Emeka Okafor traded to Wizards
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The Hornets were the winners in Wednesday's two-team trade, even with the hefty Rashard Lewis contract, writes John Hollinger. Story
The trade will add two defensive specialists to Washington's roster as the Wizards continue to try to change their culture around prized young guard John Wall. Okafor thus joins Nene to give Washington two veteran big men after the Brazilian was acquired at midseason from Denver in a deal that brought an end to JaVale McGee's stay in the nation's capital.
"We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. "This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward."
Said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld: "Rashard unfortunately was injured while he was with us, and he didn't get an opportunity to show the kinds of things he was capable of doing. ... He had a very hefty buyout in his contract, and we elected to add a couple of players to the roster by using his contract."
Grunfeld said the Wizards would have had to pay a $13.7 million buyout.
Okafor has never lived up to being the second pick in the 2004 draft. He averaged a career-low 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds last season, missing time with a sore left knee. Ariza averaged 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds.
We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction. This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward.” -- Hornets GM Dell Demps
The move, meanwhile, sheds two long-term contracts from the Hornets' payroll while opening up minutes, through Okafor's departure, for Kentucky star Anthony Davis, who almost assuredly will be selected No. 1 overall by New Orleans in next Thursday's draft.
The Hornets, sources say, are planning to waive Lewis before July 1 to slice roughly $10 million off the $24 million that he is owed in 2012-13. He is entering the last season of a six-year, $118 million contract.
With the resultant financial flexibility, New Orleans is confident in its ability to re-sign restricted free agent Eric Gordon this summer to ensure it doesn't lose the best player it received in exchange for face-of-the-franchise Chris Paul in December.
The Hornets didn't have a second-round pick. They also have the first and 10th selections in the first round.
Washington also has the second pick of the second round.
Grunfeld said the deal won't have any effect on the team's draft plans.
"We felt like we needed to add some veterans to the roster, and we were able to do that with this move. ... We get players that are good solid players and fill two needs for us," he said. "Instead of going into free agency to try to fill our needs, we did it through a trade."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.