- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Chicago Bulls and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets on Wednesday reached a verbal agreement on the widely expected trade that will send Bulls center Tyson Chandler to the Hornets for veteran forward P.J. Brown and swingman J.R. Smith.
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com that the players involved have been notified that the deal will officially go through July 12, which is the first day NBA teams can officially complete signings and trades after the league announces the salary cap for the 2006-07 season.
The ability to deal away Chandler, who has five years and $54 million left on his contract, was crucial for the Bulls in their pursuit of Ben Wallace. They likely couldn't have offered Wallace as much as they did -- nearly $60 million over four years -- without receiving Brown's much friendlier contract in return.
"It was just a matter of when and where," Chandler told the Chicago Tribune from his California home last night.
The willingness to take on Chandler's contract, meanwhile, represents the third bold move from the traditionally quiet Hornets in the space of a week, after years of criticism endured by Hornets owner George Shinn for his reluctance to spend.
"It's my understanding that the trade is going to happen," said Mark Bartelstein, Brown's agent. "P.J. is very excited. He feels like the Bulls have an opportunity to compete for a championship. He really enjoyed his time with the Hornets, but he has so many fond memories of his days in Miami and contending every year that Chicago is a really good situation for him to get back to."
New Orleans/Oklahoma City commenced its aggressive 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.
"It's a great basketball opportunity to play with a bunch of young, up-and-coming guys," Chandler said to the Tribune. "That's the thing I'm excited about. They're moving the team in a direction that fits me well. I can help a team make the playoffs. I'll get a chance to play with a great, young point guard [Chris Paul]."
The venerable Brown, who turns 37 in October, has only one season left on his contract at $8 million. Swapping Brown and the out-of-favor Smith for Chandler means New Orleans/Oklahoma City has committed to well over $120 million in new contracts since free agency began Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
It adds 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 don't want to play two non-scorers together (Chandler and Wallace) and moving out Chandler's expensive contract for Brown's expiring deal makes it much easier to absorb Wallace's deal.
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.
Smith has at least three players ahead of him in Chicago's swing rotation -- Andres Nocioni, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng -- but the 20-year-old has attracted significant trade interest since falling out of Scott's rotation halfway through the season. Smith, then, figures to be a valuable trade chip for the Bulls if he can't crack coach Scott Skiles' rotation, although league restrictions on trades would make it difficult for Chicago to move him in a package deal until 60 days after this trade is officially consummated.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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