- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The Washington Wizards finally got the deal they wanted for shooting guard Courtney Alexander yesterday, trading him to New Orleans for the 17th selection in today's NBA Draft. The Wizards also have the 11th pick.

Alexander was the player most inquired about by other teams leading up to the draft. When the Hornets offered the 17th pick and possibly future considerations the Wizards had to pull the trigger on the deal.

"Although we gave up a talented player in Courtney Alexander, we are excited to add another first-round selection," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said. "We are confident that we will improve our team with four selections in this deep and talented draft."

The Wizards also have the 39th and 40th picks in the second round. This gives Washington much more maneuverability in terms of being able to move up and chose whom they feel would not be available at No.11.

The Wizards need a small forward and a point guard, preferably in that order. The two forwards they covet most Duke's 6-foot-9 Mike Dunleavy and Connecticut's 6-7 Caron Butler are expected to be among the first seven picks.

Several sources said the Wizards have had trade talks with several teams in the top seven in an effort to move up. They might even move up enough to intercept Memphis point guard Dajuan Wagner, who is coveted by the New York Knicks, owners of the seventh overall pick.

The Knicks also are said to be very interested in selecting Maryland forward Chris Wilcox, but the consensus seems to be that they are more interested in Wagner.

One problem with the 6-3 Wagner, though, is that he is not a true point guard. Wagner, who played just one year at Memphis before declaring for the draft, once scored 100 points in a high school game in New Jersey and is seen as a score-first, pass-later type.

This might not work too well in Washington coach Doug Collins' offense, which is predicated on the point guard setting up other players and sniping away when he has a shot.

For Alexander, the trade ends a career with the Wizards that began brightly and slowly dimmed. The No.13 overall pick in 2000, Alexander was acquired from Dallas in the Juwan Howard deal at trade deadline two years ago.

As a rookie, the 6-6 Alexander averaged 17 points in 27 games and showed glimpses of the potential that had numerous front office executives gushing over his ability before he was drafted.

But in his second season, Alexander averaged just 9.8 points in 56 games, missed 17 due to injury and didn't get off the bench for nine others. Now he finds himself on the roster of a playoff team that, like him, is getting a new start.

The Hornets relocated from Charlotte almost as soon as they were eliminated from the playoffs by eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey.

"I have to look at this as an opportunity for myself, and it's a good opportunity," Alexander said. "The Hornets are the new kid on the block, so they're going to be making an adjustment just like I am. I think it's good for me.

"It's a good opportunity to play for a team that made it to the playoffs and now wants to make the next step. I look at my career in the same way. I'm trying to make a big step forward. This is the perfect opportunity for me to do that."

Moving Alexander not only gives the Wizards another bargaining chip in today's draft but also clears a logjam at shooting guard. With Alexander, the Wizards would have had four 2-guards: Richard Hamilton, Michael Jordan, Hubert Davis and Alexander.

Jordan, if he comes back, probably would see some time at small forward, even though his preference is to play strictly shooting guard.

However, the belief among management is that they'll get more mileage out of Jordan's brittle knees if he sees as little time as possible against bigger players at small forward.

That way Jordan, 39, conceivably would have a better shot at making it to the end of the season.

Jordan, whose 2001-02 season ended eight games early because of inflammation in his right knee, has begun private conditioning drills and is expected to begin preparing for the season next month in Chicago.

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