Glen Rice was traded from the Charlotte Hornets today in a five-player deal that gives the streaking Los Angeles Lakers one of the NBA's best shooters.
Rice has not played this season because of elbow surgery Jan. 22, but he is expected to be ready soon. He joins a team that has won seven straight under new coach Kurt Rambis.
"It's a very difficult thing to trade such good players, and especially so when they are such quality people," said Jerry West, the Lakers' executive vice president for basketball operations. "But in Glen Rice we feel we've acquired the best shooter in the NBA and also one of the league's best players."
"We feel this takes us one step closer to our ultimate goal of having an NBA championship team."
To make room on their rosters, the Lakers waived reserve forward Corie Blount and Charlotte waived forward Joe Wolf.
Rice was the Hornets' top scorer, and his high salary prompted the deal, which came the day before the NBA's trade deadline.
Hornets general manager Bob Bass pointed to the team's injuries in making the move. Rice is one of three starters either out for the year or sidelined for significant stretches because of injuries.
"With all of our injuries this season this trade really gives our team two quality starters and a chance to compete for a playoff spot," Bass said. "It has greatly improved our team."
This marked the third time in four years Charlotte has refused to pay an eight-figure salary to one of its best players. The others to leave were Alonzo Mourning and Vlade Divac.
The trade comes three days after the resignation of Hornets coach Dave Cowens, who was unhappy with his salary.
The departure of Rice represents another major loss for an organization plagued by weak leadership, injuries and falling attendance.
Owner George Shinn is the target of a sexual misconduct lawsuit and is being called on by fans to sell the franchise.
The Rice-to-Los Angeles deal had been widely reported for several weeks but was held up because the 6-foot-8 forward had loose particles removed from his right elbow.
| Jerry West calls Glen Rice the best shooter in the league. (AP)|
The Lakers reportedly did not want to execute the trade until they could hear other possible offers and were sure Rice was close to being ready to return.
Rice, who joined the Hornets in the deal that sent Mourning to Miami, is to be paid $5.4 million this season. The Hornets had an option to retain him next season for $7.1 million. Rice asked the team for a contract extension this past offseason but was rejected. He wanted to be paid at least $10 million a year.
The Lakers reportedly were willing to give Rice a new contract, although terms were not immediately available.
The Hornets traded Mourning to Miami in November 1995 after refusing his demands for a new contract that would pay him about $11 million per season. Charlotte also elected to let Divac leave through free agency this past off-season after he sought a deal in the $12 million-per-year range.
A three-time NBA All-Star, Rice has made 1,216 3-pointers, third-best in league history. He is 101 points short of reaching the 15,000-point mark for his nine-year pro career.
The 6-6 Jones, in his fifth NBA season, has established himself as one of the league's better 3-point shooters and defenders. He led the Lakers in steals in each of his first four seasons and ranked seventh in the NBA in 3-pointers made last year, when he also was placed on the league's all-defensive second team.
"Jones is a premier scorer and defender in this league," Bass said. "We are excited to get this all-star caliber player."
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