Trade allows Hornets, Rockets to keep up with West shakers

Updated: February 22, 2008, 11:36 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Every top team in the Western Conference has made a significant move this season. Every team, that is, except the one at the very top.

Well, that ended Thursday when the New Orleans Hornets made a trade of their own.

Bobby Jackson

Jackson

Bonzi Wells

Wells

Mike James

James

The Hornets, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies finalized a multi-player swap that sends Mike James and Bonzi Wells to New Orleans, with Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska going to the Rockets.

New Orleans and Houston also agreed to exchange second-round draft picks if the Hornets' second pick is higher than Houston's.

"We wanted to add a little bit of presence on our bench in the form of players who could give us some scoring punch," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "This trade dramatically improves our team by giving us proven veteran scorers at the backup guard and swing positions."

Different variations of the trade evolved Wednesday evening, and the Grizzlies got involved to make it a three-team deal.

Memphis receives Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius from the Hornets. The draft rights to Ukrainian forward Sergei Lishchuk, a second-round pick of the Grizzlies in 2004, were sent to Houston. The Grizzlies, which also get cash considerations from Houston, acquired the draft rights to Senegalese center Malick Badiane, a second-round pick in 2003, from the Rockets.

The trade reunites Jackson with Houston coach Rick Adelman, who was with him for five seasons in Sacramento. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that relationship was a big factor in the trade.

"We've always liked him as a player, but having his familiarity with Coach, Coach's system, he's a guy that can step right in," Morey said. "With the West the way it is, you don't want to have a big transition period. I think a lot of the teams that added players are going through that right now. We're hoping with Bobby that transition is a little shorter than others."

Adelman and Morey said adding Jackson will help in the development of former backup point guard and rookie Aaron Brooks.

"By no means are we unhappy with Aaron, but you have a chance to get a player that's been through it, that's been to a lot of playoffs and has had success," Adelman said. "He was an opportunity and with everything else it just seemed like a good fit." Of the top six teams in the West (based upon the standings entering Wednesday night's games), only the Hornets hadn't made a significant move. Phoenix acquired Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, Utah acquired Kyle Korver, San Antonio signed Damon Stoudamire and traded for Kurt Thomas, and Dallas traded for Jason Kidd.

The Rockets, tied with Denver for seventh in the West, also had not made any big moves.

The Rockets-Hornets-Grizzlies deal gives New Orleans two veteran scorers, and a little more size with Wells, off the bench. The Hornets also remain interested in re-signing forward Chris Andersen if his drug banishment is lifted by the NBA, although the wheels are turning slowly on Andersen's application for reinstatement. New Orleans also has reached out to unsigned free agent veteran P.J. Brown.

Bower said the Hornets simply wanted to address inconsistent play on the part of their reserves and weren't trying to play catch-up before Thursday afternoon's trading deadline.

"It wasn't as a reaction to these other deals because we had interest and were looking hard at that before all those other deals took place," Bower said. "Those other deals really didn't influence us. We thought this was a good deal and a way to help our team, completely separate from what everybody else had done. We were trying to get a little more support."

If Wells produces, he could push for Morris Peterson's starting slot at shooting guard, but Bower said that was not the intention of the trade.

Peterson played only 13 minutes and finished with two points against Dallas on Wednesday night, dropping his average to 8.6 points. Bower said Peterson's inconsistent scoring hasn't bothered him.

"It's just a role he's settling into ... as piece on a team that has Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler and David West and Peja [Stojakovic]," Bower said. "There's a lot of sacrifices that have to be made to be on a team like that. He's handling that very well and adding things that go beyond the box score.

"We brought Bonzi in with the intention of him providing a lot of strength coming off our bench, giving us a post-up presence as a wing player and some rebounding help."

This trade makes sense for the Rockets because they get out from under James' contract, which runs through 2009-10. James, who logged a total of only 39 minutes in the past 25 games, is due to make $6 million next season and has a player option for $6.4 million the following season, while Wells ($2.3 million) comes off the books after this season. Jackson has one year remaining at $6.1 million, and the Hornets have also been trying to move Rasual Butler, who is due $3.6 and $3.9 over the next two years.

James, in his seventh NBA season, has already played for seven different teams. His best season as a pro was in 2005-06, when he averaged 20.3 points with Toronto.

"He's a player that's hungry and feels he's got more to offer a team than he was doing in Houston, obviously," Bower said. "Guys have come here and done well with a change of scenery and we're hopeful Mike follows suit."

In New Orleans, Hornets players told The Associated Press that Jackson was very well liked and will be missed on and off the floor, but added that they understood the logic behind the trade.

"It's going to be tough off the court, when you're hanging out and realize Bobby's not there," reserve guard Jannero Pargo said. "To get those two guys for Bobby, it was almost like a no-brainer as far as basketball was concerned. On paper, there's no doubt we got better but hopefully it works out on the court."

Chris Sheridan is an ESPN.com NBA Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.