LeBron James will be a free agent this summer . . . you know, in case you haven’t heard.
Whether or not you believe he will leave, if you’re a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, you’re probably sick of people talking about it.
So I’ve decided to put together a mini-database of . . . well . . . people talking about it.
But if it’s any consolation, the general consensus is that most people would LIKE to see him stay. (Although that doesn’t really share any insight into where LeBron wants to live for the next few years.)
All right, before we begin, here’s where I need your help.
Please drop me a quick line (in one of the contact methods on the right sidebar, or in the comment section below) if you can remember someone notable (not just a random columnist, unless it’s particularly interesting) giving a personal opinion on what he/she thinks LeBron will do, or thinks LeBron should do.
I dug up as many as I could, but I inevitably missed some good ones. So if you notice one I missed, or notice a new one come down at some point, let me know. Just the name will suffice. You don’t need to have a link . . . I’ll find it.
This page will be updated as often as necessary, so feel free to bookmark it if you’re interested in following along with the latest.
All right, here’s The LeBron James 2010 Quote Collection . . . so far . . . in chronological order, newest to oldest:
“I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland. And I won’t stop until I get it.” [April '10]
CBS Power Rankings Guy.
“Put yourself in James’ shoes. If you lead the Cavaliers to a championship, you’ll feel justified moving to the next challenge. And if you don’t, then it’s logical to conclude it just cannot happen in Cleveland. Either way, it’s bad news for the Cavs.
“2010-11 prediction: Fewer wins. Simple mathematics here: The chances of LeBron James returning are less than 50-50, and if he’s not back, the Cavs are back in the pack.” [April '10]
“I’m not sure you want to be the first marine on the beach charging into New York City [to play with the Knicks] unless your name is LeBron James. I’m not sure who wants to go to New York City, it’s going to be very interesting to see what’s going to happen there.
“I think players will look at what they have around them and make the best decision for them and where they can win a championship. If you win a championship, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a big market. Look at San Antonio, they’ve won four (championships). That’s what all players want is to win a championship. I don’t think there’s going to be as much movement as people anticipate. I think LeBron and Dwyane are going to stay. There’s the potential for a lot of these guys to stay and sign with their own teams. How they do in the playoffs will have a small bearing on that.” [April '10]
“I am going to be crushed if LeBron James does not stay in Cleveland. Let me say this, Danny Ferry has done more in the last two or three years than any GM in the history of basketball to get a guy a championship in a small period of time. I am going to be crushed from a fan standpoint if LeBron James does not stay in Cleveland.” [April '10]
On whether he sees LeBron coming to New York: “To me, in my honest opinion, I don’t see it happening. I really don’t. It’s set for him [in Cleveland] right now.” [April '10]
”A lot of teams would love to have him and the Knicks are one of them. But if he’s as loyal as he says, I would think it’s very hard for him to leave, especially because he’s home.
“If it was a different city, maybe not as much a connection [maybe it's different] . . . but at the end of the day, he generates every single thing for this whole state. It would be tough for him to make that decision to leave.” [March '10]
“If I was LeBron, I’d go to New York. New York is the media mecca as far as endorsements and being able to expand your personnel net worth. The exposure you can get there isn’t only nationally but globally. New York does all that for you. [March '10]
[FYI: Granger signed a five-year contract extension with the Pacers in 2008.]
Carlos Boozer, a.k.a. The Last Person to Walk Away from the Cavs.
”I think LeBron’s going to stay. That’s my gut. They’re doing everything they can to build him a championship. His biggest thing is winning a ring. I think his best chance to win a ring is probably where he’s at.” [March '10]
“He’s already got the money and the fame. I think the only thing weighing in right now is the championship. If he feels that he can win a championship in Cleveland, then he will stay. The team in Cleveland is that much better than the team in New York.”
On if he thinks LeBron has already made his decision: “No. Not at all, not at all, not even close.” [March '10]
Scottie Pippen, a.k.a. Michael Jordan’s “Scottie Pippen”.
On LeBron + Chicago Bulls: “I don’t know if LeBron James fits with the Chicago Bulls. I don’t know if I want Derrick Rose to give the ball up and let LeBron run the show. There are some great free agents out there. For me, you have to have the right fit. You just can’t go and get the best player. You got to have chemistry in this game.”
“[LeBron] has definitely brought a lot of equity to [Cleveland's] franchise and he has a huge fan base. I think that he will ultimately stay there. I think that’s the best place for him and I think he realizes that team has been assembled to help him win a championship. They have a good team now, so there are no excuses now to turn your back and walk out the door.” [March '10]
Joe Maloof, Owner of the Sacramento Kings.
“I’d like to see players stay with their team. Cleveland has been a great city for him. He’s done a great job for that whole franchise. Dan Gilbert has been a great owner.
“[In] my own personal opinion . . . he started off in Cleveland, it would be wonderful to see him finish his career there. [I hope he] retires a Cavalier.” [March '10]
NBA Team Executives.
From “Sports Illustrated’s” Ian Thomsen:
“An informal “S.I.” poll of a dozen NBA insiders: Team executives, coaches and a high-profile agent . . . finds only two predicting that James will leave the Cavaliers, with both anticipating he’ll jump to the Knicks.
“‘Every time I fly into Cleveland and drive toward [Quicken Loans Arena] downtown and look around, I just can’t see him re-signing there,’ said an Eastern Conference executive whose team is not in the running to sign James. Adds a Western GM, ‘This whole Tiger Woods scandal comes into play. The world is looking for a new guy to be Number 1, and that makes the New York stage more important to LeBron than ever.
“But seven insiders are convinced that James isn’t going anywhere, while the other three rate his chances of sticking around at 50/50 . . . depending on Cleveland’s performance in the playoffs.” [February '10]
C.C. Sabathia, of the New York Yankees (and formerly of the Cleveland Indians)
“He’s seen both sides of the fence, being in Cleveland and now [playing as a visitor] in New York. The Knicks have a little ways to go, but any time you add that guy with another guy, you definitely have a chance to win. [James] and [Amar'e] Stoudamire, whoever else, you’ve got to think your chances to win would be pretty good.
“No doubt, [I'd like to see him here]. This is it. This is the stage he wants to play on. And I think he’ll be great here.” [February '10]
Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who’s like New York’s Austin Carr.
“I think LeBron would gain in stature by coming to the Knicks. I think if he signed with the Knicks, he’d be right up there with Kobe. By being in L.A. and playing for the Lakers and winning four titles already, I think Kobe is above LeBron. I think playing in L.A., in that market, does that for him. But I think coming to New York would help LeBron get to be on Kobe’s level.” [January '10]
Jim Brown, Cleveland football legend.
“Looking at the fact that it is a business, I put that first. But having said that, I would love to see him be here. I think it’s a terrific marriage. He does so much for this city and I think he has an owner that tries to do everything he can. When you have an owner who is trying to do the best he can do and a player, it’s a terrific set of circumstances. But the business is the business.” [January '10]
Gordon Gund, Former majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m very hopeful that he will [stay]. I think it will be hard for him to find a better situation. I think that if something were near equal he’s going to stay where he is. There’s the saying, ‘The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.’
“He knows the other players on the team. He knows the way the fans feel about him. If he has a rough patch, they’ll support him. He knows the coaching staff. He knows the management. So he’s got a real leg up on what the future looks like that he doesn’t with other places. I know he’s a smart young man. I’m very hopeful.” [January '10]
“I think he’s going to go to New York.
“They’re in the lead, they just have to make it [attractive] for him. LeBron will come to New York if he knows they’re gonna win. So, if they sign a free agent first, that would probably seal the deal, I believe. They should have somebody else on their radar to make him want to come.”
But not Dwyane Wade: “[LeBron] and Wade can’t play together, I don’t care what they say, because they both dominate that ball. You want somebody like a Chris Bosh . . . you want somebody like Stoudemire to go along with LeBron. You got Yao Ming, if he’s healthy, I’d take a look at him as well.”
“He could really be a ‘King’ if he could revitalize the Knicks. You got some of the best basketball fans in the world, and now you could be responsible for bringing a championship back to New York. Now, it’s gonna take a few years, because you still gotta add more pieces. He’s got more talent in Cleveland, but he can do more incredible things in New York.
“I would say for [LeBron], and knowing what he wants to accomplish, if he said he wants to be a billionaire, or close to it, you gotta go to New York. And I would tell him this: ‘Wherever you go, sign for three or four years, and then look at the situation.’
“If you don’t like it, you could go somewhere else. I think he’s looking at the Knicks very, very hard. He really probably wants to go to New York, but I think he’s gonna see what both teams end up doing, who has the most talent.” [December '09]
“I hope he stays in Cleveland. He’s from Ohio and he means so much to that team and that state. I used to love to go and play in Cleveland because they love the game. And, I like to see the great players stay in the cities and with the teams that drafted them. It means so much for the league and the state. So I would rather see him stay.” [November '09]
“I still feel that [he'll stay in Cleveland]. He’s got a good opportunity to win there. And I know a lot of people talk about him playing in a big market, but he just wants to win a ring. It’s not about playing in a big market.” [October '09]
“Personally, in my opinion, I want LeBron to stay in Cleveland. I think it’s better for the league when you have superstars in smaller markets . . . like Brett Favre in Green Bay. You don’t always have to be in L.A. or New York to get all the endorsements and be a superstar. Peyton Manning has been the face of the NFL and he’s in Indianapolis.” [October '09]
David Stern, NBA Commissioner.
When asked if he had any guess where LeBron would be playing next year:
“None whatsoever, although I hope it’s in Cleveland.” [October '09]
“LeBron James should stay in Cleveland. People say you are going to be bigger if you are in New York but the only people who say that are people from New York. LeBron is not going to be bigger than he already is.” [October '09]
“There is no rationale for him to leave and go to any other city other than New York. There are only three franchises you can leave Cleveland if you are LeBron James: The Lakers, Celtics, and the Knicks. All the others are parallel in terms of mystique or anything else.” [October '09]
Gloria James, LeBron’s mother.
“He’s a hometown boy.” [September '09]
“He’s made his mark in Cleveland. I know New York fans would love to have him, but you need a lot more components than just one player. He’s done a heck of a job in Cleveland and they deserve to have him there. He’s from that area.
“In terms of the game itself, small markets can benefit from it a lot more than the big markets can. That’s not a discredit to New York at all.” [June '09]
”I’m comfortable with being in Cleveland. I’m excited about it. ‘I’m loving the direction we’re [going] in and I’m loving the teammates I have and the organization. So if that’s any indication of me leaving, then somebody must be looking out the wrong box.” [May '09]
LeBron James, at a Barack Obama voter-registration rally in Ohio.
“I love Ohio, and I ain’t going nowhere.” [October '08]
Dan Gilbert, Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“[The non-stop speculation that LeBron would leave to go to a "major market"] is kind of an insult to the city of Cleveland in my opinion . . . an insult to the Midwest.
“I think we’re one of the top organizations in the NBA. I think we’re going to compete for a championship . . . and we’ll worry about that summer when it comes.” [September '08]
[Again, be sure to let me know if you can think of something to add. Thanks.]
[Also, if you haven't read "The Franchise" by Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst, you should. It's a great read. So good, that I'm doing this plug. For free.]
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.
Amar’e Stoudemire to Cleveland Speculation Surfaces . . . So Why Can’t I Get Excited About the Trade Deadline?
There are 24 days until the NBA trading deadline.
I know this because when I woke up this morning, I opened the #24 window on my NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar.
Pretty exciting right?
Well, at least it’s supposed to be. (That’s why I have the NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar in the first place. No one enjoys counting down to something inconsequential . . . like Groundhog Day. Ooooh, snap! I know, cue the rage.)
Plus, there’s a decent to more-than-decent chance that something will happen . . . to some degree . . . because of the “all-in” mode that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in right now. On top of that, it looks like they’re actually in a good position to do a little thievery.
Are the Cavs one puzzle piece away? Is that puzzle piece out there? And if the missing piece is discovered (say, in the collection bag of a household vacuum), would the Cavs be able to acquire it with reasonable (or more than reasonable) expense and without creating too much of a dust-up?
(Because the Cavs have company coming, and they need to have the house ready . . . regardless of whether or not the puzzle is finished.)
See? How can you not be feeling the early pangs of NBA Trading Deadline excitement?
Here’s a list of the Cavs liquid assets:
In Zydrunas Ilgauskas, they have a large, $11.5 million expiring contract. (They also have a bigger one, at $20 million, in Shaquille O’Neal . . . if you’re someone who believes they’d be open to trading him.)
In J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and (apparently) Jawad Williams, they have young talent that is ready to make an impact on most teams.
In Darnell Jackson and Danny Green they have intriguing prospects that have already made significant steps toward becoming NBA players. And speaking of horizon assets, the Cavs also have their full set of future draft picks that they’d be able to trade if necessary.
In Danny Ferry they have a creative General Manager, who has made big, bold, and well-thought out moves in the past . . . and who is well aware of the stakes LeBron’s uncertain future has created.
And . . . here’s the big one . . . in Dan Gilbert they have a passionate owner who’s willing to invest whatever smart money is required in order to bring a championship to Cleveland, and to retain LeBron.
And there has already been a lot of speculation on several potential targets: Antawn Jamison, David West, Troy Murphy, Andre Iguodala, Corey Maggette, Andre Miller, etc.
All that being said . . . what if I’m not excited? If I don’t feel the pangs. Is that bad?
Maybe it’s still too early for me . . . or maybe the right name hasn’t been seriously (and at least somewhat legitimately) discussed yet . . . or maybe something’s just wrong with me, and I should get it checked out.
For example: Last night, “Cleveland Plain Dealer” beat writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst reported that there was credible word that the Cavaliers have (at least) had trade talks with the Phoenix Suns regarding Amar’e Stoudemire . . . with Golden State and Minnesota also in the picture.
“The natural trade that makes sense here would be Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson for Stoudemire. The Suns could also ask for draft picks. The Cavs and Suns talked about Hickson [in] the O’Neal deal but the Cavs wanted to keep him. So the Suns have a history of interest in Hickson.
“Straight up, this type of deal would save the Suns around $3.4 million off their payroll ($6.8 million including luxury tax). However, the Suns currently are a little more than $5 million over the luxury tax line. It is then possible they could then negotiate a buyout with Ilgauskas and get below the tax, which would probably enable such a trade to save them around $10 million in real money.” [Windhorst Beat Blog]
[Hit up that link. Brian talks about how Shaq and Amar'e have already been teammates, somewhat unsuccessfully, in Phoenix . . . and about how an extension for Amar'e, who can opt out of his contract this summer . . . would play a part in this deal, if it got real.]
But, I don’t know if I’m feeling this right now.
In addition to the Shaq + Amar’e workability and the contract situation, there’s also chemistry and personality issues. He currently averages over 14 shots per game, but can he be cool with being the second to fourth option on offense? Will being on a title-contending team inspire him to pick up his effort on the defensive end, or will he initiate breakdowns in the Cavs’ rotating help defense?
He’s also had some health issues in the past. A few years ago, he had microfracture surgery on his knee . . . and last season he suffered a detached retina, an injury that could have threatened his career.
Assuming the trade is as billed, the Cavs would lose Z (for at least 30 days, if not permanently) . . . and J.J. Assuming the trade will require more talent than that (which seems realistic from the Suns’ perspective, considering it’s possible that Amar’e doesn’t leave Phoenix after the season), the Cavs would also lose another player.
OK. Before you worry about my sanity, yes . . . if Phoenix offered Amar’e straight-up for Z and J.J., Phoenix agreed to buy Z out, Z agreed to come back, everyone involved thought Amar’e could play with Shaq in Cleveland (and some serviceable defense) and Amar’e agreed to some sort of extension with the Cavs . . . you just have to do this deal.
Even if one of the above doesn’t happen, you strongly consider it.
Amar’e is a star, and would definitely make a huge impact on the team. This should be an exciting possibility . . . but for some reason, I’m thinking about the “huge impact” from the other side.
I’m thinking about all those things that need to come together just to make a trade like this work . . . and that’s before you have any idea whether it’ll be a success, a wash, or a detriment.
In any potential trade, there are two intangible things to think about:
#1.) As of yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers (34-11) have the best record in the NBA. Obviously, it’s January . . . and the team hasn’t always looked as dominant as that record would suggest. Still, they do have the best record in the NBA.
(And yes, I realize this was the line of thought that may have stopped us from making a trade at the deadline last season. Notice I still didn’t delete it.)
#2.) With the uncertainty surrounding LeBron, you want to be cautious about trading for contracts that limit your future flexibility and trading for old guys. I believe LeBron will be thinking most about future championships this summer. So ideally, you’d trade for someone who could be a part of a young core with LeBron.
Amar’e (27) would be a fit there.
And he may be “the piece” . . . or a ”the piece” . . . I mean, you’d think he would be.
But you just never know. (For the record, even though both Phoenix and Cleveland are reportedly putting feelers out there . . . it definitely doesn’t mean anything serious yet. There may not even be a trade to be made there.)
That’s why I think I haven’t become too excited about the trade season yet.
Maybe I’m sensing some of the pressure that Ferry is under (not necessarily to make a deal, but to to make sure that whatever you do is the right thing to do) . . . and feel a little queasy about the goodness or badness of “huge impacts.”
Fortunately, it seems like the stars are aligning in a way that Ferry may be able to snag a nice piece in one of those “financial cap/tax relief deals,” without giving up much of anything at all.
If that ends up being the case, something tells me my excitement will be building.
[We conducted the following interview with Sam Greenspan . . . an L.A.-based, Cleveland-rooted comedian, who writes the brilliant website 11points.com. As is his nature, Sam took our questions and re-worked them into 11 points. He can't help it.]
W&GR: There are a lot of ways to look at the Cavaliers offseason. They could’ve potentially used Ben Wallace’s expiring contract in any number of trades . . . but they pulled the trigger early on Shaquille O’Neal. Also, they could have added a more mobile post threat, a stretch forward, or a point guard, but instead they went with Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, and Leon Powe . . . role players that, in theory, address specific weaknesses of the team. How do you feel Danny Ferry did this off-season?
Sam: 1.) I love what Ferry did because, in my opinion, he addressed the two things that killed the Cavs last year and knocked them out of the playoffs. One: A dominating inside defensive presence and two: bigger, more athletic guys who can defend bigger, more athletic guards and forwards. Shaq (and, eventually, Powe) provide what we need in the middle; even at this age, Shaq is one of the few players who gives Dwight Howard problems. Parker is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard without an ego (read: he plays defense) and Moon is a super-athletic, tall forward who has a lot to prove. All of a sudden, the Magic can’t destroy the Cavs anymore because of defensive mismatches. (Not even last year’s Magic; this year’s version is significantly weakened by replacing the playoff assassin Hedo Turkoglu with career-long underperformer Vince Carter.)
I think the Cavs had an incredible offseason. They’re set up to win it now. (And when LeBron inevitably comes back, more concerned with his legacy than heading over to rebuild with the Knicks, in the future as well.) The only player I wanted who the Cavs didn’t get was Charlie Villanueva, but snatching up Parker and stealing away Moon and Powe make up for that.
W&GR: Obviously, the biggest question mark with the team right now is Delonte West. There was the arrest, the unexcused absences from training camp, and of course his battle with a mood disorder. How concerned are you about Delonte this season? Do you feel that the Cavaliers will be fine without him for what could be significant patches throughout the season? Or do you expect Delonte’s situation to stabilize in the routine of the season like it did last year?
Sam: 2.) I think the regular season is going to do wonders for Delonte West. The offseason is unstructured… exactly the opposite of what he needs. From October through June, West can completely escape into basketball. There are almost no off days. There’s a 20+-member family with him at all times. Once the games start going, the wins start happening, the ball starts going through the basket, West can put all of his problems behind him and just focus on basketball. I don’t think this is going to be a Pavlovic/Varejao situation where he’s really not right for the entire season because he missed a little time.
W&GR: With the Delonte situation, along with the flu pandemic and the nagging injuries, the Cavs weren’t able to really put in as much group work, in games at least, this preseason. Are you concerned that this might lead to a sluggish start in the regular season? Or do you think the Cavs, with a lot of their core in tact from last season, will be able to work things out on the fly with success?
Sam: 3.) I never put much stock in the preseason in any sport. I would’ve liked to see the team play together more, mostly to figure out how to work Shaq in. But it’s the preseason. They’re only partially focused. I don’t expect the Cavs to roar out of the gate like they did last year – last year was one of those magical regular seasons. But I don’t see them having any trouble establishing dominance in the Central division from day one. And I do see them winning the first game against Boston. (More on Boston coming later, by the way.)
W&GR: One issue that may be talked about more and more leading up to the trade deadline in February is the expiring contract of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Some feel that since we sort of blew up our cap space for next year this offseason, that trading Z might be our last chance (for a while) at adding a significant piece under the salary cap rules. Do you think the Cavs would entertain trade possibilities regardless of how we’re playing? What about if we’re underperforming at the mid-way point?
Sam: 4.) Last year Ferry only half-heartedly tried to move Wally Szczerbiak at the trade deadline because he didn’t want to mess up the team’s chemistry. If the team is performing like they’re supposed to, and like I believe they will, I’m not sure they’d be willing to roll the dice on moving one of the franchise’s cornerstones.
If they’re underperforming, Z is as good as gone. Gilbert and Ferry (plus LeBron’s contract situation) have made this a do-or-die season for the Cavs. It’s championship or bust. Anything less than a 60-win pace at the trade deadline and they’ll have to make a move.
W&GR: We shared our take on this a few weeks back, but is there a player that you could see having a surprising year . . . either good or bad . . . this year?
Sam: 5.) This season is Daniel Gibson’s last chance. To adapt a quote from a song by Gibson’s new girlfriend Keyshia Cole, “If he ain’t gonna treat [us] the way he should, then let him go.” Are we ever going to see the Gibson who iced the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007 again? Will he ever develop enough defensive skills to get real minutes under Mike Brown? Can he shoot .400 from threes and get LeBron’s full trust again? Personally, I’m pessimistic. Maybe that’s just the battered Cleveland fan in me though, seeing this as a Derek Anderson-Fausto Carmona fall from grace situation.
For some reason I’m not feeling like Mo Williams is going to take a big step forward this year (or backward). I feel like he’s going to get a little more lost in the shuffle with Shaq absorbing the spotlight as LeBron’s number two, but still put up his scoring in the high teens.
W&GR: Is there an “X-factor” that you could see emerging this season?
Sam: 6.) I think the X-factor will be the big men. Shaq and Z are giants, but slow. Varejao got his contract, so will he stop trying to force his offense and just play the role he’s born to play? Is Moon the defensive player I think he is, one who’ll guard the Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu types? What can Powe, Jackson and Hickson contribute? If these guys all play well, this team will be hard to stop.
W&GR: Which team scares you the most in the East? Boston? Orlando? Atlanta? Milwaukee?
Sam: 7.) Orlando, by default. I think the Cavs are going to run away with the East.
I’ve considered Vince Carter’s game to be garbage for five or six years now. He’s a six- or seven-step downgrade from Turkoglu. The fact that they gave up Courtney Lee to get him makes the situation even more ridiculous. Lee is awesome. Carter is selfish, unmotivated and way past his prime. Disastrous idea. As for their other upgrades, I don’t think Matt Barnes will fit right – he couldn’t stick in the two biggest run-and-gun offenses in the league, how’s he going to fit into one where there’s even more discipline required? Brandon Bass is unproven. And resigning Gortat to huge money… um…
But, even after all that, I still think they’re scarier than Boston. Rasheed Wallace is the exact wrong guy for this team. They won their championship by buying into Doc Rivers’ whole “unity” thing. So adding a guy who won’t stop jacking up ill-advised threes and getting technicals – that just doesn’t make sense. We still haven’t gotten the real story on what’s wrong with Garnett, but I think there may just be too many tough miles on that odometer. I don’t think they come close to having the horses to compete with the Cavs, Magic or Lakers.
There’s no one else in the East that’s even a blip on the radar.
W&GR: After the season, there’s the infamous LeBron James free agency. Do you have a gut feeling on what he might do or what his thought process might be? Do you think a title would factor into his decision? Or, on the flip side, would a disappointing finish (like a second round exit) have an impact?
Sam: 8.) As I said before, I really see him staying. Since he was 15, LeBron’s been thinking about his legacy. Being the savior of Cleveland, his hometown, and bringing it its first championship since 1964… rather than leaving a city in need of a hero to take a pay cut to leave its entire sports scene in disarray… is more of a legacy than even New York can provide. New York is a rebuilding team. LeBron did that garbage already. The Cavs are posed to finally start winning championships with him, to finally get him on pace to compete with Jordan, with Magic, with Kobe (and to at least tie Wade). If he goes to New York, he’s at least two or three years away from them contending. Does he really want to wait 10 NBA seasons to start winning titles? Staying with one franchise is what the true legends do. Winning titles and, yes, revitalizing a struggling city in the process is what true legends do. Even if the season’s a disappointment, I see LeBron playing out his career in this city.
W&GR: Since the organization might play a role in LeBron’s decision (as we just discussed on this site), what letter grades would you give Dan Gilbert, Danny Ferry and Mike Brown up until this point in their time with the Cavs?
Sam: 9.) I give Gilbert an unequivocal A. He’s willing to do what almost no other owners are: Pay the NBA luxury tax in a brutal economic time. His wallet has been open since day one to make the Cavs a championship team. He cares about winning and hasn’t pulled any of the “Cleveland is a small market” crap that the Dolans have. I want him to own the Cavs for a long, long time… and hopefully buy the Indians and the Browns too.
Ferry gets a B from me. I love the roster as it stands now… might be one of the deepest teams ever… but it was a hell of a road to get here. Signing Larry Hughes was a disaster and a panic move… but managing to unload him took more skill than any GM should ever possess. He’s manufactured a hell of a lot and I feel comfortable with him running the show.
Mike Brown gets a B-. It’s been an even rockier road than Ferry. He has managed to get the players to buy in to his defensive schemes… but offensively, the team is far too prone to fall apart. To drop into LeBron playing one-on-four. I wonder a bit about the mental toughness he’s instilling – he’s such a player’s coach that the guys have to generate the toughness themselves. And that can be a dangerous thing. I’m not in love with Brown, but I’m absolutely opposed to switching coaches at this point… so we’ve got him for a while, might as well get used to it.
W&GR: What is your favorite Cavalier shtick. It could be something with a player, the team as a whole, the front office, the announcers, or the fans. In other words, what small thing do you find amusing about following the Cavs these days?
Sam: 10.) It used to be Drew Gooden confusedly staring at his hands after he hit a few jumpers in a row. I did love the “family photo” shtick from last season though. And, for whatever reason, I also love the fact that Austin Carr has just degenerated into spouting ridiculous catchphrases.
W&GR: Do you have a prediction for the Cavs 09-10 season? East finish? Playoff finish?
Sam: 11.) I think this is the year. The Cavs win about 62-65 games, get the number one seed, and beat the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals (after again sweeping the first two rounds). They meet the Lakers in the Finals and win the title in Cleveland in game 6.
I don’t know if that’s misguided optimism, blind fanboyism or just pure hope… but I can’t see this season ending any other way. The Cavs are insanely deep at every single position, can throw every different look at you (huge big men, athletic big men, fast guards, three point bombers, running, playing halfcourt) and, yes, have the best player in the NBA.
It’s time for LeBron to start winning championships. And that begins now.
Of course, we’ll have arguably the most significant unrestricted free agent in the history of sports to deal with next summer (if it does indeed come to that) but that’s a discussion for another day.
The Cavs had four unrestricted free agents: Anderson Varejao, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Lorenzen Wright. Andy is the only core member of the team in this group, and Danny Ferry spoke several times about how re-signing him was going to be one of the front office’s biggest priorities over the summer.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Especially after all that drama that went down two years ago between Ferry and Varejao’s agent, Dan Fegan.
We all remember this: The two sides spent the entire summer engaged in a ridiculous staring match. Fegan insisted that Varejao was worth $10 million a year or something absurd like that, and Ferry was sticking to . . . something more reasonable. Maybe too reasonable.
Varejao (along with Sasha Pavlovic) missed the preseason, and then made the ill-advised decision to hold out of the actual season. Finally, in December, Varejao signed an offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats. The deal was 2 years / $11.1 million with a player option for a third year at $6.2 million.
Since he was restricted, the Cavs had the opportunity to match. And they did, obviously.
This past July 1st, Varejao opted out of his option for a third year and became an unrestricted free agent. That wasn’t really a surprise. Then, about a week later, the Cavs and Varejao agreed on a new deal. It happened quickly and dramalessly. That, at least to me, WAS a surprise.
So everyone in Cleveland had to feel pretty pumped about that, right? Wrong. A lot of people were furious about the resigning. Why? Well, let’s start with this: Andy got paid . . . like, a lot.
The deal was billed as 6 years / $50 million, but it wasn’t quite that steep. The final year is a team option and is only partially guaranteed. It’s actually a $42.5 million deal, with the potential to hit $50 million. That’s a lot of coin, but I definitely don’t consider it to be out of line here.
When I visited a few chat rooms after the signing, a lot of fans (although mostly of the doom and gloom variety) were blasting the signing, claiming that Ferry did the team a HUGE disservice by grossly overpaying Varejao.
National media types seemed confused about it, and ESPN’S Bill Simmons was aghast.
Really? Well, maybe I’m missing something.
Here’s my argument:
1.) If we eventually choose to pick up the sixth year, the contract averages out to $8.33 million per season . . . if we don’t, we’ll pay out an average of $8.5 million for five seasons.
2.) The contract will start at $6.3 million this season, up just $100,000 from the $6.2 million option he had held for this season. Each subsequent year gives him an even, $700,000 bump. NBA salaries are configured in all sorts of ways, but that annual raise doesn’t seem outlandish to me. (It ranges from an 11.1% raise early on to a 7.7% raise for the final year.)
3.) Sure, Varejao is a “just” an 8.6 point / 7.2 rebound player. But those numbers, his averages from last season, were part of his best year, statistically, in the NBA. And nothing about his performance last year had the warning signs to make it feel an aberration. He’s gradually improving his game, year to year.
4.) Some say he “doesn’t have a shot” or “an offensive game.” OK, lets be straight here: Andy is not a Carlos Boozer. He’s not going to be an offensive threat night in and night out. But his offensive approach has improved because of shot selection.
Last season, he was taking far fewer of those “Andy, don’t do it” shots. (He still pump-fakes those shots . . . and my heart still skips a beat every time. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.)
He shot 54% last season, which was a career best. His free throw percentage is low . . . but he shot 62% on those, another career best.
5.) He’s only 27, so this contract will carry him through the prime of his career.
6.) I think we can all agree that Varejao’s value extends far beyond simple stats. The critics say that we overpaid for an “energy player,” a “role player” and / or a “bench player”.
But his “energy” is hustle . . . the intangibles that have saved us countless possessions (and games) over the years. That’s not even including the offensive charges he gets, and the irritable, in-your-face way he takes on opponents to try to get them off their games.
These are things you can’t quantify.
As for being a “role player” and a “bench player”: He started more than half the regular season games last year (42), and all the playoff games. He’s versatile. When Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Ben Wallace went down, he could fill in anywhere. That’s pretty valuable.
7.) Finally, you have to remember that big men of any skill set don’t come cheap, especially not ones in their prime. And if you pay attention to Varejao’s play, you know he is a rare talent.
And also remember that we aren’t JUST playing for now. We have to keep an eye on the future too, because we have to have a team that LeBron James will want to stick around with. Andy is exactly the team-oriented kind of guy you want to build a core group with.
Again, maybe I’m missing something. But it’s Dan Gilbert who’s writing the checks, and it’s Danny Ferry who’s working the salary cap. So, let’s all relax and watch him play . . . in our “Wild Thing” wigs.