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A Blockbuster Day In The NBA

The moves came in a steady trickle rather than a torrent Tuesday as the NBA's one-month moratorium on trades and free agent signings ended.

The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets pulled off a nine-player trade and the Chicago Bulls found a free agent who was willing to take their money in Ron Mercer, but little else of major impact transpired on the first day since June 30 that teams were able to wheel and deal freely.

Aside from Mercer, two other free agents changed teams as Tony Delk went from Sacramento to Phoenix and Bobby Jackson went from Minnesota to Sacramento.

Also, Tim Thomas re-signed with Milwaukee, Kurt Thomas re-signed with New York, Anthony Carter re-signed with the Heat, Scot Pollard re-signed with the Kings, Dallas re-signed Hubert Davis and Gary Trent, and John Starks said he was ready to sign with Utah for two years.

The pace of activity on the trade and free agent fronts is expected to stay steady over the next couple of days. The team making the biggest splash, the Orlando Magic, is expected to formally announce the signings of Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady on Thursday.

The Miami-Charlotte trade sends All-Star guard Eddie Jones and forward Anthony Mason to Miami for forward P.J. Brown and guard Jamal Mashburn. Also traded were Otis Thorpe, Tim James and Rodney Buford to Charlotte, and Ricky Davis and Dale Ellis to Miami.

Charlotte avoided losing Jones without compensation by signing him to a seven-year deal worth at least $86 million, then trading him. He considered a free-agent offer from Chicago but preferred to play in South Florida, where he grew up and has a home.

"I coached P.J. for three seasons in New Jersey, and I love his unselfish, defensive style of play," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "Jamal will give us a consistent scorer, with a long-distance threat, that will complement our frontline players."

Coach Pat Riley kept his backup point guard, Carter, by re-signing him to a one-year, $1.2 million exception. But Riley decided to dismantle the core of a Heat team that has won four consecutive Atlantic Division titles, only to flop each year in the postseason.

The Indiana Pacers have apparently managed to keep their team intact, reportedly reaching agreement with free agent forward Autin Croshere on a seven-year, $51 million deal. Croshere was being pursued by the Toronto Raptors, whose best offer was in the range of six years and $50 million.

"We really want Austin to stay here. And Austin's been truly fantastic in making it clear that he prefers to stay here because of the franchise and the city." said David Morway, Pacers vice president for basketball administration.

Indiana also is expected to re-sign free agents Jalen Rose, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson and Sam Perkins. If center Rik Smits decides against retiring, he also is expected back with Indiana.

Orlando general manager John Gabriel plans to re-sign center John Amaechi and forward Bo Outlaw, while guard Dee Brown, a teammate of McGrady the past three seasons with the Toronto Raptors, also intends to sign with Orlando.

In the meantime, the Magic would like to clear enough room under the salary cap to snare Los Angeles Clippers forward Maurice Taylor, which would fill an opening for a power forward created by Ben Wallace's decision to sign with the Detroit Pistons.

The 6-foot-7 Mercer, who agreed to terms with Chicago, will be with his fourth NBA team in four seasons. He played his first two years with the Boston Celtics, was traded to Denver and then dealt to Orlando last season, averaging 16.9 points.

The Bulls also met Tuesday with free agent center Brad Miller, but general manager Jerry Krause was unable to obtain any of the big names he had hoped to lure with nearly $20 million of salary cap room.

Thomas' new contract will pay him just under $67 million over six years.

That's a slightly bigger offer than the seven-year, $63 million contract Milwaukee proposed in June and a significantly bigger deal than the four-year, $24 million contract Thomas turned down last October in order to test the free-agent waters this summer.

"This is home," said Thomas, sporting a Bucks jersey with the nickname "Notorious T.I.M." on the back and at least two new tattoos. "This is where I wanted to be. I just fell in love with the city and the fans. I want to win here."

Starks, an 11-year veteran who played eight seasons with the New York Knicks, recently visited Utah and was wooed by Karl Malone, coach Jerry Sloan and owner Larry Miller.

"They were very sincere that they wanted me and I'm their guy to fill the role that Jeff Hornacek played over the years," Starks said. "They were the first team that came at me with that type of scenario."

Jackson joins the Kings after averaging 5.1 points and 2.4 assists in 73 games last season as the primary backup to Terrell Brandon. He reportedly gets a five-year deal with $13.5 million.

Delk, a four-year veteran who has also played for Charlotte and Golden State, agreed to a six-year deal with Phoenix worth almost $19 million.

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