We Reminisce: On Eddie Jones’ 40th Birthday, The Trade That Never Should’ve Happened

I’ll never figure out why I was such a huge Glen Rice fan. This was before we found out he was all about those Alaskan sweethearts. The Hornets were my squad, and Rice was that dude, a guy that could light up an All-Star game just as easily as any regular season game. During the mid-to-late ’90s, he was more than just a shooter for Charlotte. He was their best player, a lights out marksman who could also take you off the dribble and post you up. But after five consecutive years averaging at least 20 points a night, Rice was traded for Eddie Jones, an explosive swingman from Los Angeles, and even I knew the move wasn’t worth it.

Jones had been one of the league’s most exciting young players. He was a two-time All-Star and a key cog on one of the NBA’s best young teams. But with another young player at the same position – more athletic, a better shooter, a better defender – and a difficult contract situation, Jones was consistently reeling from trade rumors. For months it went on. Entire seasons. Where will Eddie go?

On March 9, 1999, with Jones’ game having dropped off during the first 20 matchups of the lockout-shortend season, and the Lakers doing the same amidst the craziness of the Dennis Rodman era, sitting at a somewhat pedestrian 13-6, the 6-6 guard from Temple played his final game in Los Angeles. He scored 16 in 36 minutes before finding out he was gone.

The trade looked like this:

Charlotte got: Jones & Elden Campbell
L.A. got: Rice & J.R. Reid

The Lakers thought they were trading for a sharp-shooting secondary option to be the third wheel beside Shaq & Kobe for the next five years. What they got instead was a guy who wasn’t comfortable as a spot-up shooter – in Charlotte, Rice had become accustomed to being the first option, running off screens and getting 15-20 shots a night – and a total drop-off as a defender. Rice was a weakness where Jones was a threat.

[Related: Glen Rice Drops 56 On Shaq & Penny]

The departure of Jones was supposed to open up more room for Bryant. But the two had developed such a nice on-court chemistry that looking back, it wasn’t really necessary. Jones was always a low-key guy, never completely comfortable in the spotlight (which was one of the reasons he wasn’t all that angry about the trade). Because of this, he fit in nicely next to the Lakers’ stars.