|Thursday, July 24
Three-team swap includes Turkoglu, Mercer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento Kings couldn't sit still while the rest of the Western Conference's elite teams got better, and the Indiana Pacers didn't want to let All-Star center Brad Miller leave town for nothing.
So the clubs joined with the San Antonio Spurs in a three-team, five-player trade on Thursday that sent Miller to the Kings moments after he signed a seven-year, $68 million contract.
The Kings traded backup center Scot Pollard to the Pacers. They also sent promising forward Hedo Turkoglu to the Spurs, who traded forward Danny Ferry to Indiana. In addition, the Pacers sent well-traveled guard Ron Mercer to San Antonio, who also signed free agent forward Robert Horry on Thursday.
"We're very excited to add an All-Star-caliber player to our team," Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. "He's a young, versatile player who should be a great addition to our team and our ongoing success."
The fast-developing trade was Sacramento's response to the summer of sharp improvements by West contenders Minnesota, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings also hope they got their center of the future, since aging veteran Vlade Divac is entering the final year of his contract.
The deal was costly to the Kings' famed depth, however: Sacramento lost Turkoglu, widely thought to be a future star, and Pollard, the eccentric big man who was a fan favorite and a prized reserve.
"Geoff knows what he's doing to improve this team," said Divac, reached while he was watching Andre Agassi in a tennis match in suburban Sacramento. "I think the moves overall are going to help us. (Miller is) similar to Pollard. Offensively he has a better game, but he's not as good defensively. It's up to him to fit in."
As recently as last weekend, Petrie didn't think the Kings would be able to swing another big deal this offseason. It came together when the Pacers decided they would rather get something instead of allowing Miller to leave as a free agent.
Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said the team also received a trade exception worth about $4 million. Walsh believes Indiana now has the room to re-sign five-time All-Star Reggie Miller and possibly another free agent.
"We wanted to get somebody who could play center and fit in with the team," Walsh said of Pollard. "In many ways, I think he is a perfect fit -- like Brad Miller was in a lot of ways."
Miller, a 7-footer, has improved remarkably since going undrafted out of Purdue in 1998. After stints with Charlotte and Chicago, he became a key member of the Pacers during the last two years, averaging 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds last season as one of the Eastern Conference's top centers.
More importantly, he's a tough defensive player who should relish the chance to match up regularly with Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and the rest of the West's top big men. Miller is considered a much more physical player than Divac, the Kings' beloved finesse center who redefined the art of flopping while trying to stay with O'Neal.
Miller has a history with O'Neal: They fought during Miller's final season with the Bulls. O'Neal earned a suspension for throwing a haymaker that grazed Miller's ear, but the players have since sorted out their differences.
Miller entertained big-money offers from Utah and Denver while Indiana scrambled to find a way to keep him. When the Pacers discovered they couldn't re-sign Miller without setting themselves up to pay the next luxury tax, they elected to trade Miller to a title contender.
"Obviously, we couldn't keep Brad because of the numbers," Pacers president of basketball operations, Larry Bird said in Salt Lake City. "We would have gone into the luxury tax. This could play out well for us."
Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof have few qualms about paying the tax, though Sacramento might be contemplating more moves to ease their cap situation for next season. Miller and starters Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie all have huge contracts, and All-Star Peja Stojakovic will soon be up for a new deal.
"Personally, I don't care if I'm starting or coming off the bench as long as the team is doing well and we're winning," Divac said. "It's been a good five years with Scot. He will be my friend forever, just like Hedo."
Turkoglu, the NBA's first Turkish-born player, still hasn't reached the potential Petrie saw in him three years ago. After he failed to unseat Christie from the starting lineup early in the season, Turkoglu's playing time dwindled as coach Rick Adelman used veteran Jim Jackson instead.
Pollard, loved by Kings fans for his wacky hairdos and sardonic personality, spent the last five seasons in Sacramento. He missed most of last season with various injuries, and he lost playing time to Keon Clark, who recently picked up his $5 million player option for next season. The Kings also recently signed forward Darius Songaila.
Ferry, whose contract was up with the Spurs, barely got off the bench during San Antonio's run to the NBA title. The Pacers probably will cut him, and the 13-year veteran might retire.
Mercer is headed to his sixth NBA team since 1997. He averaged 7.7 points and 2.1 rebounds as a reserve in Indiana last season.