The aggressive, as-good-as-advertised Sam Presti just made his boldest move yet as Thunder general manager, acquiring Tyson Chandler from the Hornets for the expiring contracts of Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.
The read for New Orleans: Surrender. The Hornets, a popular preseason pick to win the West, come out of the All-Star break at 30-20 and a disappointing sixth place in the conference, and now they move a starting center who can protect the inside and rebound. So much for building up for the playoffs.
The read for Oklahoma City: Meet the new Trail Blazers. Already heading in the right direction after a disastrous start, the Thunder just stepped over the Kings, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Warriors in the race to the future.
It requires two mild assumptions, one contractual one medical.
*Chandler can become a free agent in a season and a half, but that would be walking away from a $13.2 million in 2010-11, and that almost certainly won't happen. If it does, OKC will not have lost anything more than Smith and Wilcox, two players who were very available all along, and the rights to former Cal standout DeVon Hardin, a second-round pick in 2008 who has yet to play in the NBA.
*Chandler has not played since Jan. 19 because of a sprained ankle. The Thunder clearly do not believe it is a serious injury and will also get another look from the physical that is mandatory for all trades.
The real red flag is that Chandler has dropped from 11.7 rebounds last season (third in the league) to 8.3 and from 62.3-percent shooting (second in the league) to 56.3. Not exactly a free fall, but an area of concern if there's something going on besides problems with feet and ankles. That increases because Chandler is a non-factor on offense, meaning he'd better be doing serious damage on defense and the boards.
Either way, the new Thunder:
PG -- Russell Westbrook, 20 years old and bound for the All-Rookie team.
SG -- Kyle Weaver, the starter of the moment with Desmond Mason done for the season.
SF -- Kevin Durant, 20 years old and averaging 25.5 points a game.
PF -- Jeff Green, 22 years old and averaging 16.7 points a game.
C -- Chandler, 26 years old.
Plus: Five first-round picks the next two drafts.
Oklahoma City is stepping into a very promising future led by Presti, who was 30 when hired as GM of the then- SuperSonics in June of 2007. Durant is positioned for stardom, Westbrook has been an immediate success as a rookie in his first full season at point guard, and Chandler and Westbrook in particular give the Thunder the chance to greatly improve on defense.
This is a good day for the Lakers and Spurs and anyone else who may have viewed the Hornets as a threat in the West, and maybe even the Mavericks, Jazz and Suns and others scrambling for the last spots in the playoff bracket, given that New Orleans is just two-and-a-half games from ninth place and the lottery. It's a bad day for the Kings, who just got a tougher climb around the Thunder and who also lost a potential trade partner by moving Smith.
Oh, and this is potentially a great day for Manteca's Scott Brooks, the interim coach in Oklahoma City. I thought all along he had the chance to turn this into something more than the basic caretaker's job until the Thunder made a permanent hire. After the news of the day, that's more true than ever.