Hornets get Wells, James from Rockets

AP Photo/Bill Haber
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Looking to solidify their bench and protect their perch atop the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets acquired swingman Bonzi Wells and guard Mike James on Thursday in a trade that sent veteran guard Bobby Jackson to Houston.

"We wanted to add a little bit of presence on our bench in the form of players who could give us some scoring punch," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "This trade dramatically improves our team by giving us proven veteran scorers at the backup guard and swing positions."

The trade involved three teams. The Hornets also sent rookie guard Adam Haluska and second-year forward Marcus Vinicius to Houston, then Houston sent Vinicius, the rights to Malick Badiane and cash to Memphis in exchange for the rights to Sergei Lishouk.

New Orleans and Houston agreed to exchange second-round draft picks if the Hornets' second pick is higher than Houston's.

The Hornets also received cash from Houston so the combined salaries of James and Wells would not exceed Jackson's salary by more than the NBA mandated threshold of 25 percent.

Jackson is earning $5.7 million this season and $6.1 million next season.

Wells' contract expires after this season, but James is signed through 2009-10 and is scheduled to be paid $12.7 million during the final two seasons of his contract.

The deal means the Hornets now have two open spots on their 15-player roster, allowing them also to pursue free agent and former Hornets power forward P.J. Brown, who is mulling offers from several contending teams as the stretch run of the regular season begins.

New Orleans also is interested in center Chris Anderson, who was suspended for drug use in 2006 but recently applied for reinstatement.

Jackson has averaged 7.1 points this season backing up Chris Paul, but has proven he can still be an explosive scorer. He hit five 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter, and finished with 17 points Wednesday in a victory over Dallas.

The trade reunites Jackson with Houston coach Rick Adelman, who was with him for five seasons in Sacramento. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that relationship was a big factor in the trade.

"We've always liked him as a player, but having his familiarity with Coach, Coach's system, he's a guy that can step right in," Morey said. "With the West the way it is, you don't want to have a big transition period. I think a lot of the teams that added players are going through that right now. We're hoping with Bobby that transition is a little shorter than others."

Wells has played about 22 minutes per game in Houston, averaging 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds. James has averaged about 16 minutes of playing time and 6.5 points.

Hornets players said Jackson was very well liked and will be missed on and off the floor, but added that they understood the logic behind the trade.

"It's going to be tough off the court, when you're hanging out and realize Bobby's not there," reserve guard Jannero Pargo said. "To get those two guys for Bobby, it was almost like a no-brainer as far as basketball was concerned. On paper, there's no doubt we got better but hopefully it works out on the court."

The Hornets will see Jackson soon. Houston visits New Orleans on Friday.

Adelman and Morey said adding Jackson will help in the development of former backup point guard and rookie Aaron Brooks.

"By no means are we unhappy with Aaron, but you have a chance to get a player that's been through it, that's been to a lot of playoffs and has had success," Adelman said. "He was an opportunity and with everything else it just seemed like a good fit."

The trade frees up salary cap room for the Rockets, and Morey said that would help down the stretch if players become available.

The trade is only the latest involving Western Conference leaders.

In the past several weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired Pau Gasol, the Phoenix Suns have traded for Shaquille O'Neal and the Dallas Mavericks landed Jason Kidd.

Bower said the Hornets simply wanted to address inconsistent play on the part of their reserves and weren't trying to play catch-up before Thursday afternoon's trading deadline.

"It wasn't as a reaction to these other deals because we had interest and were looking hard at that before all those other deals took place," Bower said. "Those other deals really didn't influence us. We thought this was a good deal and a way to help our team, completely separate from what everybody else had done. We were trying to get a little more support."

If Wells produces, he could push for Morris Peterson's starting slot at shooting guard, but Bower said that was not the intention of the trade.

Peterson played only 13 minutes and finished with two points against Dallas on Wednesday night, dropping his average to 8.6 points. Bower said Peterson's inconsistent scoring hasn't bothered him.

James, in his seventh NBA season, has already played for seven different teams. His best season as a pro was in 2005-06, when he averaged 20.3 points with Toronto.

"He's a player that's hungry and feels he's got more to offer a team than he was doing in Houston, obviously," Bower said. "Guys have come here and done well with a change of scenery and we're hopeful Mike follows suit."


© 2008 The Associated Press.


East beats West in All-Star thriller

AP Photo/Bill Haber

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- LeBron James took another MVP trophy back to Cleveland. Dwight Howard headed to Florida a much bigger star. Kobe Bryant left well-rested and nursing the same injured finger that made his visit strictly ceremonial.

Led by James and Ray Allen, the Eastern Conference outplayed their more trumpeted counterparts from the Western Conference and avenged a year-old beating with a 134-128 win on Sunday night.

Allen scored 28 points, making three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15 and James added 27, including a did-he-really-do-that? dunk in the last minute to lift the East, which is constantly fighting for respect against the West's heavy hitters.

See the PER Sports analysis of the game.

© 2008 The Associated Pres

Top-ranked players by position according to the PER Sports.

Analysis thru
February 14, 2008
See who the top five performers are by position within each Conference up to the All-Star break. Rankings are based on players' Individual PER scores.
Forwards: PER Score
Eastern Conference  
LeBron James 113.27
Kevin Garnett 100.25
Chris Bosh 95.84
Caron Butler 94.46
Shawn Marion 93.92
Western Conference  
Dirk Nowitzki 102.06
Carlos Boozer 100.24
Carmelo Anthony 99.22
Tim Duncan 98.68
David West 90.38
Guards: PER Score
Eastern Conference  
Jose Calderon 99.30
Chauncey Billups 96.12
Dwyane Wade 95.94
Michael Redd 90.25
Jason Kidd 88.57
Western Conference  
Chris Paul 107.84
Kobe Bryant 106.29
Steve Nash 106.16
Manu Ginobili 100.53
Deron Williams 98.43
Centers: PER Score
Eastern Conference  
Dwight Howard 98.77
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 86.22
Rasheed Wallace 84.56
Jermaine O'Neal 81.71
Andrew Bogut 80.24
Western Conference  
Amare Stoudemire 106.96
Yao Ming 96.53
Al Jefferson 95.34
Andrew Bynum 92.78
Pau Gasol 91.92

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Copyrighted © 1998-2008 by PER Sports, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Using a variety of props as well as teammate Jameer Nelson, Howard scored perfect 50s from judges on his first two dunks before the contest was turned over to fan voting for the first time in the final round.

Fans, too, picked the 6-foot-11 Howard, who dispelled an old dunking myth: Big men can fly high.

"It's really for the big men," Howard said. "Everybody always says, big men can't jump and big men don't look good dunking. I just tried to add a little bit of my personality. With me being so tall, I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to play to the crowd and have fun."