Suns gain $8M trade exception by trading Thomas

SEATTLE -- The Seattle SuperSonics acquired veteran forward
Kurt Thomas and the Phoenix Suns' first-round draft choices in 2008
and 2010 on Friday in exchange for a conditional second-round draft

Seattle also sent Phoenix its $8 million trade exception to
complete the deal. The Sonics gained the exception from Orlando
earlier this month when they completed a sign-and-trade deal that
sent Rashard Lewis to the Magic.

Thomas, who turns 35 in October, averaged a career-low 4.6
points per game in 67 games last season while averaging just 18
minutes. But he does provide the veteran presence Seattle was
seeking to tutor Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the second and fifth
overall selections in last month's draft.

The Suns, who made the move to cut salary following the signing
of Grant Hill, were willing to give up the first-round picks
because they believe they can win an NBA title now and have plenty
of young talent already.

The Sonics, who finished 31-51 last season, traded leading
scorer Ray Allen to Boston last month. Then Lewis, their
second-leading scorer, joined Orlando.

Seattle now holds five first-round picks over the next three

"The picks are huge for us," said new Sonics general manager
Sam Presti, the league's youngest GM at 30.

Thomas comes at the price the rebuilding Sonics were seeking. He
has one season left on a contract that will pay him $8.1 million
next season.

The deal provides some salary cap relief for Phoenix, which had
the NBA's fourth-highest payroll last season at $76.4 million.
Before Friday's trade, the Suns figured to be about $10 million
over the luxury tax limit next season.

Earlier this month, the Suns signed veteran Grant Hill to a
contract that will pay him about $1.8 million for the 2007-08
season. They also traded forward James Jones and the draft rights
to Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez, the 24th overall pick in the
draft, to Portland for $3 million.

"We are doing everything we can to keep our core group
together," said Suns general manager Steve Kerr. "Sometimes in
doing so, you have difficult decisions to make."

Thomas, who played for Miami, Dallas and New York before coming
to Phoenix, has averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game
during his 12-year career.

"Kurt really represents the identity we are trying to develop.
He's a tough, hard-nosed and defensive-minded player, and a true
professional," Presti said. "He's a veteran presence to enhance
the locker room."

The Suns acquired Thomas from the Knicks to provide some
front-line toughness. Thomas was plagued by injuries in Phoenix but
was a key player in the San Antonio series, where he usually
guarded Tim Duncan one-on-one. But he was considered expendable
given owner Robert Sarver's desire to stay beneath the luxury cap,
or at least not too far over it.

"We feel good going forward having our core group of players under contract for several years, including the recent addition of free agent Grant Hill," Kerr said in a news release. "The bottom line is there are tough decisions to make, but we have flexibility and our core together. We really like the group of players we've assembled and feel we can make a legitimate run for an NBA
championship next season."