Bulls make bold move, but Hornets are being bolder

Updated: July 4, 2006, 2:01 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

They've managed to strip Detroit of its beloved Ben Wallace, but the Chicago Bulls can't quite claim to be the surprise team of this fledging NBA offseason.

Especially not if the Bulls complete the trade they're discussing with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Monday night that the Bulls were close to shipping Tyson Chandler to the Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith.

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Chicago Bulls

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2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
79 5.3 9.0 1.0 .565 .503

That would rank as the third bold move by the Hornets in the space of a week, after years of criticism endured by Hornets owner George Shinn over his reluctance to spend.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City commenced its summer makeover by offering Peja Stojakovic a five-year deal worth more than $60 million to entice the sharpshooting former All-Star to leave the Indiana Pacers. That was Saturday.

On Sunday, Shinn followed the Stojakovic coup by sanctioning a three-year commitment worth more than $15 million to Memphis Grizzlies guard Bobby Jackson.

If the Hornets and Bulls go ahead with the proposed deal, Shinn will absorb the remaining five years and $54 million on Chandler's six-year, $63 million contract signed last summer.

The venerable Brown, who turns 37 in October, has only one season left on his contract at $8 million. If the swap goes through, as multiple sources expect -- and depending on whether other players are thrown in; Chicago's Malik Allen has been mentioned as a possible add-on -- New Orleans/Oklahoma City will have committed to well over $120 million in new contracts in a matter of hours.

It would add up to the most unexpected outlay ever seen from Shinn, even more unexpected than the big contracts he awarded Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn in the club's Charlotte days. Those moves were contract extensions. The Hornets have never been known for making offseason splashes such as these.

Yet this deal holds obvious appeal on both sides.

Hornets coach Byron Scott, himself the recipient of a three-year contract extension just before the draft, wants to play an up-tempo game and will inevitably see the more athletic Chandler, at 7-foot-1 and turning 24 in October, as a better fit than Brown alongside Rookie of the Year point guard Chris Paul, Stojakovic and power forward David West.

The trade makes even more sense for the Bulls. They are unlikely to play two non-scorers together (Chandler and Wallace), and moving out Chandler's expensive contract for Brown's expiring deal will make it easier to absorb Wallace's four-year package, which is believed to be worth $60 million.

Brown, furthermore, is regarded as one of the best locker-room influences in the league and, along with Wallace, would provide legitimate size ... as well as the veteran know-how lacking in Chicago since the breakup of Michael Jordan's Bulls after their sixth and final championship in 1998.

The teams can't officially consummate a trade before July 12 and, as of late Monday night, they had not verbally agreed to the exchange. But the sides, according to various sources, were closing in on the stage of verbal agreement, with Shinn apparently prepared to sanction another long-term expenditure and the Bulls knowing they're unlikely to get a player in return for Chandler who helps them in as many ways as Brown.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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