It seems as though every NBA General Manager who has gotten his team fitted for championship rings this past decade has said these magic words on at least one occasion:
"Let's make a deal."
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak could not get those words out of his mouth soon enough when he landed Pau Gasol from Memphis two years ago. Celtics boss Danny Ainge could not say those words enough when he was completely revamping his franchise three years ago when trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Miami President Pat Riley shook the balance of the league when he got a 32-year-old Shaquille O'Neal from Los Angeles five years ago, and Detroit's Joe Dumars beat the trade deadline in 2004 when he brought in Rasheed Wallace.
Oh, you cannot blame Cleveland Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry for not having uttered those words in the name of bringing the Larry O'Brien trophy to the shores of Lake Erie. You cannot even fault him for not having said the words enough. Ferry is the same guy who turned Damon Jones into All-Star Mo Williams, Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic into Shaq, and—back in 2006—Mike Wilks (who?) into a key catalyst named Flip Murray.
But for Ferry, he may have to utter those words one more time if he wants to bring a championship to the city where he spent almost his entire playing career. And if you are a Cavs fan, you better hope that Ferry says those franchise-altering words for the right deal.
And the right deal may be staring Ferry and the Cavs right in the face. In fact, it was staring right at them during Wednesday's 121-98 throttling of the controversy-encompassed Washington Wizards.
That deal's name is Antawn Jamison.
You can usually see the pieces for such a blockbuster trade coming together weeks before it comes to fruition. The Wizards are in absolute disarray. Gilbert Arenas and his well-documented gun incident and subsequent suspension, not Jamison, are weighing first and foremost in the office of team president Ernie Grunfeld.
The loss at Cleveland dropped Washington to 11-22 and further into the cellar of the Southeast Division. They pretty much have no hope at the playoffs whatsoever, even in an Eastern Conference where the last couple of spots could be up for grabs all season.
As far as the Arenas situation goes, the suspension handed down to Washington's supposed franchise player was indefinite, and it is very possible that the former second round pick out of Arizona could see either all or a good part of his massive contract terminated.
That is where Jamison comes in. The 12th year power forward out of North Carolina is signed for eight-figure salaries through the 2011-12 season. He is 33-years old and has no business wallowing around with a franchise like Washington that is clearly going absolutely nowhere. Not only that, but the Wizards have no business keeping him around for that salary when they know that the time is ripe to start a rebuilding project.
What has the stars aligned even further is that Ferry's penchant for making lopsided trades (see the ones discussed above) would come into play here. With 28 wins, the Cavs are tied with the defending champion Lakers for most in the league. Each win decreases the leverage that the Wizards can have in any kind of a trade negotiation.
Ideally, Ferry would like to trade away Zydrunas Ilgauskas' expiring contract of $11.5 million for Jamison's deal, one that pays him $11.6 million this season. Ferry would then like to see Ilgauskas' contract bought out by Grunfeld and the Wizards before waiting 30 days for Ilgauskas to clear waivers.
After that time, Ferry and the Cavs would re-sign their franchise leader in games played and hope that he is aboard in case the team wins its first NBA championship in franchise history.
If you are the Wizards, the sad truth is that this could be as good as it gets if you want to unload Jamison's contract. It is going to be difficult for Grunfeld to find any takers for a 33-year old power forward who is signed for massive salaries for two more seasons after this one.
In a league in which many franchises are losing money, nobody is going to be willing to take on that contract unless they are in a spot to win it all right now. That eliminates the list to just a few teams: Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, Orlando, and Denver. Only the Cavs have a gaping hole for Jamison to fill, as the 6'9" veteran can come right in and replace unseasoned second year forward J.J. Hickson in the starting lineup.
Doing such a deal—including the buyout for Ilgauskas—could save the Wizards millions this season and more than $25 million for the next two seasons combined. And although the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are not headed to D.C. any time soon, the move still makes the Wizards players in this summer's free agency when a bumper crop of free agents will be on the market.
And if Jamison ends up in Cleveland, he will fit like a glove. He is a high character guy who has remained healthy for a large portion of his career. Jamison played in 81 games last year, 79 the year before that, 70 in 2006-07, and all 82 in 2005-06.
He is averaging 21.3 points and 8.2 boards in 24 games this season, numbers that if replicated in Cleveland could make the Cavs the overwhelming favorites to win the championship that eluded their 66-16 squad last year.
With every Cavalier win and Wizard loss, Washington is losing more and more leverage. Either cough up Jamison to a team that could use him, or pay millions more in a luxury tax this year and on the payroll for next year.
It's not like the Cavs are in complete control, mind you. Ferry knows that he has to make a deal before the trading deadline to put his roster in the best position to win a championship and convince James that Cleveland is where he needs to stay if he wants to stockpile titles in the future.
So one more time, Danny Ferry. For old time's sake. Get Ernie Grunfeld on speed dial and utter the words that have won and lost championships over the past decade:
"Let's make a deal."