The Philadelphia 76ers acquired a center who can help them win a championship this year. To get him, they gave up a center who might have kept them a powerhouse for years to come.
The team with the best record in the NBA made the biggest and boldest move of trading deadline day. The Sixers acquired Dikembe Mutombo from Atlanta on Thursday along with Roshown McLeod for Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed and Pepe Sanchez.
In other trades:
-- Washington sent Juwan Howard and his salary cap-busting contract to Dallas in an eight-player deal. Calvin Booth and Obinna Ekezie also went to the Mavericks for Christian Laettner, Courtney Alexander, Loy Vaught, Hubert Davis, Etan Thomas and $3 million.
-- New York reacquired Mark Jackson, who won the Rookie of the Year award when he played for the Knicks in 1988. New York also got Muggsy Bogues from Toronto in exchange for Chris Childs and Seattle's No. 1 draft pick.
-- Detroit acquired forward Corliss Williamson from Toronto for Jerome Williams. Also moving in that deal is Eric Montross from Detroit to Toronto and Kornel David, Tyrone Corbin and a future No. 1 draft pick formerly held by Orlando going from the Raptors to the Pistons.
The 22 players were the most dealt on a deadline day since the NBA began keeping track in 1987.
The Mavericks were the only Western Conference team to make a move, while the Raptors were the only team to make two.
"I'm going to Philadelphia to play with a great player, Allen Iverson, a scoring machine who plays with tremendous energy," Mutombo said. "The opportunity to win a championship is certainly there."
With his team already owning the NBA's best record, Brown said the trade would fill the short-term hole left by an injured Ratliff, who had wrist surgery Wednesday and could be out 2-to-4 weeks -- or longer.
If the Sixers can make it to the NBA Finals, the 7-foot-2 Mutombo would match up well against the Western Conference's big, elite centers -- particularly the Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, San Antonio's David Robinson, Portland's Arvydas Sabonis and Sacramento's Vlade Divac.
Brown said the team's immediate concern is finishing with the league's best regular-season record and homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.
"Obviously, they have their sights on winning the championship this year. That's the way it should be in this league. You go for it now," New York coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
Mutombo could join the team as early as Friday night in Detroit.
Brown said he wasn't concerned about altering the team's chemistry this late in the season, noting that Mutombo's easygoing nature should help him fit in easily.
"We have to make sure when we add pieces to this team, they're quality guys, they're character guys. It's obvious this guy is that," Brown said. "He's a quality human being and that's what this team needs."
The other major trade -- at least financially -- sent Howard from Washington to Dallas.
Michael Jordan worked frantically to trade one of the three veterans -- Howard, Rod Strickland or Mitch Richmond -- whose huge salaries and long-term contracts were paralyzing the Wizards' ability to acquire major free agents. Howard has two full seasons remaining on his contract and will earn about $40 million over that span.
Howard was routinely booed by the home crowd since signing a seven-year, $105 million contract in 1996. However, he recently stepped up his game and was a rare bright spot in a 13-41 season. He led the team in scoring with an average of 18.2 points and was second in rebounding with 7.0 per game.
"Sure, everyone said Juwan was an untradable situation, but you never know," Jordan said.
Laettner is averaging 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds, but he comes with a prickly reputation and likely won't figure into the Wizards' plans when his contract expires at the end of the season.
"Hopefully, he will come here with a positive attitude," said Jordan, trying to suppress a chuckle.
Alexander, the 13th overall pick of the 2000 draft, is averaging 4.2 points and 1.7 rebounds. He and Thomas, who is out for the season with a toe injury, are the only two players in the trade who would appear to figure in the Wizards long-term plans.
Childs has spent the past several seasons as the Knicks' backup point guard, behind Charlie Ward. For now, coach Lenny Wilkens said he will be the backup to starter Alvin Williams for one of the Knicks' Eastern Conference rivals.
"He played his heart out for us, and we have to thank him for that," Knicks general manager Scott Layden said. "He was with the club a long time and has been through a lot of big wins and great playoff games."
Jackson has been a big part of many Knicks rivalries, both for and against them. He spent six seasons with the Indiana Pacers -- helping eliminate New York in last season's Eastern Conference finals -- and was best friends with Knicks nemesis Reggie Miller.
"It's really coming full circle for him," Layden said. "We're excited about bringing him back home."
The Raptors had been trying to find a taker for Williamson, who has been a disappointment since arriving from Sacramento in a trade for Doug Christie. He is averaging only 9.3 points, his lowest since his rookie season.
By adding Jerome Williams, the Raptors are getting another rebounder to add to a front line that already includes starters Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley and backup Keon Clark.
Toronto rookie Morris Peterson, whose improved play made Williamson expendable, welcomes Williams' energy and enthusiasm.
"I think he'll be a great addition to our team," the Toronto rookie said. "He's a really, really good player who works hard."
Williams, a free agent after this season, averaged 7.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in 33 games for the Pistons.
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