Posted Dec 10 2008 10:29PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns jettisoned two familiar players to Charlotte, and got the Bobcats' leading scorer in exchange.
In the latest move in their ongoing makeover, the Suns traded Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to the Bobcats on Wednesday as part of a deal for Jason Richardson.
"We felt like we needed to shake things up a little bit," Suns general manager Steve Kerr said. "We wanted to add a great scorer in the backcourt to give us better balance to take some of the pressure off of Steve [Nash]."
Rookie point guard Sean Singletary also went to Charlotte, while the Suns got small forward Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round draft pick.
The dynamic Richardson was the center of the deal, though.
"I think it was an opportunity for us to get better," Phoenix coach Terry Porter said, "a guy who can get 20 points a night, adds athleticism for us."
The 6-foot-6 Richardson is a two-time NBA slam dunk champion and an accomplished 3-point shooter who is averaging 18.7 points this season and 18.8 for his pro career.
"When you try to get better, you're going to lose some assets," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "We're losing a pretty darn good player and the way Phoenix is trying to make their team, they just added an unbelievable piece."
|Bobcats coach Larry Brown offers his insight on the deal that sent Jason Richardson to the Suns.
Bell, a first-team all-defensive team selection in 2006-07 and second team last season, had made it clear he was not happy with the Suns' switch from coach Mike D'Antoni's high-flying style to Porter's more deliberate approach. Bell is averaging 9.4 points this season.
The versatile Diaw had seen his playing time dwindle behind Amar'e Stoudemire. The Suns still liked the Frenchman's skills but not his salary. He is getting $9 million this season and has three more years on his contract.
"I think it's going to be a little bit of a shock to those guys when you start a season and you have a legitimate chance to win a championship and all of a sudden go with a team that's trying to go and find an identity and get better," Brown said.
Dudley, a 6-foot-7 second-year pro, started seven games for Charlotte this season.
The 32-year-old Bell came to the Suns as a free agent in 2005 and thrived under D'Antoni's up-tempo system, gaining notoriety when he was suspended for a 2006 playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers after throwing Kobe Bryant to the floor.
But Bell didn't like the coaching change or the new system. Nash was a tough sell, too, and his adjustment has been made more difficult, the Suns believe, by the lack of a major scoring threat at the other backcourt position.
"Raja was a great teammate," Stoudemire said. "Whenever there are changes, you've got to accept that. We're going to build this chemistry again and get it rolling. I don't think it will take too long."
Kerr and Porter didn't think the team lost anything defensively in substituting Richardson for Bell.
"Raja's capable of stopping guys," Porter said. "Jason's capable of stopping guys, also."
The deal marks a continuation of Kerr's change in Phoenix's makeup. The big move came in a trade that brought Shaquille O'Neal from Miami late last season.
"He averaged 20 a game for us this year without a true post game," Brown said about Richardson. "When you put him with Shaq, who can pass the ball and commands double teams, and Stoudemire as well, and you got a guy like Steve Nash, they got a pretty formidable weapon."
Trading Richardson is the first major move for the Bobcats since Larry Brown took over as coach -- and comes less than two years after managing partner Michael Jordan acquired Richardson in a draft-night deal with Golden State.
"I've watched Jason for a long time," said Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins, who also was with Richardson in Golden State. "Just watching him grow, he grew from where he started to where he is today with his ability to score the basketball."
Diaw will help with Charlotte with Brown's biggest complaint, a thin frontcourt. Diaw could start right away for struggling Sean May at power forward.
"We needed to become bigger," Higgins said.
Bell provides Charlotte with another wing player, while Singletary could serve as the No. 3 point guard behind Raymond Felton and rookie D.J. Augustin. Brown has requested another consistent point guard.
But Richardson's offense will be missed from a team that entered Wednesday last in the league in scoring.
"You have opportunities now for other guys to develop," Higgins said. "Some guys are going to have different opportunities. We'll figure it out as we go on."
Golden State made Richardson the fifth pick overall out of Michigan State in the 2001 draft. He played six seasons for the Warriors, averaging a career-best 23.2 points in 2005-06. He was traded to Charlotte in June, 2007, in a financially motivated move by the Warriors. His contract runs through the 2010-11 seasons.
The 6-8 Diaw averaged 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in place of the injured Stoudemire in 2005-06. Diaw was rewarded with a five-year, $45 million contract extension in October of 2006.
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