Knicks, Suns trade brings Marbury home

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

NEW YORK - Stephon Marbury is returning to his hometown to play for the team he grew up watching.

In a blockbuster eight-player trade between New York and the Phoenix Suns, Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski were dealt Monday to the Knicks for Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe, the rights to Milos Vujanic and two first-round draft picks.

The trade is the fourth of Marbury's career. The Brooklyn native was drafted by Milwaukee and immediately dealt to Minnesota, where he subsequently forced a trade to New Jersey. The Nets sent him to Phoenix for Jason Kidd.

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''I think we got the best deal,'' Knicks center Dikembe Mutombo said. ''He's among the best point guards in the league, he's an All-Star player.''

The trade represents a major shakeup for both teams and an additional long-term financial commitment for a Knicks team that already has the league's highest payroll.

In exchange for giving up its best player, Phoenix will be under the salary cap next summer and will have at least $8 million to offer to a free agent class that includes Kobe Bryant.

Colangelo said the Suns will save $20 million to $25 million in salary and luxury tax costs through the 2004-05 season while Phoenix rebuilds.

''This is a big picture kind of move, and a bold move,'' Colangelo said. ''We didn't have flexibility under the cap, and we were hamstrung by some contracts. This allows us to be a player in free agency if we choose to. This is not a talent-for-talent deal.''

The contracts of McDyess and Ward expire at the end of this season, and Ward has a buyout clause that can be exercised before Jan. 10. Eisley is under contract for three more seasons. Vujanic, the starting point guard on the Yugoslav team that won the 2002 World Championship, is playing in Europe.

Marbury, one of the league's best point guards, was averaging a team-high 20.8 points for the Suns, who are in last place in the Pacific Division.

''It's definitely a home run hit by Isiah in terms of getting this deal done,'' Knicks coach Don Chaney said.

Hardaway, a former All-Star, has been a reserve in Phoenix and will have the same role in New York. He will earn $14 million next season and $16 million in 2005-06.

''If you're going to win a championship, you need talent, you need players,'' Thomas said. ''You're not going to beat the best teams with just one or two players.''

McDyess, who played for the Suns in 1997-98, returned to action last month after missing more than a year because of knee surgery. McDyess took over a spot in the Knicks' starting lineup from Kurt Thomas, then lost it - thereby becoming expendable.

''We've got a scoring point guard coming in, and a two-guard who's been getting it done for a number of years. So it's going to be a different look for us out there, but it definitely should be an improvement,'' Kurt Thomas said.

The Knicks will give Phoenix their first-round pick in the 2004 draft and an additional first-round pick.

Eisley, who recently lost his starting job to Frank Williams, did not play in the Knicks' 95-85 loss to New Jersey on Sunday night.

Ward, who has been with the Knicks for 10 seasons, is expected to be waived by the Suns later this week.

Isiah Thomas has already turned over about half the Knicks' roster in the two weeks since he replaced team president Scott Layden.

''I knew right after we got a new sheriff in town that we were in for a shakeup. One of the reasons he was brought here was to shake up the team and get us to the playoffs,'' Mutombo said.

Marbury will be reunited with Keith Van Horn, his teammate in New Jersey.

Last summer, Marbury said the Nets didn't win when he was there because he was surrounded by untalented players, lumping Van Horn in with Gheorghe Muresan and Jim McIlvaine.

''Personally we never had any problems. On the court we didn't win, and I think that was the biggest problem that Stephon and I had,'' Van Horn said.

At 14-21, the Knicks are fifth in a weak Atlantic Division. But with a starting lineup of Marbury, Allan Houston, Van Horn, Thomas and Mutombo, they should have enough talent to snap their two-year streak of missing the playoffs.

''On paper, talent-wise, this puts us right up there at the top,'' Van Horn said. ''But that's just paper.''

Marbury and Hardaway were expected to join the Knicks in Cleveland and play Tuesday night against the Cavaliers, Chaney said. All the players in the deal must pass physicals before the trade is official.

Thomas, who already traded Clarence Weatherspoon to Houston for Moochie Norris and John Amaechi (who was waived Monday), indicated he'll continue to pursue trades.

''I still think we need to get a little more athletic and a little better,'' Thomas said.