Hawks agree to trade Childress to Phoenix

It looks like Josh Childress' return to the NBA will happen somewhere other than Atlanta.

The Hawks have agreed in principle to a sign-and-trade deal that would send Childress to Phoenix for a second-round pick and also net Atlanta a trade exception, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The people did not want to be identified because the trade has not been announced as official.

The deal is expected to become official within the next couple days.

Childress, 27, has played the past two seasons for Greek team Olympiakos, which signed him to a three-year contract two summers ago after Childress could not reach an agreement with the Hawks. Childress has until Thursday to opt out of the final season of the three-year, $20 million contract with Olympiakos.

The Hawks had extended a qualifying offer for one year and $4.8 million to Childress, who is a restricted free agent. That gave Atlanta the right to match any offer sheets he signed with another team if Childress did not accept the offer.

Childress' contract with Phoenix will be worth a reported $34 million over five years. Rather than risk losing Childress for nothing if he signed an offer sheet they wouldn't match, the Hawks worked out a deal with Phoenix that earns them a trade exception.

The exception works as a sort of credit that would allow the Hawks to make a trade while over the salary cap without meeting the usual salary-matching requirement in such transactions. If Childress signs a contract for the reported terms, the exception would be worth roughly $3.6 million.

The exception would be available for up to one year from the date the trade is made official.

Atlanta drafted Childress out of Stanford with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft. He played four seasons with the Hawks before opting to sign a free-agent contract with Olympiakos, a rare instance of an American-born player turning down a substantial NBA offer to play overseas.

A person with knowledge of Childress' plans said he had been considering a return to Greece if he couldn't find an NBA contract to his liking. There was significant interest for Childress on the market, with Washington and Cleveland among the other teams said to be considering making offers for the swingman.

The Hawks had little leverage with Childress since they were unwilling to match any substantial offer sheets. The potential trading partners for Childress also were limited because he had to be open to joining the new team and then reach a deal on a contract.