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Heat, Hornets complete deal; Chicago settles for Mercer

Mercer signs with Chicago; Delk inks with Phoenix

SHARE Heat, Hornets complete deal; Chicago settles for Mercer

NEW YORK — Some first day of player movement, huh? Everyone was expecting Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan, and all they got was Ron Mercer, Tony Delk and Bobby Jackson.

While some teams took their time finalizing their free-agent acquisitions, the Bulls, Suns and Kings got right down to business.

Chicago found a player willing to take its money, signing Mercer. Phoenix signed a player away from Sacramento, getting Delk with a six-year, $19 million contract, while the Kings immediately replenished their backcourt by agreeing to terms with Jackson.

The best free agent of them all, Duncan, re-signed with the Spurs on Wednesday for $32 million over three years. San Antonio also was close to signing Clippers free agent guard Derek Anderson, along with two of its own free agents — Avery Johnson and Antonio Daniels.

On Tuesday, the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets finalized their nine-player trade and several teams re-signed their own free agents.

Tim Thomas stays with Milwaukee, Kurt Thomas re-signed with New York, Anthony Carter re-signed with the Heat, Sam Perkins re-signed with Indiana, Scot Pollard stayed with the Kings, Dallas re-signed Hubert Davis and Gary Trent, and John Starks said he was ready to sign with Utah for two years.

The pace of activity on the trade and free-agent fronts is expected to stay steady over the next couple of days. The team making the biggest splash, the Orlando Magic, is expected to formally announce the signings of Hill and McGrady on Thursday.

The Miami-Charlotte trade sends All-Star guard Eddie Jones and forward Anthony Mason to Miami for forward P.J. Brown and guard Jamal Mashburn. Also traded were Otis Thorpe, Tim James and Rodney Buford to Charlotte, and Ricky Davis and Dale Ellis to Miami.

Charlotte avoided losing Jones without compensation by signing him to a seven-year deal worth at least $86 million, then trading him. He considered a free-agent offer from Chicago, but preferred to play in South Florida, where he grew up and has a home.

Coach Pat Riley kept his backup point guard, Carter, by re-signing him to a one-year, $1.2 million exception. But Riley decided to dismantle the core of a Heat team that has won four consecutive Atlantic Division titles, only to flop each year in the postseason.

The Indiana Pacers have apparently managed to keep their team intact, reportedly agreeing with free-agent forward Austin Croshere on a seven-year, $51 million deal. Croshere was being pursued by the Toronto Raptors, whose best offer was in the range of six years and $50 million.

"We really want Austin to stay here. And Austin's been truly fantastic in making it clear that he prefers to stay here because of the franchise and the city." said David Morway, Pacers vice president for basketball administration.

Besides Perkins, Indiana is also expected to re-sign fellow free agents Jalen Rose, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson. If center Rik Smits decides against retiring, he also is expected back with Indiana.

The 6-foot-7 Mercer, who agreed to terms with Chicago, will be with his fourth NBA team in four seasons. He played his first two years with the Boston Celtics, was traded to Denver and then dealt to Orlando last season, averaging 16.9 points.

The Bulls also met Tuesday with free-agent center Brad Miller, but general manager Jerry Krause was unable to obtain any of the big names he hoped to lure with nearly $20 million of salary cap room.

Thomas' new contract will pay him just under $67 million for six years.

That's a slightly bigger offer than the seven-year, $63 million contract Milwaukee proposed in June — and a significantly bigger deal than the four-year, $24 million contract Thomas turned down last October in order to test the free-agent waters this summer.

Starks, an 11-year veteran who played eight seasons with the Knicks, recently visited Utah and was wooed by Karl Malone, coach Jerry Sloan and owner Larry Miller.

"They were very sincere that they wanted me, and I'm their guy to fill the role that Jeff Hornacek played over the years," Starks said. "They were the first team that came at me with that type of scenario."

Jackson joins the Kings after averaging 5.1 points and 2.4 assists in 73 games last season as the primary backup to Terrell Brandon. He reportedly gets a five-year deal with $13.5 million.

Delk, a four-year veteran who has also played for Charlotte and Golden State, agreed to a six-year deal with Phoenix worth almost $19 million.

The Denver Nuggets on Tuesday re-signed guard Tariq Abdul-Wahad and forward Ryan Bowen.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed, but a published report last week said the 6-foot-6 Abdul-Wahad would receive a six-year deal worth $5 million.

Abdul-Wahad, acquired from the Orlando Magic on Feb. 1, averaged 8.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15 games last season. He missed all but one of the final 23 games because of an injured left wrist.