Dwight deal designed to enhance Nets’ future
GM Marks has 2019-20 cap space in mind with Howard acquisition
In a little over two weeks, the Brooklyn Nets can officially announce that they have acquired Dwight Howard, an eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
That would have been groundbreaking news when the franchise first arrived here in 2012.
But now it’s simply a trade designed to help general manager Sean Marks clear enough salary cap space to make the Nets major players during the free agency period ahead of the 2019-20 season.
According to an ESPN report Wednesday morning, Brooklyn has agreed to give the Charlotte Hornets their second-round pick during Thursday night’s NBA Draft at Downtown’s Barclays Center, along with seldom-used, high-priced center Timofey Mozgov, cash considerations and a 2021 second-round selection.
In return, Brooklyn will receive Howard, who has gone from being one of the NBA’s elite players to a virtual nomad, who will be playing for his fourth team in as many seasons when the 2018-19 campaign kicks off.
Marks eliminated the two years and nearly $33 million remaining on Mozgov’s contract to pick up the $23.8 million left on Howard’s expiring contract.
Though the deal cannot be officially completed or announced until July 6, the beginning of the NBA’s new fiscal year, the Nets are doubtlessly hoping that the swap will give them between $15 and $17 million in cap space in 2019-20, enough to land at least one, if not two, max-salary players.
Mozgov came here in Marks’ biggest deal last summer, the one that brought point guard D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for center Brook Lopez.
Though he was the Nets’ Opening Night starter in Indiana last season, the 31-year-old center never quite fit into head coach Kenny Atkinson’s scheme, playing in only 31 games while riding the pine for most of the second half of the campaign.
Howard, who was selected first overall by Orlando in 2004 and led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, has since suited up for the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Hornets, for whom he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds last season.
The Atlanta native can certainly be a contributing force in Brooklyn’s rotation next season, but his lack of long-distance shooting skills doesn’t jibe well with Atkinson’s run-and-gun, 3-point barrage style.
Howard, a 12-year veteran, put on an impressive display at Barclays on March 21, pacing the Hornets to a 111-105 victory over the Nets by becoming just the eighth player in NBA history to amass at least 30 points (32) and 30 rebounds in an NBA game.
He became the first player to do so against the Nets since 1978, when Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar torched the then-New Jersey-based franchise for 37 and 30, respectively.
“I mean that’s great to be named with someone like Kareem,” Howard said that night.
“It’s one of the guys I looked up to growing up, him and Wilt Chamberlain.”
Brooklyn held onto its first-round pick (29th overall), one that Marks might look to upgrade Thursday night.
The GM is doubtlessly looking forward to next year, when the Nets will once again have control of their own first-rounder, something that has eluded Brooklyn nearly every June since Billy King swapped the team’s future to Boston for a pair of aging stars in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Five years later, Marks made a deal of his own for a 32-year-old star, only this deal is designed to help the Nets get better going forward, rather than giving away any hope they have of continuing this ongoing rebuilding project on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
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In other local sports news, the Brooklyn Cyclones continued their hot start to the season Tuesday night at MCU Park, battling back from a pair of deficits to edge the visiting Hudson Valley Renegades, 7-5, in front of 4,742 fans in Coney Island.
Oliver Pascual’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning snapped a 5-5 tie and gave Brooklyn its fourth consecutive victory since a season-opening loss in Staten Island last Friday night.
Pascual finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and hot-hitting Jose Brizuela blasted a two-run homer in the seventh for the Cyclones, who were aiming to complete a three-game series sweep of the Renegades Wednesday night after going winless against Hudson Valley last season.
Yeudy Colon picked up the win in relief, improving to 2-0 on the young season after yielding a run on two hits in one inning out of the bullpen.
Brooklyn starter Ryan McAuliffe lasted 4 1/3 frames, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and a career-best five strikeouts. He became the fifth straight Cyclones starter to surrender two runs or less.
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