AP Sources: 76ers send Carney, top pick to ‘Wolves

PHILADELPHIA — The 76ers have agreed to trade forward Rodney Carney and a future No. 1 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves, two people in the NBA told The Associated Press on Tuesday, in a deal that clears salary cap space for Philadelphia to make a stronger play for free agent Elton Brand.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been completed and the NBA trade moratorium is not lifted until Wednesday.

The 76ers will throw in reserve forward Calvin Booth, and acquired a future second round draft pick and Minnesota’s $2.8 million trade exception gained in a 2007 deal with Miami.

“The only thing I can share with you is that Calvin’s contract will be traded to Minnesota tomorrow,” said Booth’s agent, Mark Termini.

The deal clears the way for the Sixers to potentially offer a nearly $14 million starting salary and a long-term deal to a free agent such as Brand — and he may be on the way.

The Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unidentified NBA source, on its Web site that Brand reached a verbal agreement to sign a multiyear contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The emerging Sixers now have another $2 million in salary cap space to add to the $11 million in space available that they hope will land them the post player they badly need to become contenders in the Eastern Conference.

A proposed trade between the teams was first reported by Yahoo.com.

The Sixers had Atlanta forward Josh Smith in town for a visit last week but did not give the restricted free agent an offer sheet. As he’s a restricted free agent, the Hawks can match any offer made to the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Smith.

“There are still a couple of other teams in the mix,” said Wallace Prather, Smith’s agent. “Philly just seemed to be the most serious at the time. There are more options out there. I guess Philly wanted to do different things on the court. No hard feelings or anything.”

Brand’s arrival would be a huge move for the Sixers, who have worked quickly to become contenders in the Eastern Conference. Brand is the type of low post player Philadelphia desperately needed, averaging 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds in nine seasons. Brand played in only eight games last season because of an Achilles’ tendon injury.

Brand opted out last week of his contract with the Clippers and had said he planned to stay with the Clippers despite his decision

Brand could make the Sixers contenders in the Eastern Conference. They were one of the surprise teams in the league last season, going 40-42 and stretching Detroit to six games in the first round of the playoffs.

76ers spokesman Mike Preston had no comment on Brand.

The trade allows the rebuilding Timberwolves, who have long been one of the worst cap managers in the league, to continue putting themselves in a position to be a major player on the free agent markets in 2009 and 2010.

Carney has one year remaining on his contract with a team option for 2009-10, while Booth will come off the books at the end of the upcoming season, unless a buyout agreement is reached before that.

The Timberwolves received the trade exception from the Heat because they took on less cash than they gave up in a deal last October that sent Mark Blount and Ricky Davis to Miami in exchange for Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien. That deal allowed them to rid themselves of Blount’s bloated contract.

On draft night in June, the Timberwolves were able to unload Marko Jaric’s hefty deal, shipping him to Memphis with O.J. Mayo, Walker and Greg Buckner for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Jason Collins and Brian Cardinal. All three of the Grizzlies in that deal have contracts that will expire no later than 2010.

That freedom will allow the team to pursue a big-name free agent or two to supplement a rising young core group of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants.

As a secondary prize on the court in the Philly deal, Carney will give them an athletic swingman who averaged 5.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in his second season out of Memphis. Booth, if he stays, will give the team a little more depth at center behind Jefferson and Collins.

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