Earl Watson returned to the Seattle SuperSonics and forward Ruben Patterson was dealt from Portland to Denver on Thursday as part of a four-team, nine-player trade.
The Sacramento Kings also were involved in the deal, which was confirmed after approval by the NBA and is subject to all players passing physicals.
Seattle sent forward Reggie Evans to Denver and center Vitaly Potapenko to Portland and received Watson, forward Byron Russell and a second-round pick from the Nuggets. Portland sent Patterson and Charles Smith to the Nuggets and acquired Voshon Lenard from Denver and forward Brian Skinner from Sacramento.
Portland then sent Potapenko to the Kings along with Sergei Monia.
The deal of complementary players looking for new opportunities was made shortly before the Thursday afternoon trade deadline. Seattle received the backup point guard it sought, Denver picked up help for its ailing frontcourt, and Portland cleared salary cap room.
“Rarely is it just a simple deal anymore. We spent a lot of time and effort to put a deal together,” Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. “In the end, I think it’s a deal that really helps everybody and satisfies what everyone wanted to do.”
The trade was expected to be a three-team swap among Seattle, Portland and Denver, but Sacramento joined the mix on Thursday morning.
Watson was considered a trade possibility for months and Seattle was in need of a backup point guard. Shortly before the All-Star break, Seattle coach Bob Hill pleaded to the press for Sonics’ management to acquire a backup to Luke Ridnour, who has become worn down at times while playing a career-high 34 minutes per game.
But teams were hesitant to take on Watson’s five-year, $29 million deal he signed with the Nuggets before the start of this season. Seattle general manager Rick Sund said Watson’s contract wasn’t an issue because of his age and in turn were able to rid themselves of some disgruntled pieces.
“He’s a competitor defensively and we can definitely use the help there,” Sund said. “We really liked him as a rookie and didn’t want to lose him. We’re glad to have him back.”
Watson was originally a second-round draft pick of the Sonics in 2001 out of UCLA. He played in Memphis for three seasons, averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 assists last year.
In a rotation with Andre Miller and Earl Boykins this season, Watson has played in 46 games and averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assists for the Nuggets.
Patterson gets his wish to leave Portland after scoring a season-high 25 points on Wednesday night against Charlotte. After the game, Patterson sounded like he was headed out the door.
Patterson exclaimed to those gathered outside the Blazers’ locker room, “Bang, bang! What a way to go out, hey?”
“Ruben has made it clear that he didn’t want to be here,” Portland general manager John Nash said. “It was probably not a good fit for Ruben to be here right now.”
Patterson was averaging 11.4 points in 45 games for Portland this season. He butted heads with McMillan, but George Karl was awaiting Patterson’s arrival in Denver.
“He’s an attack dog,” Karl said. “I am a coach that believes that playing hard is the key to success in the NBA. And intensity and pride of playing hard has to developed on the team. And for some reason this year we lost that. That characteristic.”
Evans previously requested a trade after his playing time dwindled under Hill. Evans started 79 games last year for the Sonics and 23 of the first 30 this season for coach Bob Weiss. Since Hill took over on Jan. 3, Evans has played more than 15 minutes only three times and hasn’t played in 12 of Seattle’s last 25 games, including Wednesday night in Atlanta.
A strong defender and rebounder, Evans should help a Denver frontcourt that’s been plagued by injuries to Marcus Camby, Eduardo Najera and Kenyon Martin.
“Rebounding is a fundamental that in the last six weeks we have lost control over,” Karl said. “Evans gives us another option.”
In his first full season with the Kings, Skinner has played sparingly, averaging 2.3 points and playing 11 minutes. He was acquired last year when Chris Webber was traded from Sacramento to Philadelphia.
Lenard, who is making $3.2 million, recovered from a torn left Achilles’ tendon that forced him to miss much of last season, but never meshed well in Karl’s fast-paced system. The 11th-year player also upset management when he refused to enter the game in the final seconds of a lopsided loss in November.
Lenard did not play in the Nuggets’ last 32 games and Karl wasn’t shy about his desire to trade Lenard.
“I know Vo was disappointed that he didn’t get an opportunity. I’m hoping he gets that opportunity,” Karl said.
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