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Suns shake up roster, trade Bell, Diaw for Richardson

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Dec 10 2008 11:43PM

The Phoenix Suns had to send a message to their veteran core. The Charlotte Bobcats -- well, Larry Brown, anyway -- wanted to shake up their team. The result was a major trade Wednesday that sent Charlotte's leading scorer, guard Jason Richardson, to the Phoenix Suns in a multi-player deal that will send longtime guard Raja Bell and forward Boris Diaw to Charlotte.

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The Suns are still adjusting to the new style and system of new coach Terry Porter. Going into its game tonight with the Lakers, Phoenix was still 13-9 and in the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, but didn't have the same explosiveness on offense as it had during its "Seven Seconds or Less" heyday under former coach Mike D'Antoni.

With Shaquille O'Neal not with the team due to a death in the family, Phoenix will only be able to dress nine players for the Lakers.

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Diaw and Bell appeared to be struggling. Bell told TNT during a recent game that he was still trying to find the edge that has marked his play throughout his career as one of the league's toughest individual defenders. Diaw dealt with conditioning problems all season.

A source said Wednesday that Bell, who'd started every game for Phoenix, was "dissatisfied" with the role Porter was asking him to play this season.

"We had a team that needed to be shook up a little bit and needed an injection of energy," the source said. "The mix had gotten a little stale."

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The Bobcats are playing much better this season under Brown, in his first year with his latest team. But Brown, as ever, has been unhappy with his team's defense and is looking to add a true center up front so current center Emeka Okafor can move to power forward.

Charlotte, a source said, will be addressing that in the next few days, using forward Gerald Wallace as bait in order to secure a starting center.

Richardson, who will turn 28 next month, had started 14 games for the Bobcats this season, averaging 18.7 points on 44 percent shooting -- including 45.8 percent from three-point range, 14th-best in the league.

Richardson said last month that while Brown was demanding, he enjoyed playing for him.

"The first thing [Brown] said to me was, 'If you can play for Coach [Tom] Izzo, you can play for me,'" Richardson said, referring to his college coach at Michigan State.

The Bobcats acquired Richardson on draft night 2007 in a trade with Golden State that sent Charlotte's first-round pick, forward Brandan Wright, to the Warriors.

The move has other potential pitfalls for Phoenix. Trading Bell deprives the Suns of the man who eagerly embraced the challenge of defending the likes of Kobe Bryant, with whom Bell has feuded in years past, as well as other Western Conference stars like Brandon Roy and Tracy McGrady.

And Bell's departure will be hard on guard Steve Nash. The two had become close friends in the four seasons they played together.

But With Richardson in the backcourt alongside Nash, the Suns should be much harder to guard. Richardson gives Phoenix a legitimate end-of-game option it hasn't had in a long time, and the Suns can still be potent with Nash, Richardson and Amar'e Stoudemire on the floor even when O'Neal is on the bench.

As part of the trade, Phoenix also sent rookie guard Sean Singletary to Charlotte in the deal in exchange for forward/center Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round pick.

Amazingly, this will be Singletary's fourth team this season. He began the year with Sacramento, which took him in the second round of last June's draft. Then, he was dealt to Houston in July as part of the trade that sent Ron Artest to the Rockets. Then he was traded to Phoenix in August for guard D.J. Strawberry.

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