NEW ORLEANS -- Looking to solidify their bench and protect their perch atop the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets acquired swingman Bonzi Wells and guard Mike James on Thursday in a trade that sent veteran guard Bobby Jackson to Houston.
"We wanted to add a little bit of presence on our bench in the form of players who could give us some scoring punch," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "This trade dramatically improves our team by giving us proven veteran scorers at the backup guard and swing positions."
The trade involved three teams. The Hornets also sent rookie guard Adam Haluska and second-year forward Marcus Vinicius to Houston, then Houston sent Vinicius, the rights to Malick Badiane and cash to Memphis in exchange for the rights to Sergei Lishouk.
New Orleans and Houston agreed to exchange second-round draft picks if the Hornets' second pick is higher than Houston's.
The Hornets also received cash from Houston so that the combined salaries of James and Wells would not exceed Jackson's salary by more than the NBA mandated threshold of 25 percent.
Jackson is earning $5.7 million this season and $6.1 million next season.
Wells' contract expires after this season, but James is signed through 2009-10 and is scheduled to be paid $12.7 million during the final two seasons of his contract.
The deal means the Hornets now have two open spots on their 15-player roster, allowing them also to pursue free agent and former Hornets power forward P.J. Brown, who is mulling offers from several contending teams as the stretch run of the regular season begins.
|Bonzi Wells and Bobby Jackson are trading places. (Getty Images)|
Jackson has averaged 7.1 points this season backing up Chris Paul, but has proven he can still be an explosive scorer. Jackson hit five 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter, and finished with 17 points Wednesday in a victory over Dallas.
Wells has played about 22 minutes per game in Houston, averaging 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds. James has averaged about 16 minutes of playing time and 6.5 points.
Hornets players said Jackson was very well liked and will be missed on and off the floor, but added that they understood the logic behind the trade.
"It's going to be tough off the court, when you're hanging out and realize Bobby's not there," reserve guard Jannero Pargo said. "To get those two guys for Bobby, it was almost like a no-brainer as far as basketball was concerned. On paper, there's no doubt we got better, but hopefully it works out on the court."