The Golden State Warriors finally ended their turbulent relationship with Stephen Jackson,(notes) agreeing on Monday to trade the disgruntled swingman to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Raja Bell(notes) and Vladimir Radmanovic(notes).
Jackson signed a three-year, $28 million contract extension with the Warriors last year, but demanded a trade in September, saying he no longer wanted to be part of the franchise’s rebuilding plans. The Warriors, who suspended Jackson for two preseason games after he cursed coach Don Nelson in a sideline altercation, were committed to parting ways with Jackson by the end of the month. Two Warriors players told Yahoo! Sports last week that Jackson's unresolved status had become too much of a distraction and that the team would not be able to make any significant improvement until he was traded.
Jackson’s new agent also criticized Nelson last week, questioning his commitment to the team and trustworthiness.
”Our guys did a great job of doing everything they could to not allow this to be a distraction or be a part of what was going on,” Warriors general manager Larry Riley said. “But frankly, it was reaching the point where it was time. Honestly, it was the right time and we were pleased with it. People might say we should have waited until December to see if we could get more. We won't know if we would have or not. But we got something that helps our ballclub."
Jackson had asked the Warriors to trade him to a contender, preferably the Cleveland Cavaliers or any of the three Texas teams – or the New York Knicks.
The Cavaliers furiously tried to complete a deal for Jackson over the weekend, and had a package that officials believed could get a deal done. One league source went so far to say that the Cavs had an agreement in principle at some point on Sunday only to have Golden State back away and turn toward Charlotte.
"They really wanted Jax and thought they could make it work," one league source said.
Jackson instead goes to the Bobcats, who entered Monday in second-to-last place in the Southeast Division with a 3-6 record. The Bobcats have never made the playoffs.
Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins was an executive in Golden State’s front office when the Warriors acquired Jackson from the Indiana Pacers midway through the 2006-07 season. The Bobcats and Warriors began discussing the trade in earnest on Saturday and officially completed it at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday.
Jackson will replace Bell as Charlotte’s starting shooting guard. The Bobcats are hoping Jackson can fill their need for a big-time scorer; they entered Monday ranked last in the league in scoring with an average of 82.4 points per game.
“Right after I finished the trade, I talked to Stephen directly,” Higgins said. “He’s extremely excited. It might be like when he first got to Golden State. He came in to help correct them and we made the playoffs. This is a similar situation.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, rid themselves of a disgruntled player, who only two months ago served as the team's captain. They also gain payroll relief in the process. Bell's $5.3 million contract expires at the end of this season while Radmanovic is due $13.3 million over this season and next, provided he exercises his option for 2010-11.
Including this season, Jackson is owed about $35 million over the next four years.
Riley called Bell and Radmanovic “consummate pros” and said he didn’t make the trade with the intention of moving either player to another team. Still, Riley also admitted the Warriors’ roster is under evaluation.
Forward Brandan Wright is sidelined with a shoulder injury and swingman Kelenna Azubuike could be out for the season, league sources said, after injuring his left patella tendon ion Saturday in Milwaukee.
Bell and Radmanovic could be available to play when the Warriors face Cleveland on Tuesday. Jackson was expected to join the Bobcats in Orlando on Monday.
"Jax came here and helped us for a couple of years,” Riley said. “Things weren't going well. It came to a point where it was time for a change. It had to be done.”