Emotional trade for Sixers, Green

Willie Green has played all seven of his NBA seasons in Philly.
Willie Green has played all seven of his NBA seasons in Philly.
Posted: September 24, 2010

This was awkward, even painful. Here was 76ers assistant coach Aaron McKie putting Willie Green through a workout at the team's practice site yesterday morning, knowing Green was within minutes of being officially traded.

"And I couldn't tell him," McKie was saying yesterday, after Green and Jason Smith had been dealt to New Orleans for veteran forward Darius Songaila and rookie big man Craig Brackins.

Worse, McKie and the other players in the gym were there when coach Doug Collins came in to tell Green and explain it to the other players in the gym.

"That was heartbreaking," McKie said, "because Willie had his 10-year-old son, Ross, with him, and Ross just walked off the court crying. I told him he'd always be family, and Willie explained it to him, but that was tough."

Coach Doug Collins, choking back the words, said, "It hit me hard. It reminded me of when I got fired in Chicago, with my kids."

"Willie was my rookie when he joined the Sixers," McKie said. "He's like a little brother to me. He's cut from old-school cloth; his approach is always the same - he's already ready. He had called me [Wednesday] night about coming in to work out. It was about an hour after I had found out something could be happening."

Green's run of seven seasons playing for six different Sixers coaches is over after 422 games and a 9.4 career scoring average. Smith's more modest run of three seasons that included 132 games, averages of 4 points and 2.8 rebounds and reconstructive knee surgery was equally done. But Green, who can be a free agent next summer, is going to a team that, having traded Darren Collison to Indiana, had desperately needed a backup point guard behind Chris Paul.

"In some respects, this could be better for Willie, because he'll have a better opportunity to play and he'll be with a team that should be in the thick of the playoff hunt," said Green's agent, Noah Croom. "He's going to get meaningful minutes."

Interestingly, Green still might have gotten some minutes here, because every one of his previous coaches eventually found a comfort level and measure of trust with him. But Collins, president Rod Thorn and general manager Ed Stefanski understood the necessity of finding time for No. 2 pick Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks.

Green was unavailable for comment, having left directly after being informed of the trade to take his family on a brief, prearranged vacation.

"This opens things up for guys who need to play," Thorn said. "Sometimes, when you take away an opportunity from one guy, you create options for others."

Hornets general manager Dell Demps referred to Smith as a young big man "who was full of promise coming out of school [Colorado State]."

"We look at him as what we call a mobile big man," Demps said. "He'll have an opportunity, and we have minutes available."

But this deal did not come together until the Hornets agreed to include the 6-10 Brackins, the No. 21 pick in the NBA's June draft from Iowa State, selected by Oklahoma City and traded immediately afterward. He averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior, showed skill as a three-point shooter and was the only player in the Big 12 to finish in the top 10 in conference games in scoring, rebounds and blocks.

As a sophomore, Brackins produced 42 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to Kansas. As a junior, he put up 28 points and 12 rebounds in a blowout victory over Mississippi Valley State.

The Sixers are looking long-range at Brackins, with Thorn saying, "It's hard to find 'bigs' who can make shots."

"I said one of the things I would love to do [in the draft] is, after we got Evan, to get a developing big guy," Collins said. "We feel Brackins fits that mold. He's a very talented player; had he come out the year before [as a sophomore], he probably would have been a lottery pick."

At the same time, the Sixers acquired Songaila, a second-round pick of Boston in 2002 who has also logged time with Sacramento, Chicago and Washington, enough to appear in 485 regular-season games and hold career averages of 7 points and 3.5 rebounds, shooting 49.9 percent, mostly from midrange and around the basket.

"He's a tough, very skilled guy," said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. "He's very competitive, sort of ornery on the court. He gets every 50-50 play."

This was the sort of deal teams searching to reclaim their relevancy tend to make.

"We feel like, in the offseason, we haven't hit any home runs, so to speak, where it's like 'wow,' " Collins said, "but we feel like we've quietly improved on paper. Now, we've got to figure out how to put it all together."

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