Charlotte Hornets

Dwight Howard hasn’t changed the Charlotte Hornets’ fortunes. Is it time for a trade?

Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard, right, has been durable and productive this season. But has he impacted this team’s bottom line?
Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard, right, has been durable and productive this season. But has he impacted this team’s bottom line? AP

This isn’t Dwight Howard’s fault, but it is the Charlotte Hornets’ problem:

With nearly an entire season as sample size, I don’t know that the future Hall of Famer Howard’s presence has made the Hornets better.

If you had told me last June Howard would play 76 of the first 77 games, I’m not sure that I would have believed you. Had you told me Howard would have 23 20-10 games and 49 double-doubles in his 14th NBA season, again I’m not sure I would have believed you.

He has been marvelously durable and productive at 32. Even so, without playing a blame game, I’m not sure his presence has raised this team much at all.

The 34-44 Hornets lost their third consecutive game Sunday, 119-102 to the Philadelphia 76ers. Howard’s 49th double-double this season (10 points and 10 rebounds) tied the franchise record set by Larry Johnson in 1992-93.

He’s doing his job. It was worth the gamble acquiring him in trade from the Atlanta Hawks. But now this is a mediocre, aging team about to hire a new general manager to replace Rich Cho. That GM inherits Howard’s contract, which pays him $23.8 million next season.

If there is a trade to be made for Howard, and it doesn’t return a contract too unpalatable to accept, I’d go ahead and make that deal.

In a sense, that would only be fair to Howard. It’s hard to see a future where the Hornets don’t experience some level of rebuild. If he could help a team with a better chance to make a playoff run, it seems as if you’d be doing him a favor sending him there.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford has been cleared to return to the bench next week,, the Hornets announced Thursday night.

Never came together

A lot of little things contributed to the Hornets’ floundering season. The first, and one of the more important, was Nic Batum’s elbow injury in the first preseason exhibition.

That cost Batum six weeks. Just as importantly, it kept him from figuring out how to play with Howard before the games counted.

By the time Batum returned to the active roster in mid-November, the team had changed. Howard’s post-ups had to be – and should have been – a major element of the offense. Batum tried to figure out how his role as a ball-mover clicked with that.

I’m not sure Howard and Batum have ever quite blended together for maximum mutual benefit.

Maybe a full preseason together can make this better. But I’m not so sure.

Clifford’s view

I asked Hornets coach Steve Clifford Sunday what Howard has brought to the Hornets in a macro sense. Clifford’s past with Howard (he was an assistant with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers when Howard played there) was a factor in acquiring him.

Clifford said Howard’s rebounding has been the biggest plus, and I would agree. Then Clifford spoke of the difference between posting numbers and changing the season.

“You have to be wary of numbers,” Clifford said. “In this league, everyone is so talented. Guys are going to score, guys are going to do different things.”

Howard does a lot of different things. For that he deserves every dollar he’s paid and a bust someday at the Hall in Springfield, Mass.

I’m just no longer sure the fit here is right. Maybe best for everyone, if the opportunity presents itself, to move on.