LOS ANGELES -- Sure, Mickael Pietrus says he liked being traded to Phoenix. That's easy to say after scoring 25 points in just his second Suns game, right?
But the forward said that before Sunday's 108-103 loss to the Clippers at the Staples Center. Even though Pietrus went from an upper-seed kind of playoff team in Orlando to one that might struggle just to make the postseason, he believed it was a good move.
"I'm very happy,'' Pietrus said. "I'm in a good situation with great teammates, a great coach (Alvin Gentry), and I really enjoy it.''
Pietrus had cause then to enjoy the trade even more after shooting 9-of-14, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, against the Clippers. It was his biggest scoring game since putting up 27 on Jan. 27, 2009 against Indiana.
"Not when you have guys like Steve Nash and Grant Hill, they make things easier for you,'' Pietrus said afterward on whether he was surprised to have a big game so soon after being acquired Dec. 18. "I used to play for Don Nelson (with Golden State) so I basically know the system.''
The athletic Pietrus had his best season for Nelson in 2006-07, averaging 11.1 points per game in the Warriors' frantic attack. Now, he's back in a more up-tempo attack in Phoenix, the type of style in which he can thrive. The Suns average 10.7 points more per game than the Magic, which had signed Pietrus as a free agent in the summer of 2008.
Pietrus, who averaged 6.7 points in 19 Orlando games to start this season, was sent to the Suns along with forward Vince Carter and center Marcin Gortat for forward Hedo Turkoglu, guard Jason Richardson and forward Earl Clark. Some considered Pietrus just another guy in the deal.
"I thought he was a key piece,'' said Nash, the Suns star point guard. "So I expect big things out of him.''
Phoenix got big things from Pietrus on Sunday. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including hitting 3-of-4 3-pointers as the Suns almost recovered from an 18-point second-quarter deficit.
"I think he's very capable of doing that,'' Gentry said of not being surprised Pietrus looked so good after scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in his Suns debut Thursday against Miami.
Pietrus was dispatched as the Magic retooled following a disappointing 16-9 start, which included losing five of six right before the deal. Orlando (now 18-12) also traded forward Rashard Lewis to Washington on Dec. 18 for guard Gilbert Arenas.
"I think I was ready for it because we didn't have a good trip out West,'' Pietrus said of going 1-3 on a voyage before the deal. "So I kind of felt they were going to make some moves. So it doesn't bother me that much. I'm in a great situation, where I can help this team.''
Pietrus said he's not bothered being gone and seeing the Magic having just beaten San Antonio and Boston, which have the best two records in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Suns are 0-2 since Pietrus and Gortat first suited up.
Carter has yet to play due to a sore knee. But Gentry expects he'll be ready to go in about a week.
As for Sunday's loss, Hill said it can't be blamed on the two new guys, who both played 27 minutes. Gortat was solid, totaling 11 points and five rebounds.
"It's our second game, and just figuring things out,'' said Hill, a Suns forward who noted a player such as Pietrus could "be rejuvenated'' by a deal. "But I'm a little disappointed in the guys that have been here.''
Hill wasn't pleased to see the Suns (13-16) fall behind big early. They made a frantic rally and had a chance to tie the score in the waning seconds when trailing 106-103. But Pietrus had the ball knocked loose by Clippers guard Eric Gordon with 10 seconds remaining, leading to an Al-Farouq Aminu dunk that cemented the win.
Additional help soon will be on the way with Carter. Although most assume the Suns will buy out his $18 million contract after the season for $4 million and let him leave as a free agent, Gentry dismissed that being a foregone conclusion.
"It's not cap room,'' Gentry said of acquiring Carter. "We want players, and, if he plays great, obviously we traded for him because we want him on our team. It doesn't have anything to do with cap room or anything like that.''
As for the other new acquisitions, Gortat, whom Gentry said brings much-needed toughness, has three years left on his contract and Pietrus has a player option for next season worth $5.3 million. If Pietrus likes Phoenix so much, he can stick around.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson