- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

The Washington Wizards last night essentially traded blossoming guard Richard Hamilton to the Detroit Pistons for All-Star guard Jerry Stackhouse in a six-player deal.

"When you have the opportunity to add an All-Star player of Jerry's caliber you cannot hesitate on the chance to strengthen the team," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said. "We had to part with several players we were very high on. But we feel we have improved and this is the right fit at this stage of the development of our team."

The Wizards also parted with a pair of backups, guard Hubert Davis and forward Bobby Simmons. From Detroit, Washington acquired forward Brian Cardinal and center Ratko Varda.

However, this deal is about the Wizards acquiring Stackhouse, a player who last season led the Pistons to the Eastern Conference semifinals where the Boston Celtics eliminated them in five games, and Hamilton, seen as the brightest young talent on Washington's roster.

Stackhouse was considered the catalyst on a team that went from 32-50 in 2000-01 to 50-32 last season. Along the way the Pistons captured the Central Division title.

"I'm just disappointed because I have to leave my home," Stackhouse told the Associated Press last night. "It's not easy, but at the same time it comes with this business and I understand that."

Last season, Stackhouse's seventh, was considered by many to be his best in the NBA since he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers out of the University of North Carolina with the third overall pick in 1995.

An All-Star in 2000-01 when he averaged a career-best 29.8 points Stackhouse, 28, saw his scoring average fall to 21.4 last season. However, he averaged a career-best 5.3 assists and second-best 4.1 rebounds.

"I think the Wizards are getting a lot in this deal," said one general manager speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I know they don't like getting rid of Richard he's going to be a very good player but I think they are now looking at putting together a team with veterans that can challenge for the playoffs this season."

The Washington franchise has not reached the playoffs since 1997, when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls eliminated it in the first round. Earlier in the week the Wizards added the playoff savvy of veteran small forward Bryon Russell, their likely starter at small forward going into the season. Russell appeared in the playoffs in all nine of his seasons with Utah.

However, adding Stackhouse might draw some criticism because it cost the Wizards Hamilton, the No.7 overall pick in the 1999 draft. Last season, his third in the league, was the 6-foot-6 Hamilton's best as a pro. Playing alongside Jordan, Hamilton was second on the team in scoring, averaging a career-best 20 points.

Hamilton's game improved so much last season that Wizards coach Doug Collins deemed his mid-range game which relies on his ability to run off picks along the baseline and spring open for short jumpers on the verge of becoming the best in the game.

However, Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and is believed to be looking for a maximum contract that will pay him close to $90million over seven years, an obligation the Wizards didn't really want to meet.

On the other hand, Stackhouse is signed to a seven-year, $37million deal that expires in following the 2004-05 season. It is believed that Stackhouse might seek to renegotiate his contract before it expires.

The other players the Wizards acquired can be considered marginal at best.

Cardinal, 25, appeared in eight games with the Pistons last year, averaging 2.1 points and 0.8 rebounds in 5.4 minutes. He missed 60 games while on the injured list with bilateral patellar tendinitis.

Varda, 23, played in one game last season as a rookie with Detroit, scoring five points with one rebound.

Last season Davis, 32, played a huge role for the Wizards as a backup, appearing in 51 games and averaging 7.2 points and 2.1 assists. The 6-5 guard finished sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage (.452).

Simmons, 22, appeared in 30 games as a rookie, averaging 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in just under 12 minutes. However, Simmons looked good during summer league play and was expected to be more of a contributor this season.

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