Sixers send Speights to Grizzlies

Posted: January 05, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - It certainly wasn't the blockbuster trade 76ers fans may be longing for, but it was a significant move, nonetheless.

Fourth-year forward Marreese Speights, drafted with the 16th overall pick out of Florida in 2008, was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team deal that also involved the New Orleans Hornets. The Sixers will receive the Hornets' second-round pick in 2013 and a protected second-rounder from the Grizzlies in 2012. The only way the Sixers will not get the Memphis pick is if the Grizzlies finish in one of the top four draft spots. Memphis dealt guard Xavier Henry to New Orleans.

"I feel really good about it," Speights said after the team's morning shootaround at the New Orleans Arena, shortly after being told about it. "I've got a fresh start so I just got to get back on the ground and be prepared to play. I know [Memphis] is a lot like us. They have a good coach in coach [Lionel] Hollins. I know them a little bit. They have coach [Henry] Bibby, who used to coach here a little bit."

Though a wonderful offensive talent, Speights battled conditioning and defensive problems throughout his career. His numbers dipped last season to an average of 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in just 11.5 minutes. Those numbers were down from those of his first two seasons.

Early in his first season leading the team last year, coach Doug Collins appeared to give Speights many chances to prove himself, but Speights never seemed quite up to the task. The 6-10, 255-pounder did not see any action this season.

"Any time you make a trade, for me as a coach, it's a tough thing," Collins said. "I probably invested as much time and energy in Mo as any player. When I took over the job, myself and [assistant] Michael Curry, we just really tried to connect and tried to get the best of him because we know how talented he is. For whatever reason I just wasn't able to get the best [out of him]."

A lot of that had to do with Speights, who showed up out of shape this training camp, a poor start to a shortened preseason due to the lockout. It no doubt irked Collins.

"You can never have enough big men," Collins said. "It's like pitching in baseball."

But with the way Speights struggled, a move appeared to be best for both parties.

The Grizzlies have been looking for frontcourt depth and are in an even greater need after the news that Zach Randolph will be out 6 to 8 weeks after an MRI showed he suffered a slight tear of the MCL in his right knee during Sunday's loss to Chicago.

"[Speights] is incredibly talented,'' Collins said. "I want Mo to go to Memphis and I want him to play great there. I want them to sign him to a contract and I want him to do well, and he knows that. Hopefully this will be a new start for him. I feel badly that I couldn't get the best out of him. I think it's fair to him to be able to go and get a new start. Hopefully he'll get into the rotation. He's going to a great spot, a playoff team. I feel good in that we put him in a good position and I hope he does well."

There doesn't appear to be another move in the near future, Collins said. With a big-man rotation that includes Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and rookie Nikola Vucevic, Collins hopes veteran Tony Battie can handle an 8- to 14-minute night when needed.

"We're hoping that Tony can really get his legs under him here and maybe give us some of the minutes that may have gone to Mo, had we needed another big guy," Collins said.

Another lineup change

The Hornets welcomed back Eric Gordon last night. After playing in the season opener, Gordon had missed the past four games due to a bruised right knee. It was the first time he and point guard Jarrett Jack had played together, as Jack was suspended for the first game.

It's not the first time this season the Sixers have faced a juggled lineup. Utah was missing starting big man Al Jefferson, who was sidelined because of an ankle injury. Then in Golden State, the Warriors were without leading scorer Monta Ellis, who was away from the team to attend to a family funeral.

Six shots

Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Bobby Jones will attend the Sixers' home opener against Detroit tomorrow night . . . Sixers rookie, and Temple product, Lavoy Allen suited up for his first NBA game last night. He had been deactivated for the first four games but a spot opened because of the trade of Marreese Speights yesterday . . . Before the game, former Sixer Jason Smith said he was starting to feel like he was getting some sort of bug. If he was he didn't show it, scoring nine points in 13 minutes for the Hornets.

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