All-Star forward Kevin Willis was traded Monday from the Atlanta Hawks to the Miami Heat for Steve Smith and Grant Long, The Associated Press reported.
Willis confirmed the trade when he was reached at the Salt Lake City airport, and a source close to both teams confirmed the players involved.
“Something in the back of my mind told me something was brewing. This afternoon it came through,” Willis said. “It’s a weird feeling. I said I could play ball anywhere. I have no hard feelings. We got an exciting team (in Miami).
“I’m on the way to Oakland, and I’ll strap on a new uniform tomorrow night,” Willis said. “I’m glad (Miami part-owner) Billy Cunningham and (Coach Kevin) Loughery see that I’m a player we can use.”
Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said the deal was made, pending league approval. The Hawks were playing the Jazz.
Miami was en route to Oakland for today’s game against the Golden State Warriors and a team spokesman could not be reached.
Willis, 32, has developed into one of the NBA’s best power forwards. He averaged 19.1 points and 10.8 rebounds last season, helping the Hawks to a 57-25 record and the regular-season Eastern Conference title.
Smith, 25, was a member of the U.S. world championship team--also known as “Dream Team II"--last summer. He was Miami’s starting point guard last season, averaging 17.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds.
Long, 28, averaged 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds as a power forward. He is expected to take Willis’ place in Atlanta’s starting lineup.
Atlanta has now lost two-thirds of its starting frontline from last season. After trading longtime star Dominique Wilkins for Danny Manning during the 1993-94 season, they lost Manning as a free agent in the off-season.
Last week, Miami traded center Rony Seikaly to Golden State for small forward Billy Owens, a trade Smith criticized.
Willis figures to join Owens, Glen Rice, John Salley and Bimbo Coles in Miami’s starting lineup.
Smith may shift to shooting guard with the Hawks, who already have Mookie Blaylock playing point guard. Stacey Augmon probably will move from shooting guard to small forward.
Willis, 7-foot and 240 pounds, angered the Hawks with a brief holdout in training camp. He said the Heat will give him a new contract.
“I had a great career in Atlanta,” Willis said. “I hold no grudges.”