You know the old adage: "Be careful of what you wish for, you might get it." Could it apply to the recent on-again trade talks between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns over the future of 37-year-old center Shaquille O’Neal?
So far, the talks that actually began last December have not reached imminent proportions but are back on the front burner again.
Should they come to fruition, it is Danny Ferry’s hope to bring a desperately needed championship to Cleveland and keep LeBron James right at home by acquiring O’Neal’s $20 million contract that has one year remaining.
But deals that are born out of desperation have a way of turning sour.
A lot has been said about O’Neal both pros and cons. He is a formidable obstacle in the post. He is too slow to defend the pick and roll. His foul shooting has improved this year, and he can defend the offensive boards. His massive size and slow movement could block up LeBron’s path to the basket.
But if you look at his stats for this past season, his field goal percentage is up slightly over his career average, but his points per game this season are seven points lower. His rebounding has also dropped considerably from 11.2 to 8.4.
Of course, you expect that with an aging player. But my point is this. If Ferry makes this move, he had better have his friend Phoenix President Steve Kerr throw in the Suns’ training and conditioning staff.
It is no secret that O’Neal was a physical wreck when he left Miami for the desert. However, the Suns have the finest conditioning staff in the entire NBA and were responsible for putting Humpty Dumpty together again—and just as important, keeping him together throughout a grueling 82-game season.
Also, wherever O’Neal has gone he has ridden there in a pretty damn big bus. Just ask the players, coaches and owners he has thrown under that bus when he leaves. Ask Stan Van Gundy, Pat Riley, Dwayne Wade, Jerry Buss, Kobe Bryant, and, when he finally leaves Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash and probably Steve Kerr as well.
LeBron, of course, is a huge star, the NBA’s MVP. He’s bigger than Kobe Bryant even. But he’s not too big to get thrown under that bus as well.
So, yes, there are pros and cons on both sides of the deal. But unless a team has a top notch conditioning staff and the owners and players have thick enough skin to deal with the crumbling franchise that O’Neal usually leaves in his wake, then Cleveland should look around before it makes this trade.
First of all, it may not be Orlando that the Cavs will have to beat next year. With Hedo Turkoglu probably leaving the Magic and a healthy Kevin Garnett returning to the Celtics, it may be Boston that will be Cleveland’s biggest concern.
And speaking of Turkoglu, if the Cavs are looking to spend money, why not consider Turkoglu a small forward, who rebounds like a power forward and has also played a little point guard.
With Ben Wallace being moved one way or the other, Turkoglu could fit into that No. 4 spot real well and Zydrunas Ilgauskas can come off the bench.
Turkoglu's deadly three-point shot opens the court for LBJ. He is a good ball handler and can obviously set up the pick and roll. Orlando’s bread-and-butter could become Cleveland's.
There are some other names out there besides Turkoglu that can help LeBron and Varejao in the paint like Carlos Boozer, Lamar Odom, and Rasheed Wallace to name a few.
So, my advice to LeBron is to have a talk with Danny Ferry and remind him that friendship is one thing but business is another. Steve Kerr made a big mistake when he traded for O’Neal and ruined the Sun’s franchise. He made his bed; now let him lie in it. No need to bail him out.