CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The New Orleans Hornets have finally found a taker for Tyson Chandler. It took a deal with tinkering Charlotte coach Larry Brown, who was willing to jettison the Bobcats' first draft pick.
Emeka Okafor was dealt to the Hornets on Tuesday for Chandler in a deal involving 26-year-old centres, a trade that brought different financial relief to both teams and hopes they'll thrive under different big men.
The Hornets have been trying to unload the seven-foot-one Chandler for several months. Last season they sent him to Oklahoma City, but the trade was rescinded after Chandler failed a physical amid concerns aver a lingering toe injury.
Brown was willing to gamble on the injury-prone big man who is more athletic and can also play power forward. It comes at the expense of Okafor, who at six-foot-10 is shorter than Chandler and had trouble guarding the NBA's top big men.
"We're getting a young kid who is long and athletic and can play multiple positions and fills a need that we obviously have," Brown said.
But the Hornets were intrigued by Okafor's superior rebounding and durability, giving New Orleans a reliable big man with a longer contract as they try to recover from last season's first-round playoff exit.
"Emeka is one of the premier centres in the NBA with all-star calibre scoring and rebounding averages throughout his career," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "His potential to improve is endless once you put him on the court running with Chris Paul."
The deal is the fourth trade Charlotte has made since managing partner Michael Jordan hired Brown before last season. Brown, in his record ninth NBA head coaching job, has continued his history of numerous trades to mold the team into his versatile, defensive-minded liking.
Now it includes sending the centrepiece of Charlotte's new franchise to the city's old team.
Two years after the Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans, the expansion Bobcats took Okafor with the No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft - after Orlando grabbed Dwight Howard.
Okafor, who won a national championship at Connecticut, had injury problems early in his career. But he has played all 82 games in each of the last two seasons while providing Charlotte with solid, if unspectacular, play.
Okafor averaged 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds last season, but his style didn't mesh with Brown, who questioned his basketball fire at the end of the season.
"I wanted him to have a passion and work on his game," Brown said Tuesday. "I think he made unbelievable progress in that regard. When we had an exit meeting this past season he told me he was going to do that, he was going to work on his game. ... This was a basketball decision. I had nothing to do with Emeka."
But Chandler is coming off surgery, and despite their identical ages, Chandler has played four more seasons than Okafor because he came to the NBA directly from high school in 2001.
"We appreciate what Tyson has done for our club in the past and wish him the best, but our intention this summer was to improve our team and this trade is definitely a positive move in that direction," Bower said.
Chandler, averaged 8.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in only 45 games last season. He then underwent procedures on his left ankle and toe in May after being ineffective in the first-round series loss to Denver.
General manager Rod Higgins said Chandler will be in Charlotte for a physical later this week, but they're confident he'll be ready for the start of training camp.