EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets Wednesday traded point guard Phil Ford, a former All-Star acquired from Kansas City just 4 months ago, to the Milwaukee Bucks for reserve forward Mickey Johnson.
In a related move, the Bucks acquired the best of the Nets' three second-round choices in next year's draft for the negotiating rights to forward Fred Roberts, a second-round pick by Milwaukee in the last draft who is now playing in Italy.
Completing a busy day, the Nets dealt forward James Bailey to Houston for two second-round draft choices. The picks will be in 1983 and 1985, both choices obtained by the Rockets from San Antonio. The Nets also activated forward Mike O'Koren from the injured list to restore their roster to the 12-man limit.
'We had 13 guys and somebody had to go -- it was as simple as that,' said New Jersey Coach Larry Brown. 'It was not a lack of confidence in anyone, we just decided to go with four guards and we traded James to open the roster.'
Ford, 6-foot-2, was traded to the Nets by Kansas City for guard Ray Williams on June 29 only hours after the draft. The former North Carolina All-America was selected to the NBA All-Star team in 1979 and took a career scoring average of 14.9 points per game into the 1982-83 season.
The Rookie of the Year in 1978, Ford has averaged 7.8 assists in his four-year career but apparently couldn't fit in with the Nets under Brown, a former star point guard in the defunct American Basketball Association.
In seven games this season, Ford was averaging only 6.7 points and 5.4 assists per game and he played just 23 minutes Tuesday night against the New York Knicks. An assortment of injuries caused Ford to miss 10 games last year after a serious eye injury limited him to 66 games in 1980.
Bucks coach Don Nelson said his club has been lacking a point guard since trading Quinn Buckner to Boston for Dave Cowens.
'I was very surprised when Phil Ford became available,' Nelson said. 'They called me yesterday, and I got a chance to see him play last night in New York. Our organization has rated him as one of the top point guards in the league.
'He doesn't seem to be quite the player he was. He's not looking for his shot as much, and he's not pushing the ball up as much as he could. But I can't believe that a player of his caliber can lose as much as some people think he has.'
Johnson, 6-10, is a nine-year veteran who lost his starting job this year when the Bucks talked Dave Cowens out of retirement. He has a lifetime scoring average of 15.1 and starred in the Bucks' playoff loss to Philadelphia last year in the Eastern Conference semifinals, averaging 19.8 points over the six games.
This year, Johnson, 30, has averaged 25.5 minutes per game, scoring at an 11.1 clip. He didn't start in Milwaukee's first six games.
Ford will be in uniform Friday night for the Bucks in Detroit against the Pistons, the Bucks said. Johnson arrived in the Meadowlands Arena from Boston in time to dress for Wednesday night's game against the Knicks.
'I felt something was going to happen, but I wasn't really sure itwould be a trade,' Johnson said.
Asked if he was displeased with the insertion of Cowens into the starting lineup, Johnson said: 'I hope it was more a strategy move by them than anything else.'
Bailey, 6-9, starred at nearby Rutgers University. He averaged just 3.3 points in six games this year in a diminished role with the Nets. He was obtained by New Jersey a year ago for Ray Tolbert and averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds per game.