The New Jersey Nets acquired Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trail Blazers for two injured players and a protected first-round draft pick.
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The Nets sent center Mehmet Okur and forward Shawne Williams to Portland along with their own 2012 draft pick, which is protected if it is in the top three.
”You never want to trade a pick, but you look at the pick and the potential and what you may get there, but after meeting with our scouts, we felt the player we might draft beyond the protection, would be somebody that would probably take a couple of years,” King said. ”We’re trying to speed the process up a bit and start winning a little further rather than continuing to rebuild.”
The 29-year-old Wallace gives the Nets a versatile, tough player who can defend at the small forward position against the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. An All Star in 2010, Wallace averaged 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 42 starts in Portland.
The trade came hours after the Nets learned that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard signed papers Thursday agreeing to waive the early termination option in his contract. It guaranteed that he will be with the team at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, ending any hopes – for now – that the Nets might be able to acquire him to be the showcase when the team moves to Brooklyn, N.Y. next season.
King refused to say when he learned about Howard’s decision. He understood that Nets’ fans might be upset. However, he said he was satisfied adding another piece while maintaining $8 million in cap space for free agency this summer. He also noted New Jersey had Houston’s first-round pick so it will still be involved in the draft.
Howard had requested to be traded earlier this year and said the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks were on his wish list.
The Nets felt they had the inside track because they had plenty of cap room and Howard is close friends with Deron Williams, New Jersey’s All-Star point guard.
”We were involved in a lot of things, some things didn’t work out, but the thing we did, did,” King said. ”I am always one who has the glass half full. We’re moving on. We have a starting small forward who is a great fit for us, and that’s all I can focus on.”
It is not clear whether Williams will stay with the Nets after this season or opt out of his contract.
”I can’t speak for Deron, so I won’t try,” said King, who spoke with Williams before getting on a conference call Thursday night.
Okur has been sidelined since Jan. 27 with a sore lower back. His value is that his contract, worth $10.9 million, will expire after this season. Williams is out for the year after having surgery on his left foot in early February. He has a year left on a contract that will pay him $3.2 million next season.
Wallace can opt out of his contract after this season but King said he was not concerned.
Williams (strained calf) and center Brook Lopez (sprained ankle) are currently sidelined, but when they return, the Nets should have a solid starting lineup with Wallace at small forward, Kris Humphries at power forward and rookie MarShon Brooks at shooting guard.
New Jersey (15-29) has the sixth worst record in the league entering Thursday’s action and it probably will be part of the draft lottery, meaning it has a chance to get one of the top three picks.
King said the Nets also made the deal because in the weak Eastern Conference, they are still within striking distance of a playoff berth with a favorable schedule.
Wallace is expected to meet with Nets officials in New Jersey on Friday. The team will be in Orlando to face Howard and the Magic.