By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011; D01
PHILADELPHIA - Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong arrived at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday with their teammates, but both players probably had a decent idea of what would happen next when they were held out of the Washington Wizards' game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
They sat on the bench in street clothes through the first half, but when the team came out of the locker room for the second half, Hinrich and Armstrong had already been shipped to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Wizards dealt the veteran point guard Hinrich and seldom-used backup center Armstrong to the Hawks in exchange for Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford and a 2011 first-round pick. The deal keeps the franchise moving along with its plans to rebuild around rookie John Wall.
With Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline approaching, the Wizards had made it clear to teams that they wanted to get young prospects and draft picks in any deals. The trade with Atlanta essentially yields two first-round picks, since Crawford, a combo guard, was taken with the 27th pick last June.
"I think this helps us in several ways," Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said. "We get a couple of veteran players in Mike Bibby, he's a terrific clutch player who can back up John and help him along. We also get Mo Evans, a solid veteran swingman. And, for the future, we get two real good prospects. Jordan Crawford has some good promise. So we feel we got some good value for the present and, of course, the future and this keeps with our strategy, of getting first-round picks, building through the draft, as well as developing our own players."
The Wizards and Hawks have had exploratory conversations for about 10 days, but the deal came together on Wednesday morning. The Hawks likely had to make a move with the New York Knicks acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets on Monday and the New Jersey Nets getting Deron Williams the next day. After whiffing on Anthony, the Nets managed to upstage the Knicks - on the day they introduced Anthony and Chauncey Billups at Madison Square Garden - by getting the cheaper and, perhaps, better player for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and $3 million.
Williams is a two-time all-star who led the Jazz to four straight playoff appearances and the Western Conference finals in 2007. Although the Nets have no shot at making the playoffs this season, Williams gives new owner Mikhail Prokhorov the legit superstar that he has craved with the team prepared to move to Brooklyn in the fall of 2012.
Hinrich, 30, had attracted the most interest of any player on the Wizards' roster. He was acquired from the Chicago Bulls in a pre-draft deal that also landed rookie Kevin Seraphin. The Wizards had recently informed Hinrich's representatives that they would like to "stay the course" with him, but would move him if they found a deal that could be beneficial. "It's disappointing," Saunders said about losing Hinrich. "I'm happy that he's at least getting into a situation where he has an opportunity to get into the playoffs. Make a run, so it's a good opportunity for him and Hilton, both those guys."
An eight-year veteran with playoff experience, Hinrich averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 assists in 48 games this season. Wall credited Hinrich with helping him adjust to the league by offering tips on how to play pick-and-roll defense and prepare for opposing point guards. Wall spoke with Hinrich before he left to join the Hawks. Hinrich "said I was doing great through my rookie season, fighting through the injuries, staying strong," Wall said. "I told him I was going to stay in contact with him. He's somebody that really helped me and pushed me to get through this rookie season when I felt like I was down or wasn't making certain plays. He told me to keep going and also made me step it up on the defensive end and be more competitive."
An hour before the game, Hinrich was on the court working out while Armstrong was joking with teammates Andray Blatche and Nick Young in the locker room. Armstrong, a 6-foot-11 big man had fallen out of the rotation with the team relying more on Seraphin and fellow rookie Trevor Booker. Wizards center JaVale McGee said he was "angry" about the trade because Armstrong was his best friend on the team. McGee even left the arena wearing Armstrong's No. 24 jersey.
The Wizards participated in the first blockbuster deal of the regular season, dealing Gilbert Arenas to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 18 in exchange for Rashard Lewis. That trade completed the roster makeover that began last season, when the Wizards started the rebuilding process by trading Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson and Dominic McGuire - going from a $79 million payroll to not having to pay the luxury tax.
"I think we're in a different stage," Grunfeld said earlier Wednesday. "We started the whole process last year and I think we've come a long way. A lot of things have happened. We've put ourselves in a very good financial situation moving forward. We've added some good young pieces to the mix and I think our future looks good. If we can add some more pieces to that, we will."
The trade also provided a savings for the Wizards next season. Hinrich is slated to earn $8 million next season, while Bibby is owed $6.4 million. Crawford will make $1.12 million next season, but Evans's $2.5 million salary comes off the books after this season.
Bibby is a 13-year veteran who has played in Vancouver, Sacramento and Atlanta. He is averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 assists this season. One of the league's best three-point shooters, he is shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the three-point line this season. Evans is a solid perimeter defender who is averaging 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in his eighth season. Crawford is averaging just 4.2 points in 16 games for the Hawks, who rank fifth in the East.
The Wizards (15-41) have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference and lost their first 25 road games this season before winning in Cleveland. After an embarrassing 117-94 loss in Philadelphia, the Wizards have lost 12 of their past 14 games.
"We're all very competitive and we want to win. And when you're not winning as much as you want to, it's frustrating," Grunfeld said. "Knowing that we have a young team, we didn't have any expectations, as far as wins and losses. Obviously, we'd like to win every game that we go into. Again, what we're looking for is for our players to improve and give a good, solid effort and be competitive."