"...for Wallace and Pavlovic. Don't laugh, I think it could work."
I had plans for today. More Worsties. Maybe a post about fighting in pickup basketball. But I scrapped those plans when I heard about the Shaq-to-Cleveland trade
. The deal might help Cleveland bust through their championship wall. Meanwhile, it means nothing short of utter and absolute destruction for the Phoenix Suns. In the short term, anyway.
Look, kiddies, the fact is this: Times have changed. The United States economy is sucking so hard that it could choke down Oliver Miller AND the World's Fattest Man
in one huge gulp. Of course, the reality is NBA basketball never has been about winning. Well, it is sometimes, but only inasmuch as winning typically means making more money. That's just good business. But other times, and this is one of those times, good business means losing. Just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks
. And losing is what you can expect from the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns. And I mean a lot of it.
In return for the Big Brad Daughterneze
, Phoenix is getting the decaying shell of Ben Wallace (which is the same as getting nothing), Sasha "The Invisible Man" Pavlovic (ditto), the 46th pick in Thursday's draft (double-ditto) and some cash (which is actually something). They'll also save money in salary and luxury tax (about $10 million, according to some reports). This was nothing more or less than a cost-cutting measure. They need to save greebacks, and they will...at the expense of winning basketball and the happiness of their fan base.
And to think, ESPN's Chris Broussard said
: "The Phoenix Suns are not going to give O'Neal away merely to save money." Sucker.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't the Shaq of the early 2000s we're talking about. He wasn't great. However, he certainly was good last season: 17.8 PPG (on a league-best 60.9 percent shooting), 8.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG and a PER of 22.3 (which put him ahead of guys like Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) He came close to setting a career-high in free throw percentage (59.5 percent). Cav-a-Shaq was an All-Star and even made the All-NBA Third Team for the first time since 2005-06. I guess all those things make him one of the best players in the game.
And yet he wasn't making the Suns any better. Meanwhile, he was chewing up $20 million worth of cap space. When you can't win with someone AND you can't afford him, well, it's probably time to bid him adieu. Normally, a team will try to get actual basketball talent in return. One trade I heard bandied about was Shaq to the Bulls for a package that could have included Luol Deng (finally a small forward to replace Shawn Marion and spell Grant Hill), Kirk Hinrich (finally a backup point guard to give Steve Nash a blow), and maybe some draft picks and cash. That move might have restocked some shelves and allowed the Suns to run free again. Or maybe not. But what does it matter now? The deed is done. Steve Kerr's failure is now complete. Or it will be once he gets rid of Steve Nash and trades Amare for Tracy McGrady
On the other end of the trade spectrum we have a Cavs team starring LeBron and LeBrawn. Think about it for a second: Cleveland added Shaq -- a Shaq who proved last season he still has some Power Thirst
left in the tank -- to a team that won 66 games and has the league's reigning MVP. AND THEY GAVE UP NOTHING. Wallace and Pavlovic were D-U-N, done. And if Shaq doesn't work out, so what? His contract comes off the books next summer...and the Cavaliers will be waaaaaaay under the cap. (Right now, they're committed to only about $36 million in 2010-11
Look, there are plenty of reasons
to suspect that Shaq will be a bust in Cleveland. But it's a worthwhile gamble for the Cavs. It's not like when the Suns traded for Shaq and had to give up one of their key players. The only thing we have to figure out now is who's championship piggybacking
off who? Because let's face it: King "Check My $tats" James
wants the world to bow to his basketball supremacy...and so does Shaq. The Big Cavalanche can play kissy-face with Kobe all he wants, but unless I know "jack" and "sh*t" about human psychology, he'd love to earn championship numero cinco while cock-blocking Mamba's quest for a fifth.
It'll be interesting to see how this trade works out for Cleveland, and what moves the Eastern Conference Elite (Celtics, Magic) will make to counter it, if any. (Due to salary constraints, all Danny Ainge will be able to do, I think, is to watch helplessly and maybe pee himself.) As for the Suns, well, watching them is going to become exceedingly depressing. But I'll take some comfort in knowing that Robert Sarver will be saving some money while Steve Kerr is (presumably) saving his job.
Labels: blockbuster trades, Cleveland Cavaliers, luxury tax, Phoenix Suns, Shaq