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Hornets complete deal for Stojakovic

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The New Orleans Hornets' big offseason
signing was about more than getting the player they felt was the
best available.

"I think now everybody around the league knows that we're
serious about getting better and being a competitive basketball
team," coach Byron Scott said Wednesday night. "We're serious
about winning."

The Hornets completed their acquisition of three-time All-Star
Peja Stojakovic through a sign-and-trade deal with Indiana on
Wednesday. Stojakovic's agent, David Bauman, had said last week
that Stojakovic would sign as a free-agent with New Orleans, but
general manager Jeff Bower said the sign-and-trade deal was better
for both sides.

The Hornets also get cash in the deal, while the Pacers receive
the draft rights to Andrew Betts, a 7-foot-1 center from Britain
who was a second-round draft pick by the Hornets in 1998. Betts has
never played in the NBA.

Bauman has said Stojakovic's deal with the Hornets would be
worth $64 million over five years.

Hornets owner George Shinn called Stojakovic's acquisition
"perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition in the history of the
franchise."

"I wasn't really trying to prove a point. I do know in the last
season or two we made a couple passes at some players that were out
there and they fell through. ... We just decided that if we're
going to get it done, we've got to get everybody's attention and
let them know we want to get it done," Shinn said.

"We all realized how much getting the best shooter in the NBA
to join our team, how much it would help us."

Stojakovic gives the Hornets the outside shooter they lacked
last season in a surprising 20-win improvement that kept them in
the playoffs until the final week of the season. He rejoins former
teammate Bobby Jackson, who has also agreed to terms with the
Hornets.

The Jackson signing and New Orleans' trade that sent forward
P.J. Brown and guard J.R. Smith to Chicago for center Tyson Chandler haven't been made official yet. Bower said the Hornets
were prioritizing the deals for salary cap reasons.

"We've been able to add these quality players and still
maintain all that cap flexibility. Contracts are staggered, they
are in order of priority, they all fit and we are going to be able
to maintain a lot of cap flexibility and still operate as a team
with a real sound financial base but with good players," Bower
said.

Scott said he expected Stojakovic to start at shooting guard
with Desmond Mason staying put at small forward. Stojakovic said he
found the two positions to be interchangeable in Sacramento, where
Scott was an assistant coach for two seasons before landing his
first head coaching gig in New Jersey.

The Hornets also return rookie of the year Chris Paul at point
guard and leading scorer David West at power forward. Chandler
joins first-round picks Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons in a
suddenly crowded, young frontcourt.

"I think this team has a lot of talent and it deserves to be in
the playoffs," said Stojakovic, a two-time winner of the NBA's
3-point shooting contest who has averaged 18.4 points for his
career.

Stojakovic's teams have made the playoffs each of his eight
seasons -- including five years with Jackson in Sacramento.

"Bobby's a great guy and of course he's an unbelievable player,
a great addition to the Hornets. We played five years together, and
he's going to bring unbelievable energy to this team on both ends
of the court. I'm excited to play with him again. It's going to be
an exciting season."

Bower said the Hornets also were in "rather extensive talks"
daily with free agent forward Rasual Butler, who averaged 8.7
points and led New Orleans in 3-pointers last season.

"Both ourselves and Rasual have great interest in each other
and would like to see something work and come together but we're
not at that point yet," Bower said. "If it's the right fit and
the right time, maybe we'll be able to get together on it."