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Wizards trade Alexander for first-round pick

NEW ORLEANS -- The Hornets pre-empted their first NBA draft
in New Orleans Tuesday by trading their lone pick for Washington
Wizards guard Courtney Alexander, filling a perceived need to
provide more rest for star guard Baron Davis.

Alexander will compete with David Wesley for a starting job and
at the very least back up with enough minutes so that Wesley can
relieve Davis, who often got only a couple of minutes rest per game
last season, coach Paul Silas said.

"I don't want Baron to play 40-plus minutes as he did last
year. It was just too many,'' Silas said. "Now we have more
weapons and we don't lose very much when we go to our bench.''

In 121 NBA games, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Alexander has averaged
9.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Last season, in 56 games,
half of which were starts, he averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and
1.5 assists.

Bob Bass, the Hornets executive vice president for basketball
operations, stressed that Alexander produced even more when he got
at least 20 minutes of playing time in a game.

Alexander "is a good player in this league and he can play
right now. He runs the floor exceptionally well. He's high-flying.
He plays above the rim,'' Bass said. "Even a good rookie would be
sitting on the bench until at least January.''

Alexander comes to New Orleans in exchange for the No. 17 pick
in Wednesday's draft.

The NBA draft is two rounds, but New Orleans was slated for only
a first-round selection because of a trade two years ago that gave
the Hornets' 2000 and 2002 second-round picks to Milwaukee.
Washington will now have two first round picks, including its
original No. 11 slot.

Having advanced into the second round of the playoffs the past
two seasons, the Hornets were not rebuilding but rather looking to
solidify an already strong lineup with hopes of going even further
in the playoffs next season.

The Hornets had held workouts for a handful of prospective draft
picks, including Carlos Boozer of Duke, Melvin Ely of Fresno State,
Slovenian Bostjan Nachbar, Kareem Rush of Missouri, Jobey Thomas of
Charlotte and Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky. Some analysts predicted
the Hornets would select Jiri Welsch, a Czech who plays in Slovenia
and was touted for his court sense, outside shot, ball handling
skills and defensive play.

Bass instead decided on Alexander because he suspected that his
top choices, including Rush, would be selected before the No. 17
pick and those left wouldn't be nearly as good as Alexander.

"Our hope was to add a player that could help us next year,''
general manager Jeff Bower said. "Everything pointed toward making
this deal. We feel we've got a player that is right on the verge of
coming out and establishing himself in the NBA. He's going to be a
big part of our team.''

Alexander could not immediately be reached for comment but was
expected to be in New Orleans on Wednesday for a planned draft
party that would be open to fans at the New Orleans Arena.

Alexander was a strong player at Fresno State, where he led all
Division I players in scoring in his last year. He was drafted by
Orlando in 2000 but began his rookie year at Dallas.

He was acquired by the Wizards in a February 2001 trade with
Dallas that also brought Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis, Etan
Thomas and Loy Vaught in exchange for Juwan Howard, Calvin Booth
and Obinna Ekezie.

Alexander served as Richard Hamilton's backup last season, a
role Michael Jordan said would be more to suitable to him should he
come back for a second season with the Wizards.

Silas suspects that Washington's willingness to trade Alexander
is a sign that Jordan, who struggled with injuries late last
season, intends to return.

Wizards general manager Wes Unseld, whose team missed the
playoffs last year and would be in more of a rebuilding stage than
New Orleans, discussed the trade on his team's Web site, but not in
relation to Jordan.

"Although we gave up a talented player in Courtney Alexander,
we are excited to add another first round selection,'' Wizards
general manager Wes Unseld said on the team's Web site. "We are
confident that we will improve our team ... in this deep and
talented draft.''