The Chicago Bulls finally made their long-awaited first move of the offseason Thursday, sending Brent Barry to the Seattle SuperSonics for guards James Cotton and Hersey Hawkins.
It was a somewhat curious move on the part of the Bulls, who signed Barry to a six-year, $27 million contract last January as one of the first pieces of their rebuilding effort.
"Brent did a fine job for us, but we felt we needed a veteran like Hersey to work with our younger guys," general manager Jerry Krause said.
Barry, 6-foot-6 and 27 years old, averaged 11.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 37 games last season. He is the second shooting guard picked up by the Sonics in recent days, joining free agent acquisition Vernon Maxwell.
Seattle remains in the market for a small forward to replace the departed Detlef Schrempf, who signed with Portland.
"For us to trade Hersey we needed to receive someone very special in return," Sonics coach Paul Westphal said. "We think Brent's athleticism, versatility and youth will fit perfectly with the new direction of our team. We hate to see Hersey and James go, but this opportunity was too good to pass up."
Hawkins, 32, is an 11-year veteran who had been with the Sonics for four seasons. He lost his starting spot last season and had career-low averages of 10.3 points and 2.5 assists. It was no secret in recent weeks that the Sonics were trying to trade him.
Cotton, 23, played just 10 games last season because of a strained hamstring and averaged 2.5 points a game.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of him, but we've liked what we have seen," Krause said.
Hawkins has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him nearly $4.2 million next season.
The Bulls still have as much as $18 million in salary cap room, although Krause seems determined to save much of it for next summer when Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Latrell Sprewell are among the possible free agents.
Chicago was rebuffed in its attempt to sign Portland free agent Jermaine O'Neal, and Krause said there are few, if any, players left on the market who fit his team's needs.
"Obviously what we're doing, it's a situation where we'll be looking to do things down the road," Krause said. "We had interest and talked to a few players, and we're still talking. But we feel that with the way our club is developing, there aren't many players we feel like committing to long-term."
Barry was Chicago's third-leading scorer last season behind Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper. Kukoc is entering the final year of his contract, while Harper is a free agent.
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