Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Updated: February 18, 10:38 AM ET
Thunder get Chandler from Hornets
By Marc Stein
The New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder have completed a deal that sends center Tyson Chandler to the Thunder.
The Hornets received forwards Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox in exchange for their best interior defender.
The Hornets also received the draft rights to DeVon Hardin, who was selected No. 50 overall by the Thunder in the 2008 draft.
"We were able to get great depth, leadership and experience by making this trade," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said in a statement. "We felt we needed to increase our overall play of the front line and Chris Wilcox is a young, athletic player that can score and fit well in our system. We will be able to take advantage of his athleticism and style of play.
"Joe provides us with much needed depth and someone who can be an integral part of our rotation," Bower said.
The Hornets played Tuesday night against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, but the players involved in the trade did not participate in the game.
ESPN.com reported early Monday that the Hornets -- who have been looking to move Chandler mostly for financial reasons -- were in talks with the Thunder on a trade that would net the expiring contracts of Smith and Wilcox. Thunder general manager Sam Presti is a longtime admirer of Chandler dating to his time with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Thunder also possess numerous draft picks to sweeten trade packages -- including five first-round picks in the next two drafts -- but Presti was able to land an accomplished center to complement his promising young trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green without surrendering any major draft considerations.
"We are excited to add a young, defensive-minded big man that we feel can help us now and in the future," Presti said in a statement. "Tyson has ties to the Oklahoma City community and we are excited to have him with us as we continue to build our organization."
With a payroll at nearly $67 million this season and scheduled to reach almost $77 million next season, New Orleans felt it had to part with Chandler before Thursday's 3 p.m. trading deadline regardless, even though dealing away the 26-year-old almost certainly takes the Hornets out of serious playoff contention in the West.
The Hornets were widely projected as a dark-horse title contender entering the season but hit the All-Star break as the No. 6 team in the West at 30-20 after a variety of injuries and struggles to cope with raised expectations. Chandler has been bothered all season by foot troubles and is averaging just 8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, compared to 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds last season.
"There's no question with this transaction we accomplished some other objectives as well and were able to put ourselves in a position to have greater flexibility down the road and to be in a situation where we have flexibility financially, but it was driven first by the decision that we need to get better, we need to improve. And then it takes you down to, how do you do it and what are your objectives?" Bower said.
With the Hornets unable to generate trade interest in Peja Stojakovic and unwilling to part with either Chris Paul or David West, New Orleans elected to take this deal to erase Chandler's $12.3 million salary next season from its payroll. Chandler has the right to become a free agent after the 2009-10 season in the unlikely event that he chooses to walk away from his $13.2 million salary in 2010-11.
"I think it frustrates you to a certain extent. As a coach, you want to win no matter what. That's the bottom line. Your job kind of depends on that obviously," Hornets coach Byron Scott said Tuesday night.
"Deals that are made that are money-driven are always tough from a coach's standpoint. I don't think this was so much money-driven. I think obviously there's a lot of owners in this league that don't want to pay luxury tax and things like that. But I do think we got two guys in Chris and Joe that are very, very good quality basketball players," Scott said.
At the Hornets' Tuesday morning shootaround in Oklahoma City, West told the New Orleans Times Picayune that he was hoping his team would resist the trade interest in Chandler.
"I don't know if that's somebody we can afford to lose,'' West told the newspaper. "So I'm not sold on that idea. You just don't find a 7-foot-1 athlete like that and he's the only 7-footer we have. Especially if we're planning on making a run into the playoffs, we're going to need size to compete with Portland, San Antonio and the Lakers. I'm not sure that would help us.''
Guard Rasual Butler had a hard time fathoming why the Hornets made the deal.
"It's a little bit of a shock to me. Tyson was a great teammate, a great asset to our team," Butler said. "This is nothing against Wilcox or Joe Smith, but we'll definitely miss Tyson."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.