DALLAS – Probably the most difficult trade Donnie Nelson has ever made occurred Wednesday night when the Dallas Mavericks’ president of basketball operations traded Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson.

Nelson even got emotional on Thursday when he was explaining what Barnes meant to him and to the Mavs’ organization.

“I don’t have words for Harrison Barnes,” Nelson said, sounding almost apologetic for making the trade. “Honestly, he’s the ultimate professional, he’s been everything and more that we’ve hoped for in terms of community.

“It all hurts a lot when. . .you lose guys like that.”

Barnes discovered he was traded while the Mavs were playing the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The seven-year veteran was subbed out of the game for Dirk Nowitzki with 3:11 left in the third quarter, and never played again.

Ever the professional, Barnes stayed on the bench the remainder of the game even though he knew he had been traded to the Kings.

Nelson said waiting to announce the trade after the game ended was apparently not an option.

“It was extremely difficult, it was excruciating and the problem that you run into when you have something that happen during the course of the game – I’ve never had it happen to me personally – is that you have to protect the player and you have to protect the franchise,” Nelson said. “I know that there’s maybe some dialogue to the contrary — it’s not something we want to do.

“Listen, Harrison is not there in the fourth quarter our chances go way down, and every game is extremely important to us. And so, in fairness to Harrison we made that move.”

Nelson didn’t expect Barnes to be traded on Wednesday. But such is life in the NBA when rades are made in a mili-second.

“In this industry literally things can happen within five minutes,” Nelson said. “Our expectation was that particular situation was going to happen a little bit more towards the (Thursday 2 p.m.) trade deadline.

“And you’re not in control of timing with a lot pf pieces, but when they’re presented you better squeeze the trigger. It’s like taking the big shot. You better take it when it’s open. Unfortunately that happened, the timing of that happened during the game.”

Barnes, who led the Mavs in scoring the previous two years and was second in scoring behind Luka Doncic this season with 17.7 points per game, took to social media and thanked the fans and the Mavs organization.

“Harrison has just been an absolute model human being and has gotten better in his time here, and really in a lot of respects was the guy that the baton was getting passed to in terms of Dirk (Nowitzki) transitioning,” Nelson said. “We really appreciate just everything that he has done for this franchise both in the community and on the court.

“That was a real gut-wrencher (trade) for us — very, very difficult. Ultimately it’s put us in a position to have a lot of flexibility and that was the reason behind that decision.”

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