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David Aldridge

Darren Collison (right) filled in admirably in his rookie season after Chris Paul went down with injury.
Darren Collison (right) filled in admirably in his rookie season after Chris Paul went down with injury.
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Why they did it: Breaking down the four-team trade

Posted Aug 12 2010 6:16AM

Wednesday's four-team trade between Houston, Indiana, New Jersey and New Orleans featured the Hornets' young point guard, Darren Collison, going to Indiana, and the Rockets sending forward Trevor Ariza to New Orleans. The Rockets also got guard Courtney Lee from the Nets, while the Nets acquired forward Troy Murphy from Indiana. Indiana took on veteran forward James Posey from New Orleans to complete the deal.

But this was not a simple deal between four non-playoff teams. Each team had specific needs and/or concerns to meet by making the deal happen, and bigger names and goals to try and impress. Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony leap to mind.

And the deal could have been even larger.

A league source says the Charlotte Bobcats wanted to get involved as well, using the non-guaranteed contract of center Erick Dampier to try and get a point guard. Under one scenario, Dampier would have gone to Indiana, the team that originally drafted him in 1996, with T.J. Ford going to Toronto and the Raptors sending guard Jose Calderon to Charlotte. (The Raptors had agreed to send Calderon to the Bobcats earlier this summer in a deal that would have sent center Tyson Chandler to Toronto, but the deal was scotched at the last minute by Charlotte owner Michael Jordan.)

Who went where
A quick look at Wednesday's four-team, five-player deal that featured Darren Collison and Trevor Ariza switching teams.
New Orleans trades
Darren Collison (to Indiana)
James Posey (to Indiana)
New Orleans receives
Trevor Ariza (from Houston)
Indiana trades
Troy Murphy (to New Jersey)
Indiana recieves
Darren Collison (from New Orleans)
James Posey (from New Orleans)
New Jersey trades
Courtney Lee (to Houston)
New Jersey receives
Troy Murphy (from Indiana)
Houston trades
Trevor Ariza (to New Orleans)
Houston receives
Courtney Lee (from New Jersey)

But in the end the four existing teams decided to move ahead with the trade. They all had their reasons:

HOUSTON: Keep it under your tax.

The Rockets went all out this summer to retain their assets, spending $47 million to keep starting power forward Luis Scola and matching Cleveland's $23.5 million offer sheet to Kyle Lowry, their third guard. And Houston also had to get insurance in case Yao Ming is slow to recover from his foot injury by giving $15 million to Brad Miller. That made them a big-time luxury tax payer now and the future was even bleaker for owner Leslie Alexander's wallet, with Yao and Aaron Brooks due large paydays in the next two years.

And GM Daryl Morey has been in cost-cutting mode ever since. He gave away center David Andersen to Toronto last month for a draft pick and now jettisons the remaining four years and $28 million of Ariza's contract to New Orleans. The Rockets are still over the luxury tax threshold for next season ($70.3 million), but not by nearly as much. Morey could get under if he wanted by dealing Shane Battier, entering the last year of his deal, for a pick. But Morey's stat-based love for Battier's all-around game has been well-documented. The Rockets, I'm told, are OK with paying some tax next season and thought Ariza's minutes would get cut next season with second-year forward Chase Budinger's emergence. And the Rockets have been after Lee, the rising third-year guard, ever since he came out of Western Kentucky in 2008. He will see plenty of time in the Rockets' guard rotation behind Kevin Martin or, perhaps, alongside him at times.

INDIANA: Missing the point entirely.

Sometimes the best trade is the one you didn't make. The Pacers, desperate for a point guard for more than a year, were on the verge of getting D.J. Augustin from Charlotte last February at the trade deadline for Ford and Brandon Rush, but the deal fell through. Instead, a few months later, they cashed in big time, getting Collison, one of the best young points in the league. With Paul entrenched in New Orleans it was only a matter of where Collison would go, and the Pacers figured out a way to get him. Now, Indiana has its point guard of the future on his rookie contract, and essentially traded Murphy's $11.9 million salary for next season in exchange for the $13.3 million over two years due to Posey. That second year of Posey's deal cuts a little into the cap room Indiana was planning to use next summer to go after free agents, but it's a small price to pay to solidify the point for a decade.

Indiana isn't out of the woods yet; Tyler Hansbrough's vertigo is still a concern, and the Pacers have to hope they didn't reach on first-round pick Paul George. But they have a solid nucleus to build around now with Collison, Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert, and at least the promise of being able to make an impactful trade next summer with the cap room and expiring contracts they still have available.

NEW JERSEY: Have you ever been 'Melo?

The Nets take on Murphy as a one-year rental, which allows them to bring along first-round pick Derrick Favors more slowly instead of throwing him in as a starter on opening night. And the emergence of second-year shooting guard Terrence Williams made Lee expendable. (Not to mention that Lee was desperate to return to a playoff team after spending his rookie season starting for Orlando and making the Finals.) Murphy is from New Jersey "and looking forward to playing with Avery" Johnson, Murphy's agent, Dan Fegan, said Wednesday.

But make no mistake: this deal was done with Anthony in mind. The Nets will have around $20 million in cap room next summer when Murphy comes off the books, making them just as plausible a destination for Anthony as the Knicks if Anthony decides not sign the $65 million extension from Denver that's been sitting there for a month. And New Jersey still has a lot of assets -- guard Devin Harris, the 2012 first-round pick it has from Golden State, newly signed guard Anthony Morrow, heck, maybe even Favors -- it can offer in a package to New Orleans for Paul, whom it has been trying to get as well. Not to mention the largesse of Mikhail Prokhorov's wallet, which can write out $3 million checks to other teams for years to come.

Whichever way he decides to go, new general manager Billy King now has great flexibility going forward, and an opportunity to do next summer what New Jersey didn't get done this summer -- sign or trade for a superstar.

NEW ORLEANS: CP are ya wit' me?

Nothing will happen in the Big Easy basketball-wise in the next 24 months that doesn't center around Paul, who made his desire to be traded public this summer. A summit meeting last month between Paul and the team's new brass -- team president Hugh Weber, new general manager Dell Demps and new head coach Monty Williams -- produced plaudits and sound bites but didn't do much to change the equation. So the Hornets still have to try and change Paul's mind. Ariza isn't by himself a game-changer, but he is the kind of young (25), athletic frontcourt player Paul hasn't played with in a while. With Peja Stojakovic finally in the last year of his deal, New Orleans has a replacement in Ariza, who won a ring two years ago with the Lakers and will likely be a much better fit with Paul than he would have been spotting up off of Yao in Houston next season.

Getting rid of Posey's contract helps New Orleans for next summer as well. Even with Emeka Okafor's contract (four years and $53.1 million remaining) adversely impacting the team's cap room, the Hornets should still get a few million under the cap in 2011 now that Posey is gone and they don't have to re-sign Julian Wright -- sent to Toronto on Wednesday in a separate deal for Marco Bellinelli -- and could clear several million more if they trade David West, who has two years (including an early termination option after this season) left. Washington, for one, had a great interest in West before re-signing small forward Josh Howard late last month, but the Hornets weren't interested. There are lots of other teams that might have assets New Orleans is more intrigued by.

The Hornets have a lot of work to do. But they're getting much younger, with rookies Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins joining Ariza, the 24-year-old Bellinelli and second-year guard Marcus Thornton in the rotation alongside Paul, West and Okafor. Ariza is a start, but only a start.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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