Raja Bell and Boris Diaw have left Phoenix, and Steve Nash says their departure leaves him 'emotionally drained.'
PHOENIX — Raja Bell and Boris Diaw have left Phoenix, and Steve Nash says their departure leaves him "emotionally drained."
The Suns pulled off an unexpected five-player trade Wednesday that sent Diaw and Nash to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for high-scoring guard Jason Richardson.
The trading of Bell especially bothered Nash.
"All I can say is that he's my best buddy and my best friend," Nash said after the short-handed Suns lost to the Lakers. "The guys loved him, and Boris, too. It's hard you know. I have a hard time committing to this as a business. I take this personally."
Nash already was having a tough time dealing with the changes brought on by the departure of coach Mike D'Antoni and the arrival of Terry Porter and his more deliberate style of play.
"I take my career home with me and I care about my teammates," Nash said. "When you lose two of your best friends on the team, it's hard. We're not only recreating chemistry, we're changing our style. But we've got lots of time to build."
Nash, a two-time league MVP in D'Antoni's system, said it's back to work, though, in this extreme team makeover.
"We've got two good players in return," Nash said, "so we'll try to build with what we have and try to see how good we can get."
Rookie point guard Sean Singletary also went to Charlotte, while the Suns got small forward Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round draft pick.
The dynamic Richardson was the center of the deal, though.
"We felt like we needed to shake things up a little bit," Suns general manager Steve Kerr said. "We wanted to add a great scorer in the backcourt to give us better balance to take some of the pressure off of Steve."
The 6-foot-6 Richardson is a two-time NBA slam dunk champion and an accomplished 3-point shooter who is averaging 18.7 points this season and 18.8 for his pro career.
"I think it was an opportunity for us to get better," Porter said, "a guy who can get 20 points a night, adds athleticism for us."
Charlotte coach Larry Brown said the Suns "just added an unbelievable piece."
Bell, a first-team all-defensive selection in 2006-07 and second team last season, had made it clear he was not happy with the Suns' switch from D'Antoni's high-flying style to Porter's more deliberate approach. Bell is averaging 9.4 points this season.
The versatile Diaw had seen his playing time dwindle behind Amare Stoudemire. The Suns still liked the Frenchman's skills but not his salary. He is getting $9 million this season and has three more years on his contract.
"I think it's going to be a little bit of a shock to those guys when you start a season and you have a legitimate chance to win a championship and all of a sudden go with a team that's trying to go and find an identity and get better," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said.
Dudley, a 6-foot-7 second-year pro, started seven games for Charlotte this season.
The 32-year-old Bell came to the Suns as a free agent in 2005 and thrived under D'Antoni's up-tempo system, gaining notoriety when he was suspended for a 2006 playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers after throwing Kobe Bryant to the floor.
But Bell didn't like the coaching change or the new system. Nash was a tough sell, too, and his adjustment has been made more difficult, the Suns believe, by the lack of a major scoring threat at the other backcourt position.
"Raja was a great teammate," Stoudemire said. "Whenever there are changes, you've got to accept that. We're going to build this chemistry again and get it rolling. I don't think it will take too long."
The deal marks a continuation of Kerr's change in Phoenix's makeup. The big move came in a trade that brought Shaquille O'Neal from Miami late last season.
Trading Richardson is the first major move for the Bobcats since Larry Brown took over as coach — and comes less than two years after managing partner Michael Jordan acquired Richardson in a draft-night deal with Golden State.
"I've watched Jason for a long time," said Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins, who also was with Richardson in Golden State. "Just watching him grow, he grew from where he started to where he is today with his ability to score the basketball."
Diaw will help Charlotte with Brown's biggest complaint, a thin frontcourt. Diaw could start right away in place of struggling power forward Sean May. "We needed to become bigger," Higgins said.
Bell provides Charlotte with another wing player, while Singletary could serve as the No. 3 point guard behind Raymond Felton and rookie D.J. Augustin. Brown has requested another consistent point guard.
But Richardson's offense will be missed from a team that entered Wednesday last in the league in scoring.
"You have opportunities now for other guys to develop," Higgins said. "Some guys are going to have different opportunities. We'll figure it out as we go on."
AP Sports Writers John Nadel in Los Angeles; Mike Cranston in Charlotte, N.C.; and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.