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Monday, January 5, 2004
Updated: January 6, 10:53 AM ET
Marbury lands with fourth team of career

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Stephon Marbury is returning to his hometown as part of a blockbuster trade between the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns on Monday.

The Knicks acquired Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski from Phoenix for Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe, the rights to Milos Vujanic, two first-round draft picks and cash.

Dr. Jack on the Knicks-Suns trade
Dr. Jack Ramsay I'm surprised that the Phoenix Suns would give up Stephon Marbury. He's a great acquisition for the New York Knicks.

This trade immediately benefits the Knicks. I have a high regard for Marbury -- he's a tremendous talent. I believe Marbury is the second-best point guard in the NBA (behind Jason Kidd; remember, New Jersey traded Marbury for Kidd in 2001).

With this deal, it appears Phoenix is throwing in the towel on this season. Can the Suns do something profitable with the two first-round draft picks from the Knicks? Only time will tell.

But the Knicks (14-21) are much better prepared now for a potential playoff run. To earn a playoff spot in the East, I expect that a team will need at least a .500 record. The Knicks would need to go 27-20 in their remaining games to finish at .500 exactly.

Clearly, new president/GM Isiah Thomas is going to work in New York. Marbury and Allan Houston should be a great backcourt combination. Marbury will give the Knicks a shot in the arm. He can create his own shots and create opportunities for teammates.

Penny Hardaway also comes to the Knicks from the Suns. Earlier in his career, he merited a spot on the All-NBA First Team. Then a serious knee injury threatened his career (I didn't think he'd play again). Since his return, he hasn't been the same player, showing inconsistent glimpses of his earlier form.

Antonio McDyess, who goes to the Suns, is playing better after missing last season with a knee injury. And the Suns can get by with Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley (the other two Knicks in the deal) at point guard. But neither is Stephon Marbury, to be sure.
-- ESPN's Dr. Jack Ramsay

"Our goal is to win an NBA championship, and our goal is to put together a team that can do that," Knicks president Isiah Thomas said after making his first major move in his new job.

"If you're going to win a championship, you need talent, you need players," Thomas said. "You're not going to beat the best teams with just one or two players."

The trade is the fourth of Marbury's career. The Brooklyn native was drafted by Milwaukee and immediately dealt to Minnesota, where he subsequently forced a trade to New Jersey. The Nets sent him to Phoenix for Jason Kidd, and he's now headed to the Knicks in the first major move made by new team president Isiah Thomas.

"I think we got the best deal," Knicks center Dikembe Mutombo said. "He's among the best point guards in the league, he's an All-Star player."

The trade represents a major shakeup for both teams. In exchange for its best player, Phoenix will go under the salary cap next summer and will have at least $8 million to offer to a free agent class that includes Kobe Bryant.

Suns owner Jerry Colangelo confirmed said the Suns will save $20 million to $25 million in salary and luxury tax costs through the 2004-05 season. That will allow the Suns to rebuild a team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season after missing the postseason the year before.

"This is a big picture kind of move, and a bold move," Colangelo said. "We didn't have flexibility under the cap, and we were hamstrung by some contracts. This allows us to be a player in free agency if we choose to. This is not a talent-for-talent deal."

Marbury, one of the league's best point guards, is averaging a team-high 20.8 points for the Suns, who are in last place in the Pacific Division. He signed a four-year extension, worth approximately $76 million, earlier this season that kicks in with the 2005-06 season and runs through 2008-09. Counting this season, he has six years on his contract and will make $14.625 million next season, then a yet-to-be-determined figure in the first year of the extension.

Hardaway, a former All-Star, has been coming off the bench for the Suns. He has three years left on a deal that will pay him $13.5 million this season, $14.625 million in 2004-05 and $15.75 million in 2005-06.

In a statement released by the Suns, in which Suns coach Mike D'Antoni expressed his appreciation for Marbury's work ethic, he also said: "Are we probably going to take a little step backwards? Yeah, in the beginning. But with the cap room that we now have and with the draft picks we are going to have, along with the core of young players that will get a lot of playing time, we're excited about it. I think that in the long run this is the way to get to a higher level of play. In the short term a little pain, but in the long term we hope there's a big gain."

The contracts of McDyess and Ward expire at the end of this season, and Ward has a buyout clause that can be exercised before Jan. 10. Eisley is under contract for three more seasons. Vujanic, the starting point guard on the Yugoslavian team that won the 2002 World Championship, is playing in Europe.

McDyess, who played for the Suns in 1997-98, returned to action last month after missing more than a year because of knee surgery. McDyess took over a spot in the Knicks' starting lineup from Kurt Thomas, then lost it -- thereby becoming expendable.

Referring to McDyess and his return from injury, D'Antoni said, "He had 14 points and 11 rebounds (Sunday) night, and I don't see that from a whole lot of our big guys. So is he going to help us? God, I hope so. I'm planning on him helping. Is he the old Antonio McDyess? I don't know that."

Eisley, who recently lost his starting job to Frank Williams, did not play in the Knicks' 95-85 loss to New Jersey on Sunday night.

Ward has been with the Knicks for 10 seasons, the second-longest current tenure of any player who spent his career with one NBA team. He is expected to be waived by the Suns later this week.

Isiah Thomas has already turned over about half the Knicks' roster in the two weeks since he replaced team president Scott Layden.

"It's definitely a home run hit by Isiah in terms of getting this deal done," Knicks coach Don Chaney said.

The Knicks will give Phoenix their first-round pick in the 2004 draft and an additional first-round pick.

"I knew right after we got a new sheriff in town that we were in for a shakeup. One of the reasons he was brought here was to shake up the team and get us to the playoffs," Mutombo said.

Marbury will be reunited with Keith Van Horn, his teammate in New Jersey. Last summer, Marbury said the Nets didn't win when he was there because he was surrounded with untalented players, lumping Van Horn in with Gheorghe Muresan and Jim McIlvaine.

"No matter how long you play in this league, there's still things that come up that are surprising, and this is definitely one of them," Van Horn said. "Personally we never had any problems. On the court we didn't win, and I think that was the biggest problem that Stephon and I had."

At 14-21, the Knicks are fifth in a weak Atlantic Division. But with a starting lineup of Marbury, Allan Houston, Van Horn, Thomas and Mutombo, they should have enough talent to snap their two-year streak of missing the playoffs.

"On paper, talentwise, this puts us right up there at the top," Van Horn said. "But that's just paper."

Marbury and Hardaway were expected to join the Knicks in Cleveland and play Tuesday night against the Cavaliers, Chaney said. All the players in the deal must pass physicals before the trade is official.

Thomas, who already traded Clarence Weatherspoon to Houston for Moochie Norris and John Amaechi (who was waived Monday), indicated he'll continue to pursue trades.

"I still think we need to get a little more athletic and a little better," Thomas said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.