They weren't going to toss away the future to improve the present.
That's how Charlotte Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho described their approach to Thursday's NBA trade deadline. The Bobcats made a deal, swapping Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien to the Milwaukee Bucks to acquire guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour.
If you consider Sessions and Ridnour equivalent talents at backup point guard, then this deal came down to the Bobcats' need for 3-point shooting and Neal's career 39 percent accuracy from that range.
"With our strength being our low-post scoring with Al Jefferson, teams (are) loading up on Al with one, two, three defenders -- packing it in," said Higgins, president of basketball operations. "Hence we thought, particularly with Gary Neal, that he could create some space-shooting for us. Also Gary has an ability to create a shot for himself."
That was the micro view of this trade. The macro view is the Bobcats avoided giving up one of two first-round picks owed them by the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers to make something happen.
General manager Cho, who always has advocated acquiring extra picks, said it was important not to let the euphoria of a playoff race blind you to the long-term good.
"If the opportunity came along where we thought we could improve on both a short- and long-term basis, we would have (considered trading) picks," Cho said at a news conference. "But we didn't want to just use one for short-term gratification."
Higgins compared Thursday's trade with the one the team made a year ago, acquiring power forward Josh McRoberts from Orlando for Hakim Warrick. That wasn't seen as a big deal at the time, but McRoberts has proved to be a solid starter.
This time the Bobcats feel they added two rotation players while losing one (Sessions).
At 25-30, the Bobcats sit in eighth place in the East. They have a 21/2-game lead over Detroit for the last playoff spot in the East and just beat the Pistons on back-to-back nights to sweep the season series.
Higgins said the chance to reach the playoffs for the second time in franchise history was a big incentive to make this trade.
"Of course our mindset is to try to solidify that playoff spot," he said. "If you're in the locker room with our players, that's the vibe that they're sending."
This trade slightly increases the Bobcats' financial obligations going forward. Contracts for Sessions, Adrien and Ridnour expire after this season. Neal is owed $3.25 million next season.
Ridnour is an 11-season veteran. Higgins said he likes Ridnour's "craftiness" and ability to get off shots in tight situations. Cho was in the Seattle Supersonics front office that drafted Ridnour out of Oregon.
"First of all, Luke is a great person," Cho said. "When we drafted him in 2003, he and I were sitting in the conference room. He was thumbing through his contract, and the first thing he says is, 'I can't believe they're paying me all this money to play basketball.'
"He's a student of the game, has a very high basketball IQ and he's a gym rat."
The Bobcats traded a player with intangibles just that sterling in Sessions, who signed here as a free agent the summer of 2012. Higgins called Sessions the "ultimate professional," which made it tough to watch him leave.
"Ramon is a terrific young man," Higgins said. "He fit in with our team, but he'll fit in well with whatever team he plays with."
BREAKDOWN OF A DEAL . . .
What they did: Dealt point guard Ramon Sessions and forward-center Jeff Adrien to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Luke Ridnour and shooting guard Gary Neal.
Why would the Bobcats do this? To add Neal's 3-point shooting. He's 39 percent from 3 for his career (36 percent this season). The Bobcats are 22nd among 30 NBA teams in 3-point percentage at 34.8 percent. Neal has the chance to improve spacing, which would make it easier for center Al Jefferson to score in the post.
Why would the Bucks do this? They're terrible this season, so they will be starting over. Sessions' and Adrien's contracts will expire after this season. Now Milwaukee avoids paying Neal's $3.25 million salary next season (Ridnour's contract expires).
Any concerns? Neal played his first three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, surrounded by talent in what's considered the NBA's model franchise. He didn't have to step beyond what he did best (shoot). Things haven't worked out in Milwaukee, where he was having his worst shooting season from 3-point range (36 percent) and 2-point range (41 percent).
About Neal: Played college ball at LaSalle and Towson. ... Was not selected in the 2007 NBA draft. ... Played in Turkey, Spain and Italy before signing with the Spurs in July 2010. ... Made all-rookie first team after averaging 9.8 points in the 2010-11 season. ... Had 41 games of playoff experience with San Antonio.
About Ridnour: The 14th overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Seattle Supersonics. ... Played three seasons of college ball at Oregon. ... In his 11th NBA season, having played for Seattle (before the move to Oklahoma City), Minnesota and Milwaukee (twice). ... Considered a solid pick-and-roll point guard. ... A career 35 percent shooter from 3-point range.
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