Originally created 06/28/01

Hawks send No. 3 pick to Vancouver for Abdur-Rahim



ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks agreed to trade the No. 3 overall selection in Wednesday's NBA draft to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

The Hawks also will give up forward-center Lorenzen Wright and point guard Brevin Knight, though the trade may not be formally completed until July 18. That's when Abdur-Rahim's base year salary increases, allowing the Grizzlies to fit Wright and Knight under their salary cap.

Hawks general manager Pete Babcock said he was not allowed to comment on any deals, but Grizzlies president Dick Versace told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that the trade was completed late Tuesday night.

"It was extremely difficult to trade Shareef because he's such a wonderful kid who has given so much to this franchise," Versace said in New York. "I called him and told him and thanked him for what he did for us."

The Hawks passed up a chance to make their highest draft pick in 26 years, instead going for a 6-foot-9 forward who was born and raised in suburban Atlanta and went on to become the Grizzlies' career leading scorer.

Last year, Abdur-Rahim led the team with 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as the Grizzlies struggled to a 23-59 record.

Vancouver winds up with three picks in the first round, also drafting at No. 6 and 27. The Hawks will have to make the No. 3 pick for the Grizzlies and then trade that player, since NBA teams are prohibited from giving up their first-round pick two years in a row.

Atlanta traded its No. 1 pick in 2002 to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the deal that brought Wright to Atlanta two years ago.

The Grizzlies, who already have shifted their basketball operations to Memphis in anticipation of relocating to Tennessee, hoped to make a big impact in a draft that was deep in talent but short on experience.

The team looked closely at a couple of 6-9 forwards, Zach Randolph from Michigan State and Rodney White from UNC-Charlotte, but that was before adding yet another high pick. The Grizzlies need help at power forward and center.

The trade was the latest step in the Hawks' rebuilding process, which began after the team was swept by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1999 playoffs.

Atlanta acquired budding star Jason Terry for aging point guard Mookie Blaylock. Dikembe Mutombo was dealt to Philadelphia at last season's trade deadline for Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc and Nazr Mohammed. Steve Smith also was traded in an ill-fated deal for Isaiah Rider.

The Hawks went 25-57 last year, their worst season since moving to Atlanta in 1968. In the draft lottery, they moved up two spots for their highest pick since 1975.

But Babcock made it clear all along that he preferred to trade the No. 3 choice rather than spend several seasons developing another young player. The Hawks already have Terry, Dion Glover, Cal Bowdler and DerMarr Johnson - all drafted in the first round over the last two years.

The trade still leaves the Hawks with a big hole to fill at point guard. Terry originally played the position and could move back, but he blossomed into the team's top scorer after shifting to off guard.

Wright, 25, moved into the Hawks starting lineup last season, averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. The 25-year-old Knight, acquired from Cleveland in a January trade, averaged 6.3 points and 5.9 assists during his brief tenure with the Hawks.

Wright also will be going home, assuming the NBA approves the move to Memphis for next season as expected. He was born in that city and played at the University of Memphis.

Abdur-Rahim, a 24-year-old player who rarely speaks above a whisper, led Marietta's Wheeler High School to a state title as a junior in 1994. After one college season at California, he was the No. 3 selection in the 1996 draft and moved straight into the lineup for the woeful Grizzlies, averaging 18.7 points as a rookie.

After his final game in Vancouver, Abdur-Rahim thanked the Grizzlies fans for their support, knowing the franchise was likely to move after claiming losses of more than $40 million last season.

"The hardest part of this for me is I've always been made to feel so at home here," he said. "I was a baby when I came here. This city embraced me and never really had a bad word. I've learned a lot here, seen a lot. Being here, I've been in a situation where I could grow."

Now, he's coming home. Abdur-Rahim's parents still live in the Atlanta area and a younger brother, Mohammad Abdur-Rahim, will be a senior on Wheeler's basketball team next season.

Another brother, Amir, also played at Wheeler before attending a junior college in Oklahoma.

"I think it's a good move for the Hawks and for Shareef," Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. "I think he can help the Hawks. I'm sure of that."