With rumors running rampid during last weeks trade deadline, it was hard to know what to expect from the NBA's hottest team. The Cleveland Cavaliers went into the All-Star break with a league best 43-11 record, riding a 13-game winning streak. However, the Cavs' great play didn't stop them from being linked to many possible trade rumors, ranging from some of the league's elite players (Amar'e Stoudemire, Andre Iguodala, Carlos Boozer) to run of the mill role players.
The Cavaliers' General Manager Danny Ferry has built a reputation of making lopsided trades in the Cavs' favor. Such trades include getting Mo Williams for Damon Jones and Joe Smith, or 15 time All-Star Shaquille O'Neil for Sasha Pavlovich and Ben Wallace. Suffices to say, if the Cavs were going to make a trade before the deadline this year, it was going to heavily favor the Cavs. That's exactly what happened.
On Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before the NBA deadline for trading, the Cavs swung a three team, 5-player trade that landed them two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison from the Washington Wizards. The details of the trade included Cleveland sending long-time center Zydrunas Ilgauskus and a first-round draft pick to Washington, the Los Angeles Clippers sending Al Thornton to Washington and Sebastian telfair to Cleveland, and Washington sending Antawn Jamison to Cleveland.
33-year-old Jamison is a career 20 and 8 guy, and had long been Washington's best player and inspirational leader. Trading him from Washington to their rival Cleveland wasn't easy for Washington's GM Ernie Grunfeld, but the Wizards' struggles this season along with their current financial situation left them no choice.
"It's always difficult to trade a player like that," said Grunfeld, "I probably respect him more than any other player I've been around...but this move gets us some cap relief, a draft pick and it helps us with the luxury tax. It gives us flexibility this year and going forward in the salary cap standpoint."
Washington wasn't the only team parting with a fan favorite however. In order to match salaries and give Washington the financial relief they desired, the Cavs had to trade their franchise leader in games played, Zydrunas Ilgauskus.
This is from Cavs' analyst Jeff Phelps's blog: "Just now leaving for the Friday game in Charlotte, and things are a bit strange on the plane. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has always sat two rows ahead of me, across the aisle in the window seat. Anderson Varejao always sat next to him. The Cavaliers version of the Dynamic Duo. Andy is now sitting in Z’s old seat, with assistant athletic trainer Mike Mancias in Andy’s old seat. Andy’s not his usual, smiling, fun-loving self. The loss to Denver is only part of the reason why."
As heartwrenching as that may sound, there is still hope the Cavs' (now Wizards') center could return to the Cavs this season. In an attempt to shed more salary, the Wizards will likely buy-out the remainder of Ilgasukus's contract in which case he could become a free-agent. The Cavaliers still own their Bi-annual exception worth 1.99 million dollars which could be used to re-sign the big Lithuanian to a lucrative contract for the remainder of the season. Whether or not Ilgauskus would return to the Cavs is uncertain, but it seems like Cleveland is still where his heart is.
"This is my team,'' he said. "I'm going to be mad, but not so mad that I wouldn't come back. I understand it's a business. This is my home. No matter what happens in the future, that will never change.''
While losing Big Z (even if it is only temporary) hurts, it's exciting to think about bringing in a player like Jamison. Jamison is a career 35% shooter from three, and his ability to create by himself makes him a huge threat that the Cavs will look to exploit.
"He can shoot the three-point shot very well. He has to be guarded out there," said Cavaliers' Head Coach Mike Brown, "There'll be a lot of oppurtunities for him out there because people don't want to take a body off of Shaq at the rim."
Along with his offense, Jamison also brings leadership and play-off experience to a team that is desperate for a championship. In fact, the Cavs' championship aspirations was a major reason Jamison wanted to come to Cleveland.
"The thing I like about this team is that there are no egos, nobody is trying to achieve individual numbers. It's all about winning," Jamison said. "Hopefully we can make a championship a reality."
Cleveland's ongoing pursuit of a championship is one shared by Jamison who is yet to get a ring in his 12 years in the NBA.
As for the other player the Cavs acquired in the mid-season trade, Sebastian Telfair, we'll have to wait to see what he brings to the table. He comes to Cleveland weilding a severe groin injury that will keep him sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks. Telfair's role in the trade was minor, but his potential is great. He's only 24-years-old, but has 5 seasons under his belt after coming to the NBA straight out of High School. He's averaging just under eight points and four assists for his career, but he has all the tools to be a star in the league. That star power may never be seen in Cleveland, however, considering he'll be the team's third point guard behind Mo Williams and Daniel "Boobie" Gibson.
All in all, this trade will only benefit the Cavs. They're the best team in the NBA already, and this trade makes them even scarier. In a season where winning is all that matters, we could all be looking back at this trade in June as the one that helped the Cavs win the NBA Championship.
Cleveland Plain Dealer