Once one of the NBA’s top talents, he was traded to the Hornets for two pairs of socks and a used jockstrap, among others

The homecoming in Atlanta officially lasted one year.

The Hawks traded Dwight Howard yesterday, and the No. 31 pick in Thursday’s 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. Atlanta’s 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!”

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.

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