Oh crap. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is terrible! What were we thinking?
Even though it was in New Orleans, and even though NBA League Pass forced me to watch it via the Hornets’ feed, it was very exciting to see Z in a Cavaliers uniform once again.
He wasn’t any good . . . any good at all. But of course, that’s going to take a little time.
The important thing is that the Cavs are now fully intact (even though Shaquille O’Neal is still a few weeks away from returning) and are going to begin gearing up for the playoffs.
That’s pretty meaningful . . . much more so, at this point, than the results of the final 10 games. (Since sheer math is the only thing between the Cavs and their second straight #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They lead the Orlando Magic by seven games.)
But since the result of those 10 games is mildly interesting right now . . . lets put the true meaningfulness on ice, and look at whether the Cavs can equal (or surpass) the 66-win mark they achieved last year. Yeah, I know. Completely unimportant. But hey, why not?
To reach 66 wins, Cleveland can only spare one more loss. After Wednesday’s win in New Orleans, the Cavs are 57-15. Last year, they finished 66-16.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will finally re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers today . . . if he hasn’t already.
As you must know by now, the Cavs traded Z . . . or rather, used his expiring contract . . . to steal Antawn “Hot Goods” Jamison away from the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline for, essentially, nothing.
Z was then bought out by the Wizards, who basically allowed him to buy his freedom.
He did so, and then spent a few days pretending to consider other teams – like the Denver Nuggets, the Dallas Mavericks, the Atlanta Hawks, and of course the New York Knicks (because of their rich history, cool arena, and major market status!) – before ultimately waiting around for Cleveland.
After 30 days, the Cavaliers were allowed to court Z again, which they did immediately . . . if not even faster than “immediately.”
Some fans expected Z to be camped out outside The Q, waiting for the opportunity to re-sign with the Cavaliers the millisecond (or deci-second) he was allowed to . . . but it didn’t end up falling together all at once.
According to Z’s agent, Herb Rudoy, they’re just ironing the clean clothes. He said: “Danny [Ferry] and I are discussing a couple of scenarios and I will let him know [Tuesday] morning how Z wants to proceed.”
In reality, the Cavs don’t really have that many scenarios to offer Z. According to the “Cleveland Plain Dealer”, there are really only two options:
“The only stumbling blocks are length of contract and salary. The team has the option of signing Ilgauskas for the remainder of this season, or to use their bi-annual exception to sign him to a two-year, $4 million package.
“When using that exception, the second year is automatically an option year, which can be Ilgauskas’ or the team’s option.
“[Or] if he [just] signs for the rest of this season, he would be eligible for a pro-rated amount of the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million, which would be only about $150,000. [...] Ilgauskas lost about $1.5 million in salary when the Wizards bought him out.”
Although you can see how there is a little room for negotiation, discussion and option-considering in there . . . it’s not exactly like both the Cavs and Z haven’t been thinking about those options for at least a month now. So what gives?
Well, let’s shift into virtual reality mode.
Here are 10 possible negotiation points that held-up Z’s talks with the Cavs:
#1.) Z would like the team to stop screwing around with him, so that he can help bring Cleveland its first title. Z does feel like he’s been treated a little like a pawn in all this, and although he understands . . . from here on out, he’d like to be treated as the rook that he is (albeit with weak lateral movement).
#2.) Z would like his own building-size billboard banner near The Q. Instead of LeBron James’ iconic chalk throw, Z’s would feature him unleashing dozens of beautiful, white doves into the air . . . with the caption reading: “We Are All Z Fans . . . Even ‘Zees Doves. Z fandom is not limited to zee humans.” (???)
(It’s a long caption, but Z is a long man. It’ll work.)
#3.) Z would like the few seconds of music that plays at The Q after he makes a basket to be changed to something other than U2. In fact, anything other than U2 would be acceptable. Anything.
#4.) Z has noticed that he now has 4,015 made field goals, which is fourth all-time in Cleveland Cavaliers history. He is 168 made field goals away from passing Bingo Smith and moving into third.
By Z’s calculations, he believes he can pass Bingo early next season. Z would like it put in writing that Coach Brown will not randomly hold him out of the lineup on the day that he’s projected to pass Bingo.
#5.) The money in a new contract isn’t really important to him . . . but Z would like Ferry to use his magicianship to find a way to sign him to a 38-year contract. Not so that he can play into his 70s, of course, but so he will never have an expiring contract again.
Z would be like a tenured professor, who can hang around as long as he wants . . . provided he can annually publish an essay in some academic journal, on something like “the deviant sexual fetishes and behaviors of photographs.” Not the depiction in the photographs, but the inanimate photographs themselves. (Academics are weird like that.)
Oh, and also provided he can still execute the “tip-drill” better than anyone in the league.
#6.) Z would like Ferry to ask Mike Fratello not to bring up, and then go into excruciating detail about, all the near career-ending foot surgeries he had early in his career . . . every single time the Cavs play in a TNT game when Fratello is on-board.
Z knows he means well. But instead, Z would like Fratello to use his overly-emphasizing-the-last-few-words-of-every-sentence style to hype some of the actual highlights from his playing career.
#7.) Z would like to sic LeBron’s documentary team on his idea for a movie based on his pre-LeBron years with the Cavaliers, particularly the early 2000s.
He wants to call it “Not More Than a Z.”
#8.) Assuming no team will want Larry Hughes when he becomes a free agent this summer, Z would like Ferry to consider bringing him in to help with the Cavs in practice. Z always liked how he could get a lot of rebounding work in while Hughes was jacking up all kinds of bricks.
#9.) Z doesn’t want to sign without knowing that LeBron James will re-sign. Ilgauskas’ agent was recently overheard at a Mexican restaurant saying: “Now, here’s the deal with Z . . . wow, have you tried the salsa, it’s delicious! . . . Z wants to know the dilly-yo, because he doesn’t want to be saddled with a LeBron-less team in Cleveland next year. He’s been there, done that . . . and it ain’t fun. Oh, the next round of empanadas are on me! Of course, Z is willing to sign an NDA to keep this on the DL.”#10.) In honor of his return, Z wouldn’t mind if Jamario Moon and Mo Williams re-named the “Gooseneck” or “Goosey” to “White Storkneck” or “White Storkey”. This would be in honor of the white stork . . . the National Bird of Lithuania, his home country.
By the way, according to Wikipedia . . . which has yet to lead me astray regarding obscure Lithuanian facts . . . Lithuanians have constructed a whole mythology around white storks, which “densely” populate the country. (That sounds terrifying.)
The wiki passage reads:
“Lithuanians believe storks bring harmony to the families on whose property they nest; they have also kept up the tradition of telling their children that storks bring babies.
“Stork Day is celebrated on March 25th with various archaic rituals: Gifts for children, attributed to the storks . . . such as fruits, chocolates, pencils, and dyed eggs . . . are hung on tree branches and fences; snakes are caught, killed and buried under the doorstep; and straw fires are lit.”
(That sounds even more terrifying.)
Regardless, let’s hope we have Z back in his Cavaliers uni before Lithuanian Stork Day.
The Cleveland Cavaliers went to a lot of trouble to land Antawn Jamison.
Not a lot of expense, trouble. (Or, maybe trouble and expense . . . if you’re either a die-hard Darnell Jackson fan, or were really looking forward to seeing what long, long-lens international project Danny Ferry had in mind for this year’s late first round draft pick.)
In a week and a half, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be able to return to the Cavs . . . and at that point, Ferry’s devilish choreography will have played itself out perfectly. No alarms and no surprises.
It looks so clean now, but Ferry and the Cavs’ front office worked feverishly to meticulously line up all the dominoes to make the complicated Jamison for (essentially) nothing rally work out as planned.
So now that we got this guy . . . and he’s played 10 games in a Cleveland uniform . . . and that Z has announced his intention to return . . . it’s finally time to ask:
Just who is this dude?
Antawn Jamison, The Early Years.
Antawn Cortez Jamison was born June 12th, 1976, in Shreveport, Louisiana. (He was conceived roughly nine months prior to that.) His family named him Antwan (pronounced like “Antoine”), but because of a typo on his birth certificate, his name was spelled “A-n-t-a-w-n”.
It’s unclear whose fault that was . . . or what they were drinking when they made the mistake . . . but regardless, the spelling was never corrected. Wikipedia claims that’s because Antawn’s family felt the misspelling made him more, quote, “distinctive.” (It’s still pronounced like “Antwan” or “Antoine”.)
Distinctive or not, the constant misspellings / mispronounciations were a living hell for Antawn. So much so, that when his firstborn son was born in December of 2006 . . . and he decided to make him a “junior” . . . he fixed it.
Regarding Antwan Cortez Jamison Jr., Antawn has said: “I just didn’t want him to go through what I went through. So we made life easier on him.”
Antawn . . . the one with the misspelled name . . . later moved and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He played basketball in school (obviously) and was named a McDonald’s All-American during his senior season. It was one of the most patriotic-sounding achievements of his high school career.
In North Carolina, Antawn’s dad, a carpenter, installed a basketball hoop at their home. But it wasn’t perfect. Instead of being 10 feet high it was actually closer to 11 feet. And supposedly, that may have contributed to Jamison’s somewhat odd shooting form.
In a bio on Antawn’s website, his mother lets us in on a little secret: Antawn is a strict, hardcore vegan! Just kidding. He loves junk food. She writes:
“People might not know this, but Antawn is a major junk food addict! He was and is always still eating junk food. He used to get candy, cookies and honey buns and hide them in his room under his bed. Eating junk food was his only hobby other than playing basketball.”
Oh, and one more thing. She also pinpoints the year in which Antawn went through puberty . . . you know, in case you were curious:
“Antawn was a very big kid growing up. He was always the tallest kid in his class and usually one of the skinniest. He was a very fat baby though! He was so chubby. When he was about three he thinned out and has been skinny since then. He probably hit his first big growth spurt when he was 12 years old. When he was in the ninth grade, he really started growing.”
His mother is sweet for writing this bio on his site. And Antawn is sweet for letting her.
Antawn Jamison, The College Years.
Antawn had a successful college career, playing three years at the University of North Carolina.
But it almost didn’t happen that way. The girl Antawn was dating in high school got into the feminist studies program at Oberlin College in Ohio and tried to get him to come with her. Antawn considered it, and looked into Oberlin’s basketball program, which was Division III ball in the always competitive North Coast Athletic Conference . . . but ultimately passed on the opportunity.
[That's a joke, of course. No offense to Oberlin Men's Basketball.]
Seriously, it sounds like he chose UNC pretty early on . . . while he was sorting through all kinds of recruitment letters from all kinds of colleges. (It’s unclear if Oberlin bothered to send a flyer out, but it’d have been mildly amusing if they did.)
In his three college seasons, he averaged 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. His Tar Heels made it into the NCAA Tournament all three years . . . and in the latter two they made it to the Final Four.
Antawn decided to leave after his junior season to enter the NBA draft.
Antawn Jamison, The NBA Years.
Antawn was selected by the Toronto Raptors at #4 in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft. Since you’re probably curious, he was behind Michael Olowokandi (L.A. Clippers), Mike Bibby (Vancouver Grizzlies), and Raef LaFrentz (Denver Nuggets), who were selected #1, #2, #3, respectively.
Beneath him, were: His former UNC teammate Vince Carter at #5 (Golden State Warriors), Robert “Tractor” Traylor at #6 (Dallas Mavericks to the Milwaukee Bucks), Jason Williams at #7 (Sacramento Kings), Larry Hughes at #8 (Philadelphia 76ers), Dirk Nowitzki at #9 (Milwaukee to Dallas), and Paul Pierce at #10 (Boston Celtics).
Man, the lottery teams haven’t changed much in the past 12 years.
Antawn and Vince were traded for each other, so Antawn landed in Oakland.
Antawn spent five years in Golden State . . . a few of them alongside his future Washington Wizards teammate, Gilbert Arenas. (Who, you know, is probably the dude who we can thank for Jamison being available to Cleveland at a clearance price.)
There’s not much to say about his time with the Warriors, which is typical of any player who has ever spent time with Golden State.
There was one significant highlight. In December of 2000, Antawn scored 51 points in two consecutive games, the first was against the Seattle Supersonics and the other was versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Only two other players have scored 50+ points in back-to-back games in the past 15 years: Kobe Bryant in 2007 and Allen Iverson in 2004.
In 2003, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he spent one season. He came off the bench . . . and was given the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. The Mavericks lost in the first round of the playoffs that year.
After that season, he was traded to the Washington Wizards where he spent five-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Cavaliers last month. While in Washington, Antawn became a two-time All-Star, and went to the second round of the playoffs once . . . in 2004-2005 . . . before being knocked out of the first round the following three consecutive years by LeBron and the Cavaliers.
Here are a few other random notes from Jamison’s NBA career:
*** In 11 1/2 seasons, Jamison has averaged 19+ points ten times, with his highest scoring total, 24.9 points per game, coming in 2000-2001. For his career, he’s averaging 19.9 points per game.
*** He’s averaged at least 8.0 rebounds over the past five seasons, with his highest rebounding total, 10.2 rebounds per game, coming in 2007-2008. For his career, he’s averaging 8.1 rebounds per game.
*** His highest shooting percentage (53.5%) came in 2003-2004. For his career, he’s averaging 45.6%. His highest 3-point shooting percentage (40.0%) came in 2003-2004. For his career, he’s at 34.8%. His highest free throw percentage (78.9%) came in 2002-20003. For his career, he’s averaging 73%.
*** In 11 1/2 seasons, he’s played in all 82 regular season games five times, most recently in 2005-2006. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaging 78 games played.
*** For his career, he’s averaging 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.7 turnovers per game.
*** He’s listed at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds.
*** And here’s a portion of his scouting report, courtesy of ESPN’s John Hollinger.
“If Jamison has a weakness, it’s his defense. He’s a disinterested help defender who rarely blocks shots or takes charges, and quicker forwards beat him off the dribble easily because his lateral movement isn’t great. He does a decent job on the boards and doesn’t foul, but he needs to be paired with a big, tough center to hide his shortcomings.
“Offensively, he’s the best player in the league at catching and shooting quickly in the paint. Jamison rarely dribbles; he just makes hard cuts off the ball, catches and floats in a quick flip. He can do this even with his back to the basket.
“He also has 3-point range on his jumper. Even though he’s a low-mistake player, Jamison rarely sets up easy shots for others because he almost never penetrates off the dribble.”
Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavalier.
In his first 10 games as a Cavalier, Antawn is averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds (1.3 offensive), 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.8 turnovers per game. He’s shooting 48.3% from the field, 38.9% from beyond the arc, and a Shaq-esque 47.4% from the stripe. (That’s 18-of-38, if you’re curious.)
And for what it’s worth, he’s notched a double-double in three of the 10 games.
He’s started eight of the 10 games, and is averaging 33.7 minutes.
He also has some injury problems, which we were reminded of on Monday . . . when Antawn left the Spurs game four minutes into the third quarter with stiffness in his knee.
An MRI didn’t turn up anything new, and as of early Thursday morning he was listed as day-to-day . . . and as a gametime decision for tomorrow’s faceoff in Philadelphia . . . but it sounds like the team will hold him out.
“[A] little cyst in the back of my knee has some fluid in it. No surgery is involved. I know my body. It’s something that occurred early in the season and after proper treatment, it went away. I don’t see it lingering. I’m not a young buck anymore. I’m getting a little old. It’s nothing serious as far as surgery.
“They want me to take it slow and not rush anything. [They want me to] take the proper precautions. If it was a big game, I’d definitely be ready to play.”
He said it was a “no-brainer” that he’d play in Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
Back in February, in his first press conference in Cleveland, Antawn talked about how he’s hungry for a championship. He said:
“I’ve never won a championship, whether it was college, high school. I’ve been to All-Star games, I’ve experienced a lot of things. There’s only one thing left for me to achieve. It’s the one thing that keeps me going, it’s the one thing that drives me night in and night out. I said to myself, ‘It’s going to happen before I retire.’ I don’t have another five to 10 years left in this body. I’m just blessed to be put in this situation.
“People always say, ‘Good things happen to good people,’ and that’s definitely a fact right now. I felt I’ve done things the right way and this is a great situation for me. I love what I do. I want to be the best. I want to hold that trophy up and be a part of something very special.”
I love that.
Jamison, who’s 33 years old, is signed for two more years after this one. He’s making $11.6 million this year . . . and will make $13.4 million next year and $15.1 million in 2011-2012. He has said he plans on retiring when this current contract is up.
Oh, and one more thing:
If you type “Antawn Jamison” into a Google search bar, the first automated “guess” Google makes is “Antawn Jamison trade rumors.”
What’s interesting though is that the second “guess” on the list is “Antawn Jamison wife.” (?) I was curious, so I clicked through.
Since everyone seems to be interested, here’s what I learned:
Antawn is married to a beautiful woman named Ione. They have three children together, Kathryn, Antwan Jr. (a.k.a. A.J.), and Rucker.
[Two of them are pictured with her in this photo. This photo, from 2007, was taken before the third child . . . another boy . . . was born.]
He also has another daughter, Alexis, from a previous relationship.
So far, Antawn has fit in pretty well with Cleveland’s offensive and defensive sets. It won’t all be a walk in the park . . . few things are (even walks in the park, these days) . . . but he’ll pick up more of Coach Mike Brown’s base defensive requirements, and will provide some solid finesse scoring from the power forward spot, which will be a nice complement to Shaquille O’Neal (when he returns) and the emerging J.J. Hickson.
Let’s hope Antawn and the Cavs can win their first championships . . . together.
LeBron OK’d the Antawn Jamison move.
Danny Ferry may be a mad GM genius, but he’d just be mad to make a major move without consulting LeBron . . . especially since LeBron is a free agent this summer and no one wants him to be uncool with any moves that were made or not made.
In a recent press conference, Ferry claimed that he did not clear the move with anyone on the team at the deadline . . . since we were going to have to give up at least one player, and you don’t really want to put someone on the spot saying ‘would you give up this teammate to get that player,’ etc.
He says he talked with some of the team’s core players before the season started, and asked for their input on a whole slew of players that he thought could be available before the trading deadline . . . just in case the Cavaliers had an opportunity to make a good move.
Maybe that’s true . . . or maybe he did float some of the particulars by LeBron privately, and doesn’t want to say anything about it to ensure that he doesn’t say or do anything that would prohibit the likely buy-out and return of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Even if it’s obvious that the Z yo-yo was the Cavs’ hope (or even intention) you don’t want to make it sound like there was an illegal agreement in place.
Regardless, at some point, Ferry and LeBron talked about Jamison. They also talked about Z’s expiring contract, and the possibility of trading him to take the opportunity to add a significant talent to the roster.
And since the trade happened, LeBron was cool with it.
But like a lot of fans, there’s a chance that LeBron felt heavier about it once it was actually time to say goodbye to Z . . . even if it might only be for 30 days.
In his weekly podcast yesterday, “Cleveland Plain Dealer” beat reporter extraordinaire Brian Windhorst said he doesn’t think LeBron has been the same since the All-Star Break . . . and speculated that it may have something to do with losing Z, the only player that he’s spent his entire NBA career with.
“I don’t think LeBron has been the same since the trade. I don’t know if he’s in a little bit of a . . . disappointment because Z’s not there, or what, but he hasn’t been his normal self. He’s sort of been in a bad mood almost. He hasn’t been dancing on the bench, he hasn’t been enjoying himself as much. He’s in a bad mood about something. I don’t know if it’s the trade or what, but he’s not quite the same right now.
“I don’t want to say he’s playing poorly, because in that Denver game he was just incredible. But I just don’t see LeBron playing with the same flow, and energy, and excitement and fun as he was during the winning streak. And you know, he’s a moody player. Sometimes you get in good moods and bad moods as the season goes along. We’ll see if [Tuesday night's win] helped him at all.” [Full Podcast]
Brian had been talking about LeBron being a little off his game recently. Specifically, in the Orlando game when he stopped challenging Dwight Howard at the rim because he was getting hammered, and wasn’t getting any calls.
[I hate to complain about foul calls, but it was getting ridiculous in that game. There were at least two times when it looked like a Magic player was intentionally fouling him on the arm on his way to the hoop and there wasn't a whistle. But there are nights like this . . . and Brian's right, even if he's not getting calls, he needs to be resilient, and put pressure on the refs to make calls.]
There are a lot of reasons LeBron may be a little out of sync: The whole team is out of sync, the end of a long winning streak and the subsequent losing streak, the end of a long home-stand and the subsequent travel pick-up, the week-long lay-off over the break, or the pressure of keeping the team successful while introducing a new player to the system on the run, while two other guys are returning to the rotation after missing time with injuries.
But if LeBron is bummed about Z, there’s good news.
Last night, Windhorst reported that Z is on his way out of Washington (not that he was really in Washington anyway).
As of early this morning, it wasn’t a done deal . . . but the two sides had reportedly agreed on the “terms,” and are now just putting the finishing touches on all the paperwork.
“The Wizards and Ilgauskas agreed to terms on a buyout of his contract Wednesday night and all that is left to be done is paperwork to be finalized.
“‘We’re very close,’ Herb Rudoy, Ilgauskas’ agent, said via e-mail. ‘I hope to finish it up [Thursday] morning.’
“A source said Ilgauskas got the deal done by agreeing to give back around $1.3 million to the Wizards from his $11.5 million salary. He will be able to recoup that by signing with another team if he so chooses.” [Full Story]
As soon as a buy-out is finalized, Z will be an unrestricted free agent. He can sign with any team other than Cleveland right away . . . but he can’t return to the Cavs for 30 days, dating back to when the trade was initially OK’d by the league. That happened last Friday, so he’d be eligible to return to The Q on March 21st.
[The Cavs have a home game against Detroit on that day . . . and if you have tickets, you're going to join more than 20,000 fans in giving Z an absolutely insane welcome home reception.]
One final note: The Cavs will have to cut a player when Z rejoins the roster, because they currently have 15 players . . . the maximum allowed. The only players realistically in danger of being cut are Darnell Jackson and Sebastian Telfair.
It sort of sucks, but that’s what happens when you trade nothing for something.
No matter how expected or unexpected it may have been, it still felt a little shocking:
Yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally found LeBron’s sidekick. His #2. His Pippen. His Robin. His Doctor Watson. His Ed McMahon. His Boo Boo. His Michael Wilbon. His Austin Carr. His Anti-Hughes.
At around 6:30 P.M. Eastern, the ”Washington Post” reported that the Cavs had traded for Washington Wizards star forward Antawn Jamison. It was a three-team deal; the L.A. Clippers were also involved.
From there, a cavalcade of Twittered reports burst through Cleveland’s fervent, but divided and vacillating fan base. It was a great relief; things were finally coming to a conclusion.
When it was all said and done, the Cavs landed Jamison for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a first round draft pick, and the rights to Emir Preldzic, who the Cavs drafted late in the second round of last year’s draft.
[Somewhat ironically, the Cavs purchased that pick from the Phoenix Suns. Preldzic was born in Slovenia, is currently playing in Turkey, and is now a part of the Wizards' rebuilding project.]
No J.J. Hickson, no Jamario Moon, no strings.
In an odd twist, the Cavs also landed 24-year-old disappointment Sebastian Telfair. Technically, he’s a point guard, but he’ll be taking over Coby Karl’s end-of-the-bench spot on the roster. The Cavaliers didn’t want him, of course, they had to take him for the Clippers to participate. [Telfair is out for the next three weeks with a groin injury.]
As has been widely reported, there’s a decent chance Z will return to the Cavaliers this season. If the Wizards buy him out (within the next two weeks) . . . and indications are that they will . . . he would be essentially a free agent. As per league rules, he could sign with the Cavs after 30 days.
During that time, he can also field offers from other teams, some of which may be able to offer him more money than the Cavs. Cleveland is over the cap, and their only liquid funds are the $1.9 million Bi-Annual Exception (BAE). That should do the trick, though. No frustration over being traded could be bigger than the reception Z is going to get at The Q when he walks back out onto the court.
But more on later, back to LeBron James’ new sidekick.
Antawn Jamison is an excellent player . . . and I absolutely can’t wait to see him in a wine and gold uniform, but he’s not the sidekick I’m referring to. And neither is Sebastian Telfair, as shocking as that may be. [Actually, he, like LeBron, was a super-hyped high school star before he was drafted in 2004, and back then, he may have been considered to be a dream sidekick for LeBron.]
And no, we didn’t also trade for Amar’e Stoudemire in some overshadowed move.
The sidekick is: Cavs GM Danny Ferry.
It’s not a joke. Think about it.
Ferry just brought in Jamison for Z, a first round pick, and some dude playing in Turkey that you probably didn’t even know existed until this trade. If Z is able to come back, Jamison cost the Cavs just a late,very late first round pick, which is projected to be the last or second to last pick in the first round.
It’s grand larceny, and that’s the fourth straight heist that Ferry has made.
Let’s rewind the tape.
It started off a little rough. When Ferry was hired in the summer of 2005, the Cavs had no draft picks or trade assets, but he did have $28 million in cap space. So, naturally, he was stuck overspending in free agency.
He was rejected by Michael Redd (who has to regret that decision now, right?) . . . and decided not to lock up his money while waiting to see if the Phoenix Suns would match a max offer for restricted free agent Joe Johnson (somewhat surprisingly, when Atlanta made a bid, the Suns let him walk).
So he threw $70 million at the then-best player available: Larry Hughes.
He spent the rest of his purse on unfriendly contracts for role players Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. And the whole thing turned out to be such a colossal disaster that no one could have seen it coming. All three of their careers basically ended in Cleveland, and they didn’t really do much while they were here.
Then Ferry went to work.
He warmed up his red right hand by stealing Flip Murray from the Seattle Supersonics for freakin’ Mike Wilks in a 2006 trade deadline deal. I couldn’t understand the Sonics motivation for that trade at the time . . . especially as Flip was having a stellar second half for us . . . but that was petty theft compared to where Ferry is at now.
In a 2008 deadline deal, Ferry executed his first big score. He orchestrated an 11-player, three-team deal that not only rid us of Larry Hughes and his pet albatross . . . but he got talent back. Real, helpfultalent. The deal was done with the “help” of the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle Supersonics.
Ferry shipped out Hughes, Drew Gooden, Ira Newble, Shannon Brown, Donyell Marshall and Cedric Simmons . . . in exchange for Delonte West, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith. (In case you’re thinking about bringing it up, Shannon Brown’s current success in L.A. doesn’t make this any less of a steal.)
That summer, Ferry staked out, and broke into the Milwaukee Bucks organization and ran out with a future All-Star point guard named Mo Williams. In that deal, the Cavs gave up Damon Jones and Joe Smith. Once again, he employed an accomplice. This time it was the Oklahoma City Thunder.
At the trading deadline last year, Ferry was spotted in Phoenix by his buddy GM Steve Kerr. Stevie K suspected, correctly, that Ferry was there to rob him blind . . . and immediately sounded the alarms. Ferry escaped, but never quite got over that thwarting, and after the Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, he vowed vengeance.
Less than a month later, Ferry went back down to Phoenix to finish what he started. This time, Kerr never saw him coming. Ferry was halfway out the door with Shaquille O’Neal before Kerr had the eerie feeling that he was now in possession of Ben Wallace and career under-achiever Sasha Pavlovic.
Kerr sounded the alarms, but this time, Ferry’s coup was premeditated . . . and he’d already slipped in beforehand to cut the alarm lines and scramble all cell signals on the premises.
This was Ferry’s first big solo job . . . and his first five-finger pickup without the involvement of the Seattle / Oklahoma City franchise.
[Kerr ended up buying both of them out, meaning that he gave up Shaq for cap space . . . and whoever they select with the Cavs' second round pick in this year's draft.]
Then later that summer, he didn’t have any cap room to sign any free agents . . . but he did re-sign Anderson Varejao, and turned a $6 million cap exception into Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Leon Powe. Now that’s how you work the free agent market.
Then, just yesterday . . . in his boldest, most insane move yet . . . Ferry broke into the bank, in broad daylight, wearing a burglar mask and flashing Christmas lights, and stole Antawn Jamison out from right under everyone’s noses.
And instead of running out to the soundtrack of police sirens . . . Ferry sashayed out the front door, with his arm around Jamison (and Telfair riding piggyback), while everyone in the bank applauded and cheered.
Seriously, everyone in the media has been talking about how Ferry was on the prowl for over a month now. Everyone knows his track record. Everyone was thinking . . . ‘OK, we need some cap relief, but we can’t deal with Cleveland unless we can get Ferry to give us something, anything. We don’t want to end up being featured in one of the eventual bio specials on the LeBron Era in Cleveland. Hmm… this J.J. Hickson guy looks good…’
And then, out of the blue, Ferry struck . . . like lightning . . . and that was that.
Everyone saw it coming, and he still got what he wanted, on his terms. Unbelievable.
To those of you who wanted Amar’e, I understand. I really do. (I’d started coming around on him too, and was definitely intrigued about the possibility of watching him play alongside LeBron.) But there’s no need to rehash the Amar’e situation here.
There was no deal to be made.
The latest talk out of Phoenix is that Ferry pulled J.J. off the table there once the framework for the J.J.-less Washington / L.A. Clippers deal was in place . . . and that’s when Phoenix said ‘no.’ We’ll never know what actually happened. It’s in both sides best interest to blame the no-trade on the other side.
And frankly, it doesn’t matter. The Suns could’ve pulled the trigger at any point up until yesterday morning. It sounds like the offer was on the table for a week.
Ferry was left empty-handed when Kerr walked away from the Shaq talks at the last minute last February . . . but this year, Ferry had business to do. And if you’re a good GM, regardless of what potential trades were still available, you don’t pass or stall on a deal like the Washington one.
You’re aggressive, and you make things happen. With everything that Ferry has been able to deliver for the Cavaliers, it’s pretty obvious that if he shifted away from Amar’e, there wasn’t ever going to be a deal there. And if there wasn’t going to be a deal there, you move on. It’s how things get done.
Low-risk, virtually no-cost is good by me. This team is damn good.
The only downside is that the Cavs didn’t get the opportunity to pair LeBron up with a superstar sidekick.
Amar’e, who’s only 27, could have been LeBron’s Wilbon . . . if Phoenix would’ve traded him to us, and if he would’ve been willing to defer his ‘star’ status, and if he would’ve re-signed with us, and if he would’ve become a team member, and if he wouldn’t have suffered any further injuries.
But that’s OK, because we have Danny Ferry, a creative thinker and a ruthless negotiator.
The player-sidekick notion is difficult. How many young superstars today have sidekicks more significant than LeBron/Mo or LeBron/Shaq, or LeBron/Jamison, or . . . seriously . . . LeBron and Anderson Varejao? Is it Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol? (Not impressed.)
[I'd take LeBron/Andy vs. Kobe/Pau in a two-on-two any day. And can we bet on it?]
With a resourceful (if not genius) GM in Ferry (and, by extension, a Cleveland-savior of an owner (that “gets it” and actually wants it in Dan Gilbert) the Cavaliers have someone willing to go to exhaustive efforts to get the job done. This doesn’t sound like a front office that a star disconnects from.
[You know how the Clippers cleared all that space? Well, I'd take our front office vs. theirs any day. Hell, I'll take the Cavs' front office easily over: New York's, New Jersey's, Miami's, and Chicago's, too.]
The roster that Ferry has built over the past three years has been overflowing ever since June. It’s a team built to win now, and in the future. It may not be a dynasty yet, but Ferry (our newly certified #2) is working on that. And he’s not going to stop ripping off the league to improve this team anytime soon.
It isn’t easy, look at the three-team deals . . . Washington clearly wasn’t going to let Jamison go without getting Hickson, so Ferry brought in another team that could send the Wizards some talent, and took on a salary from the Clips in exchange.
There is one bit of business that needs to be done, to keep this core together, that Ferry can’t handle. And that’s his own deal.
Last month, Brian Windhorst reported that Danny Ferry’s five-year contract . . . which was reportedly worth $2 million a season . . . is up this summer. At this point, it seems like a no-brainer to extend Ferry, and there’s no indication that Gilbert is thinking otherwise.
But if he is, you can guarantee that Ferry’s taking some office supplies on the way out.
One last note on Z:
If you’ve been a fan of the Cavaliers for the past 15 years, it can’t not be difficult to see Z go. This is a man who has given everything he has to Cleveland . . . both in good times and in bad times. 15 years!
If Z does get bought out by the Wizards, and assuming he does return to the Cavs, that first day back on the floor at The Q needs to be his night. Every single person in the arena . . . and every fan watching at home . . . needs to think over Z’s career in that game.
All the struggles with injuries early, all the perseverance, all the effort he put in over the course of his career . . . especially as the team was working to build a team around LeBron. And all the sacrifices he’s made over the last couple years for the sake of the team.
He’s a commendable, legitimate Cleveland star.
In celebration, here’s a fantastic piece, called “The Giving Z”, written by John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog. Enjoy it at this link.