ATLANTA – The struggling Atlanta Hawks acquired guard Kirk Hinrich from Washington in a five-player trade Wednesday, upgrading their backcourt for the playoff run.
The Hawks also received forward Hilton Armstrong in exchange for guard Mike Bibby, rookie guard Jordan Crawford, swingman Maurice Evans and a first-round pick in this year's draft.
After the trade was announced, the short-handed Hawks lost 105-97 at Phoenix for their fifth defeat in six games. They are fifth in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and trying to hold off the New York Knicks, who closed within four games of Atlanta with a win over Milwaukee in their first game since acquiring Carmelo Anthony.
"Those guys are like brothers to me," Hawks forward Josh Smith said of his now-former teammates. "At the same time, we know this is a business. These things happen. The guys at the top felt like a change needed to be made."
The 32-year-old Bibby had lost a step defensively and was no longer the creative force he was in his younger days. Hawks coach Larry Drew had hoped second-year player Jeff Teague would take on a larger role at the point, but he was averaging less than 12 minutes a game.
"We have been searching for a point guard, someone who can come in and run this club," Drew said. "I am not saying that Mike didn't do a good job. There just comes a point with the team where a change has to take place. With Kirk he brings toughness at that position. He is a heady guy, a smart guy and can make shots, all the tangibles we were looking for."
Hinrich should be an improvement over Bibby at both ends of the court. He was averaging 11.1 points and 4.4 assists as on off-and-on starter for the Wizards, frequently playing alongside rookie star John Wall.
"We felt we had a good opportunity to improve our ballclub by adding Kirk and Hilton," Hawks general manager Rick Sund said. "Kirk is a well-rounded player that gives us options at both guard positions. In addition to being a solid and hard-nosed defender, he is a good shooter who can also distribute the ball. His resume includes significant playoff experience as well. Hilton can play both center and power forward, and will add frontcourt depth."
Bibby was averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 assists. The Hawks gave up some depth on their bench by dealing Evans (4.5 points a game) and Crawford (4.2), but felt it was worth the expected improvement at the crucial point position.
"We have to wait and see what happens," Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson said. "We let three good guys go who I have become really good friends with. At the same time, we understand the business aspect of it and this is the profession we chose and trades happen. You have to deal with it. Getting Kirk and Armstrong they are definitely going to help.
"Kirk is very defensive minded and a guy who can really knock down the open shot, penetrate and make plays."
It was clear a deal was imminent when Hinrich was scratched from the Washington lineup just before a game in Philadelphia. He and Armstrong watched the first half from the bench, but neither came out for the second half of a 117-94 loss.
"It was a pretty tough thing to hear," Wall said. "Kirk's a veteran guy who taught me an awful lot about NBA basketball. I'll really miss him. And Hilton was a good friend, too. I wish them both well."
The Wizards, going through another dreadful season, are focused on building for the future around Wall. While Bibby and Evans add experience, the team should reap more long-term benefits from landing a prospect such as Crawford and adding another first-round pick to its haul.
"We were able to acquire a proven, clutch leader in Mike, a hard-nosed veteran in Maurice, and an intriguing prospect in Jordan, as well as a first-round draft choice to add to our own first-round pick this summer," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "This trade continues our plan to build with draft picks and prospects, develop our young players and stay financially flexible."
The Wizards had a woeful second half against the 76ers, losing their third in a row.
"When word got around, guys kind of lost their concentration," Washington coach Flip Saunders said. "I think when the deadline is over, guys will have a sense of relief."
Wall said he looks forward to working with Bibby.
"He's a veteran, so I'm hoping he'll be able to teach me, too," the rookie said.
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix, Joseph White in Washington and AP freelance writer Andy Jasner in Philadelphia contributed to this report.