WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Washington Wizards acquired talented yet often-injured big man Nene from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team deal Thursday. The trade also saw the Wizards ship JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to Denver and Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Washington also picked up forward Brian Cook in the deal along with a second-round pick in 2015 from the Clippers, the Wizards and Nuggets both announced.
The Nuggets signed Nene to a new five-year, $67 million contract in December. He was averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in an injury-plagued season. But the recent play of rookie forward Kenneth Faried made Nene expendable.
Nene’s most productive season was in 2008-09 after overcoming a bout with testicular cancer. He averaged nearly 15 points and 8 rebounds that season.
“Nene is a versatile player who will bring experience and a physical presence to our frontcourt,” Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. “He is a strong rebounder, tough defender and a fierce competitor. His veteran leadership and postseason experience will be a positive influence in our locker room.”
ESPN was among the first to report the trade.
It’s the second straight season the Nuggets have orchestrated a deal at the deadline. They sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster deal in February 2011. That move ignited the Nuggets, who went 18-7 down the stretch before falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
The Nuggets, who are in the thick of the playoff chase once again this season, are a team without a superstar. Instead, coach George Karl relies on his superior depth to wear teams down and McGee figures to help in that regard. Turiaf is on the mend after breaking his left hand on Jan. 1.
Denver hosted Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
The deal ends up costing the Clippers virtually nothing. Cook hasn’t cracked their rotation since signing with the club before last season.
This also will be a homecoming for Young, a Los Angeles native and a two-time all-conference standout at Southern California before becoming a consistent NBA scorer in five seasons with Washington, averaging 17.4 points per game last season and 16.6 this year. The versatile swingman seems to be an ideal fit for the Clippers, who have been eager to add perimeter scoring punch to their talented lineup after losing veteran guard Chauncey Billups to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last month.
Although Young is notorious for his reluctance to pass, the Clippers have plenty of playmakers with Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and even Blake Griffin. Young, a free agent after the season, will be asked to provide some added offense as the Clippers move toward their second playoff berth in 15 years and just their second winning season in two decades.
This represents Grunfeld’s latest — and perhaps last — attempt to reconfigure the roster of a team that used to be built around All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
The Wizards are pretty much starting over yet again now, constructing a team around point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Having already fired coach Flip Saunders this season, Washington was 9-32 heading into its game at New Orleans on Thursday night. Young was their second-leading scorer, and McGee was their leading rebounder, averaging 8.8, along with 11.9 points.
At one point, Young and McGee were considered potential building blocks for Washington. But their play often has been selfish or undisciplined.
And their behavior off the court had the Wizards wary as well.
During last offseason, a video circulated on the Internet showing Young and McGee engaging in something called the “Cinnamon Challenge,” in which they swallowed spoonfuls of the spice.
As Saunders put it after the lockout ended: “The biggest thing is they’re not young players anymore. So they have to show the discipline, maturity, not only on the floor but off the floor.”
And then Saunders added: “The cinnamon — that thing doesn’t cut it.”
Led by John Wall, the Wizards defeated the Hornets hours after the trade was completed.
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