was gonna come.
In moving Howard, you would think that the Hawks would try to get maximum value in return. And if Belinelli, Plumlee, the 41st pick and the remaining leftovers from Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles spot are all you can fetch, goodness gracious how the mighty have fallen.
But what might be even worse is that the Hawks might have simply said to hell with equal value, let’s just get rid of this dude for pennies on the dollar.
Dwight Howard records 31 points and 11 rebounds at home against the Lakers. About the NBA: The NBA is the premier professional basketball league in the United States and Canada.
With Howard as the anchor last year, Atlanta boasted a top-five defense. The big man averaged 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Sure, they got rid of his albatross of a salary, but substituting even a compromised Dwight for Plumlee, who is now on his fifth NBA team and averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds last season while in the first year of his outlandish four-year, $50 million contract is a bizarre head-scratcher.
Howard, despite not being the player he once was, was still a difference-maker. Plumlee and Belinelli? They’re difference makers too, in that they just made Atlanta worse.
Once considered the most dominant center in the NBA, Dwight is now an after-thought. The depths to which he was fallen is bizarre, no matter how much of a conundrum he’s been throughout his career. When people shrug at him being traded, and at what the Hawks got in return, that’s not a good look for a man who once fueded with Shaq over who was better.
When the best thing said about him from a former teammate when he left town is that he is a terrific farter, and that was five years ago, you know that things have gone sour.
But from Charlotte’s perspective, the move works for them. Dwight is still an elite rim protector, and the Hornets moved up ten spots with their second pick in the draft. Hornets coach Steve Clifford was an assistant while Howard played in Orlando and he spoke about what the big man brings other than his prowess in flatulence
Im excited about working with Dwight again, Clifford said in a statement yesterday. He brings a defensive mindset, shot blocking ability and a level of physicality that will be a huge asset for us. We look forward to him continuing his career here in Charlotte.
It just seems like everyone looked forward to having Howard on the roster, until he actually got there. Just check his resume and see how those stints with the Lakers, Rockets and Hawks worked out. His jaw-dropping days with the Magic are now long gone.
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The man once considered an organizational anchor will be playing for his third team in three years. Is he a victim of this small-ball era of position-less basketball or of his own wrongdoing? He has to play well next year in order to be relevant once more. If the Hornets make a playoff run and Howard has a career resurgence, the laughter will subside.
If not, at least the Hornets would have gotten a very expensive farter.
Dwight or Blight? We’ll soon find out.