Cavs Get Some Diesel Fuel
You may be tired of Shaq and Bron by next June.
The hardwood stars have aligned this week with more blockbusters than are on Steven Spielberg’s resume. Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter both have the chance to push their new teams over the top but Shaq Daddy’s arrival in Cleveland is going to get the most attention. Will the JabbaWockeeZ be added to Cleveland’s payroll? Hell, it couldn’t be worse than having Lorenzen Wright on the roster.
The Cavs made the right move in grabbing Shaq, essentially giving up contracts with Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic going to Phoenix. Shaq will come off the books in 2010, so it was hard for Cleveland to find much wrong with the deal. If they win the title, Shaq rides off into the sunset with a 5th ring and a remix of “Kobe, how my ass taste?” (Or would Shaq write a modified version in the event he retires and LeBron never wins another title? Hmm.) If they lose, the Cavs can say, “Well, we did our best.”
The level of expectations in Cleveland just went through the roof and LeBron has officially taken Kobe’s place as best player to not have a ring as the alpha dog on his team. If the Cavs can’t do it this year, well when can they? The problem may be how high the talent level has risen on other contenders. You could make a case for at least six or seven teams ending the season as the the 2009 champs.
Shaq has said he would be willing come off the bench if needed, reminding ESPN that he did the same thing at LSU when he sat behind “The great Stanley Roberts.” I nearly choked on my drink when he said that. Let’s be real. Shaq sitting the bench behind Z is as likely as AND 1 signing me to a contract, although they may be in search of a Brian Scalabrine look-alike that they can take turns dunking over. OK, I don’t look that much like Scalabrine, though I do wear a headband and have been called Semi-Pro when walking onto the court. Damn it!
Two years ago I would have hated this move but that was before Shaq restored my faith in him. Now I really like it. It will take some pressure off LeBron. Both guys have become unselfish players. They’re entertaining and both are hungry for a title. And let’s be honest, this deal isn’t about anybody more than these two cats.
The deal only possibly gets trumped by Orlando getting Vince Carter. How stacked is Orlando? I think Pamela Anderson stacked. It sucks that they are going to likely give up Hedo Turkoglu to get Vince but you have to give them credit for not playing the waiting game until it was too late to grab another player. GM Otis Smith still wants to keep Hedo. If he can do that, look out. As is, the Magic will have more flash than last season, if nothing else.
By the way, I want to claim the rights to any headline for the 2009-2010 postseason that reads “Superman Returns.” This can be used in the event Dwight Howard makes a second NBA Finals appearance or wins the Slam Dunk Contest, or in which Shaq dominates Howard in the Playoffs or plays the Lakers in the Finals, resulting in an appearance at the Staples Center. You heard it here first.
Somewhere David Stern is writing up a Christmas list that has the Lakers and Cavs playing in the NBA Finals, and yeah, I do know Stern is Jewish. He’s going to get a Christmas wish list regardless. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Cavs and Lakers play on Christmas day.
The good news is that Mike Brown can now run two plays during time-outs, give the ball to LeBron and watch or dish the rock to Shaq and everyone get the hell out of the lane. Will he be able to handle the pressure? We wait in anticipation.
Danny Ferry said that the Cavaliers organization doesn’t want to be patient, and with good reason. He knows that if the Cavaliers fall short at winning a title in 2009, LeBron is more likely to bounce out of Ohio. A ring and hyping LeBron up as the man to bring a dynasty to Cleveland is the best way to persuade him.
The Shaq acquisition doesn’t actually guarantee LeBron will come back in 2010. Yeah, it shows LBJ that the team is committed to winning a ring, proven earlier by the Mo Williams pick-up. But Shaq comes off the books after this coming season. The Cavs will be compelled to try to grab another big free agent, which may be tough to do unless LeBron guarantees he is sticking around. Could you imagine the negotiations between Ferry and Chris Bosh in a situation where LeBron has left?
Ferry: Hey Chris, it’s Danny Ferry.
Ferry. Ferry. The slow and tall, bald white guy in Cleveland.
Bosh: You mean Zydrunas Ilgauskas?
(Bosh’s friends in background crack up.)
Ferry: Good one, Chris. Listen, I was wondering what you’d think about a max-dollar deal that brings you to Cleveland.
Bosh: Is ‘Bron staying?
Ferry: Umm, he left for New York today. But we do have Delonte West. That’s gotta count for something, right?
(Silence. Bosh and his friends bust out laughing.)
Bosh: Damn, son. You’re funnier than Eddie Murphy’s Raw!
(Ferry starts sobbing into the phone.)
Ferry: Screw you, Chris. Mike Kryzewski still loves me and that’s all that matters!
(Bosh and friends start laughing before the phone is hung up.)
On a sidenote, is there any contending team in the East that has fallen farther than the Boston Celtics? Cleveland and Orlando have both made huge moves this week. Boston? They get the joy of Danny Ainge and Rajon Rondo’s agent bitching at each other. This can’t end well.
Shaq’s trade to Cleveland is only the beginning of the fire sale in Phoenix. Amar’e Stoudemire looks to be headed to Golden State, and it’s tough to tell if this would make Steve Nash more or less likely to leave the valley of the Sun. On one hand, you lose your two best frontcourt players. On the other side of the coin, Nash’s game was slowed down by Shaq down low and Stoudemire wasn’t exactly the most humble teammate. I think he bolts for New York as soon as the season is over.
So what have we learned in the biggest trades of the past two years, kids? Title contenders can bend cellar dwellers or underachievers over and take their goodies. Memphis, Phoenix and New Jersey stripped their team apart in ’08 and ’09 to save salary or face. The winners of the trades? Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio and Orlando. The rich keep getting richer in the NBA and unlike the result of fat cat corporations dragging the economy to Hell like Alison Lohman, we are going to be better for it. Would you complain about a San Antonio-Orlando Finals match-up? What about L.A-Cleveland? Throw in Boston, Denver and Houston if they ever get anything from or for Tracy McGrady and if Yao can return healthy as potential title contenders. (A huge question mark should be the new Rockets mascot.) The battle for the title next season will be as interesting as any that I can recall.
It wasn’t long ago that the Eastern Conference was considered to be the little sister to the West. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. With it come huge expectations for the Cavaliers, who were considered a disappointment last season, somewhat unfairly. They really didn’t have a legit second scorer. Now they do. If they lose, at least it will be entertaining, and don’t you know we are going to see every third game of theirs on ESPN or TNT. Clever nicknames, bench antics, more face time for ‘Bron’s teammates and a showdown written by the NBA Gods in which Shaq squares off against Kobe in the Finals are all possibilities next season. No matter what happens, the real winner is the NBA and the fans.