- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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That's why the teams combined on a trade featuring Earl Boykins on Thursday.
The surging Boykins has scored 20 points or more in eight of his 10 games alongside Iverson, but his shots and minutes were certain to dwindle when Carmelo Anthony returns from suspension on Jan. 22. Denver couldn't resist the opportunity to trade him now given that Boykins will soon be its odd man out and more so because this move ensures that the Nuggets will not be paying luxury tax at season's end.
The Nuggets, sources say, had hoped to keep Boykins for a few more games while Anthony completes his 15-game ban. But they had to make the trade immediately because Milwaukee's $4.3 million injury exception created by Bobby Simmons' season-ending ankle and foot surgeries -- its only mechanism for taking back Boykins' contract in this exchange -- expires Friday.
Blake averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 assists in 33 games for the
Bucks this season.
"We're getting a classic point guard," Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien told The Associated Press. "He's an outstanding shooter and solid floor leader."
Boykins' arrival will be a welcome boost to the Bucks, who have lost leading scorers Michael Redd (knee) and Mo Williams (shoulder) to injuries in the past week. Redd is expected to miss at least a month, with Williams sidelined 2-3 weeks. Charlie Villanueva (shoulder) is also out indefinitely and Simmons didn't play a single game this season before it was determined that he'd need two operations.
The Bucks are hoping Boykins' scoring can help keep them in the playoff hunt until Redd and Williams return. The 5-foot-5 dynamo makes $2.95 million this season and is scheduled to earn $3 million next season but has the right to decline his player option and become a free agent July 1.
Milwaukee, sources said, also managed to extract an estimated $700,000 from the Nuggets to pay the remainder of Hodge's $1.2 million salary.
Blake, meanwhile, will get an opportunity to win some back-up minutes in Denver's backcourt, with the Nuggets admittedly looking for pass-first facilitators who can play with Iverson, Anthony and swingman J.R. Smith. The Nuggets also created a $2.95 million trade exception through this transaction because, with Blake being swapped for Hodge, Denver sent out more salary than it received in the trade. The trade exception is good for one year.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. The Associated Presss contributed to this story.
The Denver Nuggets need some breathing space from luxury-tax territory. The Milwaukee Bucks need backcourt scoring to counter their injury crisis.