The Miami Heat, reeling from the continued injury absence of Dwyane Wade and an 0-7 record in the preseason, have responded with a promising double boost for their aging roster.
Finding an unexpected taker for out-of-favor forward Antoine Walker, Miami on Wednesday completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire swingman Ricky Davis and center Mark Blount.
The Wolves will also receive Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien (and their expiring contracts) in addition to Walker. Minnesota initially balked at taking back Walker, according to NBA front-office sources, but the Heat threw in a future first-round draft pick to push the trade through.
Walker has fallen farther and farther out of grace with Miami coach Pat Riley since the Heat's 2006 championship, largely because of conditioning issues. But Minnesota might also have been convinced to shed its reservations and make the swap because Walker has only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract, one year less than Blount.
Trading Davis and Blount, both veterans who no longer wanted to be in Minnesota in the wake of the Kevin Garnett trade to Boston, represents the latest step in an ongoing Wolves clearout aimed at creating a fresh environment around three featured youngsters: Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and rookie Corey Brewer.
Walker wouldn't appear to fit in Minnesota's long-range plans, either, but concerns about Blount and Jefferson co-existing after some reported friction in their Boston days together served as another potential motivation for the Wolves to make the deal in addition to Walker's cap-friendlier contract.
For Riley, meanwhile, manufacturing a deal that delivers two proven scorers less than a week before the regular season opens ranks as undeniable coup, in spite of any chemistry concerns attached to the newcomers.
Davis has struggled at times to accept third- or fourth-wheel status in his various stops and has already played his way out of Miami once when Riley had him for an injury-plagued season (2000-01) and then traded him to Cleveland. Blount, furthermore, will have to prove he can earn minutes in Miami when Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning are healthy.
The Heat, however, badly needed an infusion of scoring on the perimeter and a more potent complement (or replacement) for O'Neal and the minutes-restricted Mourning on the front line after a rough offseason and a similarly discouraging exhibition season.
In the summer, Miami lost Jason Kapono, James Posey and Eddie Jones in free agency because of payroll concerns and was also thwarted in its attempts to sign Milwaukee free-agent guards Maurice Williams and Charlie Bell. With Wade still sidelined indefinitely after undergoing shoulder and knee surgeries in May and the Heat going winless in the preseason for the first time in franchise history, Riley was increasingly desperate for new blood.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.