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NBA: Bobcats to get Chandler for Okafor

Associated Press
The Charlotte Bobcats are finalizing a trade that would send Emeka Okafor to the New Orleans Hornets for Tyson Chandler, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Monday.
The swap of 26-year-old centers wasn’t expected to be completed until Tuesday and was unlikely to include other players, the people said on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.
The deal would be another roster shake up for the Bobcats since Larry Brown took over as coach last season, and is a gamble because Chandler has been plagued by a left toe injury and recently underwent surgery.
Okafor was the No. 2 overall pick ó after Orlando took Dwight Howard ó in the 2004 draft. Okafor was the first pick in franchise history and the Bobcats re-signed him to a six-year, $72 million deal before last season.
The 6-foot-10 Okafor averaged 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds for Charlotte last season. But Brown questioned his passion at the end of the season.
“I tease him that he’s got an A in stretching and pilates and yoga. I want him to have an A in basketball,” Brown said two days after Charlotte finished 35-47. “It makes older people feel great, but he’s got to work on his game. … There’s no better guy than him, I just want him to have a passion to play the sport because it ends so quickly.”
Chandler is taller, at 7-1, but averaged only 8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in an unsettling season that saw him traded to Oklahoma City, then returned to New Orleans. The deal was rescinded because the Thunder had concerns about a left toe injury.
Chandler later had a left ankle injury that kept him out of the Hornets’ final playoff game. He underwent surgery on his toe and ankle in May, but Hornets officials said he would be ready for training camp.
The Hornets don’t figure to have injury concerns with Okafor, who has played all 82 games in each of the past two seasons. While he is a solid rebounder, he has struggled offensively and is a poor free-throw shooter.
While Okafor has a longer contract, the players make about the same each year, making it an easier deal to fit under the salary cap. Chandler is slated to make $11.8 million in 2009-10, with a player’s option worth $12.7 million in 2010-11.
Okafor is scheduled to earn $10.5 million next season, meaning the Hornets could lower 2009-2010 payroll by $1.3 million. If the Hornets have to pay the league’s dollar-for-dollar luxury tax next season, the savings effectively could be double.
As of Monday, with Chandler still on the books, the Hornets’ payroll was about $78 million, close to $8 million above the NBA’s luxury tax threshold of $69.9 million for next season.
Still, a trade for Okafor would lock New Orleans into a longer financial commitment.
Chandler’s shorter contract could help the Bobcats get long-term salary-cap relief and lower payroll for owner Bob Johnson, who is looking to sell the team after deep financial losses.
Once completed, it would mark the fourth major trade for the Bobcats since Brown took his NBA record ninth head coaching job. The team, which will begin its sixth season in the fall, is still looking for its first playoff berth.

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