Clippers deal Ely, House to Bobcats

Needing some more cap room to offer free agent Kobe Bryant a maximum-salary contract, the Clippers have found a way to do so.

The Clippers dealt forward/center Melvin Ely and guard Eddie House to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday.

In return, the Clippers received the Bobcats' second-round draft picks in the 2005 and 2006 NBA drafts.

The Bobcats also signed free agents Jason Hart and Tamar Slay.

"They're in the Kobe derby,'' Bobcats coach and general manager
Bernie Bickerstaff told a news conference in Charlotte, where he
was joined by Hart and Slay. "We wish them well because they've
been nice to us."

With the salary cap figure for next season at $43.87 million -- lower than what many teams expected -- the Clippers, with approximately $30 million in committed salary for next season (including first-round pick Shaun Livingston), were not as far under the cap as they had to be in order to offer Bryant a $100 million contract.

By dealing Ely and House, who will combine to make a little more than $2.5 million next season, Los Angeles will create enough cap room to start Bryant at $14.175 million next season -- 105 percent of his 2003-04 salary.

Bryant is expected either to stay with the Lakers or bolt to the Clippers.

Ely, the 12th pick in the 2002 draft, was coveted by the Bobcats before the expansion draft, but the Clippers opted to protect him. The Bobcats did select Clippers center Predrag Drobniak in the expansion draft, taking an additional $2.55 million off the Clippers' books for next season.

In two seasons, the 6-foot-10, 261-pound Ely has appeared in 94 games with nine starts, averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.0 minutes.

"It's a good feeling to be able to start all over with a new
team," Ely said via teleconference. "I want to show people it
wasn't a fluke that I was picked 12th in the draft."

Bickerstaff said he expects Ely to help the team's No. 1 draft
pick, Emeka Okafor, under the rim. "He's an old-school type of
player who is physically tough," he said.

House, a 6-1, 175-pounder, was initially drafted by Miami with the 37th overall pick of the 2000 draft. In four seasons, he has appeared in 229 games with 20 starts, averaging 6.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 17.4 minutes. House also played in three career playoff games, all in 2000-01, averaging 12.7 points in 21.3 minutes.

Information from ESPN Insider's Chad Ford was used in this report.