The Charlotte Hornets' experiment with future Hall-of-Fame center Dwight Howard lasted a single season, with the team agreeing to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA source confirmed Wednesday.
The Hornets will acquire Russian center Timofey Mozgov, plus two second-round picks, from the Nets. Mozgov's current contract with the Nets was originally signed with the Los Angeles Lakers when new Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak oversaw the Lakers.
This trade can't become official until at least July 6 when the NBA's new fiscal year begins. That's because Howard's salary for next season ($23.5 million) far exceeds Mozgov's ($16 million). The Nets can't absorb that difference in salary until the 2018-19 salary cap takes effect.
The Hornets will get some much-needed payroll reduction in the short run. However, this trade commits the Hornets to Mozgov's $16.7 million salary for the 2019-20 season. Also, the Nets will send a second-round pick in Thursday's draft (45th overall) and in the 2021 draft to the Hornets. The Nets will have to make that pick Thursday on the Hornets' behalf, since the trade will not yet be official.
The Hornets acquired Howard a year ago from the Atlanta Hawks to add rim protection as that veteran Charlotte roster was looking to make a playoff run. The deal was made in part because of then-Hornets coach Steve Clifford's prior relationship with Howard when Clifford was an assistant with the Orlando Magic and Lakers.
While Howard put up strong numbers last season - 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game - that did not translate to the Hornets returning to the playoffs, the express goal of the trade. Hornets guard Nic Batum and Howard struggled much of last season to collaborate effectively on offense.
Kupchak signed Mozgov with the Lakers in the summer of 2016, when the NBA salary cap had the massive one-season spike as a result of new national television contracts with ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports. Mozgov's deal - $64 million over four years - became known around the league as one of the bad results of the cap spike, as did Batum's five-year, $120 million contract.
After Kupchak was fired, the Lakers traded Mozgov and D'Angelo Russell to the Nets almost exactly a year ago in the deal that sent center Brook Lopez and the pick that became rookie Kyle Kuzma to the Lakers.
Mozgov averaged just 12 minutes in 31-game appearances for the Nets last season (4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game).
Mogzov is 31, one year younger than Howard. Over eight NBA seasons, he's averaged 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.
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