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Dwight Howard traded from Hawks to Hornets, AP source says

Atlanta Hawks' Dwight Howard prepares to shoot a

Atlanta Hawks' Dwight Howard prepares to shoot a free throw against the 76ers on March 29, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

ATLANTA — Dwight Howard’s Atlanta homecoming was short-lived.

The Charlotte Hornets have reached an agreement to acquire Howard from the Hawks.

The Hawks are sending Howard and the No. 31 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to Charlotte for center Miles Plumlee, shooting guard Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the trade is not yet official.

Howard, an eight-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, will be playing for his third team in three seasons following a disappointing one-year return to his Atlanta hometown.

Howard signed a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Atlanta and then sat out the fourth quarter in two of six playoff games in the Hawks’ first-round loss to Washington.

Howard’s averages with the Hawks — 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds — were close to his production in his last of three seasons with Houston in 2015-16. Still, he finished the season unhappy about his diminished role in the playoffs, when he averaged eight points and 10.7 rebounds.

“It was very difficult. I want to play,” Howard said after the season. “I want to be on the floor. I want to make an impact. You can’t do it on the bench.”

The Hawks were eliminated in the first round for the first time since 2014. Following the season, coach Mike Budenholzer resigned his additional role as president of basketball operations and Wes Wilcox stepped down as general manager.

The Howard trade is the first deal for new Hawks GM Travis Schlenk, who faces the difficult challenge of re-signing free-agent forward Paul Millsap.

Howard, 31, is due to earn $23.5 million each of the next two seasons.

Plumlee, 28, still has three years remaining on his contract at $12.5 million per season. Belinelli, 31, is set to earn $6.6 million in the final year of his deal.

Howard has a history with Hornets coach Steve Clifford.

Howard played under Clifford when Clifford was an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy in Orlando and an assistant coach under Mike D’Antoni in Los Angeles.

Michael Jordan’s Hornets have been attempting to land a star player for quite some time and Howard potentially gives them that if he can return to playing at a high level.

Point guard Kemba Walker has developed into an All-Star, but Nicolas Batum struggled last season after being handed a $120 million, five-year contract — the largest ever given to a Hornets player.

The trade also satisfies the Hornets’ search for a true center since losing Al Jefferson to free agency last summer. They had hoped that Roy Hibbert would fill the role of a rim protector, but injuries slowed him down and he was eventually traded to Milwaukee in a midseason deal that brought Plumlee to Charlotte.

Plumlee wasn’t much of a contributor last season for Charlotte and he was beset by injuries.

The Hornets traded away their first-round draft pick in 2016 to acquire Belinelli after losing Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin in free agency. Belinelli played in 74 games last season and averaged 10.5 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting.

New York Sports