Szczerbiak, Davis change teams in seven-player trade

Updated: January 27, 2006, 5:25 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The struggling Minnesota Timberwolves shook up their roster Thursday night, sending swingman Wally Szczerbiak to the Boston Celtics for guard Ricky Davis in an exchange involving seven players and three draft picks.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Celtics sent Ricky Davis to Minnesota during the season.

Davis, center Mark Blount, point guard Marcus Banks, forward Justin Reed and two conditional second-round draft picks are going to Minnesota. Boston is getting Szczerbiak, centers Michael Olowokandi and Dwayne Jones and a future first-round draft pick.

The Wolves had been involved in trade speculation for weeks, with both Szczerbiak and Olowokandi frequently being mentioned in rumors. In need of a spark after losing their last two games by 20 points or more, they finally made their move a day after a 107-87 loss to Memphis -- their third straight defeat.

Earlier, they dealt little-used 7-footer Nikoloz Tskitishvili to the Phoenix Suns for a 2006 second-round draft pick.

Vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale wanted to add some athletic players with strong defensive ability. Plus, new coach Dwane Casey's team just wasn't meshing well on the court.

"Chemistry's a strange thing," McHale said in a conference call with reporters. "When you've got it, everybody plays a little better. When you don't have it, everybody plays a little worse."

Davis, who finished second in last year's voting for the league's Sixth Man award, averaged 19.7 points this season as a full-time starter for Boston (17-25).

Boston gave up four players, but the one that matters most is Ricky Davis. He gives Minnesota a tough two-way talent who won't match Szczerbiak's offense but will supply more defense -- even though his motivation at that end waxes and wanes unpredictably. Mark Blount also should help in the middle, simply by being less horrible than the flotsam Minnesota has been using at center ever since Rasho Nesterovic left.

The pressure is on Szczerbiak to justify the trade. His ability to light it up from long range should spread the floor, and he's been a more active defender this year than in past seasons. That said, it's tough to see either him or Paul Pierce defending the likes of Dwyane Wade or Richard Hamilton night in and night out, and one has to wonder if the oft-rumored Pierce trade is the next step for the Celtics.

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The Celtics were delighted to receive a player of Szczerbiak's caliber -- especially without giving up their star swingman Paul Pierce, who's in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring.

"In Wally we are receiving an All-Star player who is playoff-tested and who has been a winner at all levels," said Danny Ainge, the Celtics' executive director of basketball operations who was a longtime teammate of McHale's in Boston.

The 6-foot-7 Szczerbiak, an All-Star in 2002 whose subsequent two seasons were marred by injuries, was flourishing as the No. 2 scoring option to Kevin Garnett. Always considered a step slow on defense, Szczerbiak was averaging 20.1 points.

Though frequently mentioned in trade talks over the past several seasons, Szczerbiak sounded surprised by the deal when reached on his cell phone late Thursday night.

"You never know in this business," he said.

Szczerbiak and Garnett didn't always get along, especially on the court, but the 1999 first-round draft pick expressed no ill will toward Minnesota's franchise player. McHale danced around a question about whether the duo's occasional dissonance drove this deal.

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty ImagesWally Szczerbiak is averaging 20.1 points a game.

As for Szczerbiak?

"Who knows?" he said. "K.G. and I have been teammates for seven years. I've learned a lot from him. ... Now we're moving on and breaking apart."

The 7-foot Olowokandi, a former first overall draft pick, was a huge disappointment for the Wolves, who signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2003. Jones was a developmental league player.

But for a team desperate for scoring beyond the top two options, the package sent by the Celtics was a curious mix -- beyond the talented Davis.

The 6-foot-7 Davis was a controversial figure in Cleveland, where he played for the Cavaliers and ripped the city and the team after being traded to the Celtics in December 2003. With him and Trenton Hassell guarding the wings, the Wolves should at least be stronger on defense. Banks, a point guard and former first-round draft pick who was made expendable by the development of Delonte West in Boston, should help supplement the sporadic Marko Jaric at point guard.

Still, it's difficult to see this trade as much of an upgrade for a Minnesota team that is struggling to stay in the mix for a playoff spot.

"We just had to shake it up a little bit," said McHale, who responded sarcastically to a question about whether he tried to acquire Pierce and did not rule out another move before the Feb. 23 deadline. "We're always going to keep working."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press