The purpose of the offseason is for contenders to sit pat, maybe tweak things a little, and enjoy a little time off while all the pretenders scurry in a frantic effort to catch up.
So much for that.
The Cavaliers, Lakers, Celtics and Magic have all made bold offseason maneuvers to put their respective teams over the top (or, in the case of the Lakers, stay on top).
Think about it.
Three of the four aforementioned teams have appeared in the Finals in the last two years. Two of them won those Finals. These aren't exactly teams desperate for a taste of success.
Cavs Call in the Calvary
The frenzied and premature preparation for the free agent class of 2010 has teams arming up now instead of grooming for later. No one knows if New York's stash of money will bring in the free agent bonanza every New Yorker has prayed fervently for since 2008.
Cleveland is desperate to appease King James, and their moves have shown just that.
Rather than waiting for an overwhelmingly right deal to come along (as the Lakers did with Pau Gasol), Cleveland has pressed the panic button as soon as a feasible deal appears, first with Mo Williams (a number three/four option masquerading as a number-two alongside James), and now gambling for Shaquille O'Neal.
What you have to applaud in this latter move, however, is that they gave up next to nothing to get him, trading the expiring contracts of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to the Scrooge-like Suns, who seem intent on saving money at the expense of winning a championship as well as a fan base.
Neither Wallace nor Pavlovic played a significant role for Cleveland in their recent playoff run; Cleveland is merely adding Shaq to the mix. There will assuredly be at least two occurrences of LeBron barreling to the hole only to collide into a waiting O'Neal under the basket. If they can indeed learn how to fit their massive skills and needs on the same court however, the combination could be a deadly powerhouse.
Lakers Ignore Stability, Snag Artest
If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Especially with one of the most volatile player in existence, right?
Apparently that's wrong.
By signing Artest, the Lakers let go of playoff standout Trevor Ariza. Artest gives the Lakers better one-on-one defense, which every team needs. He also gives them a guy who wants his share of shots, which the Lakers do not need—not with Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom already on board.
Artest has said all the right things thus far. If he does them, the Lakers will have successfully strengthened their championship window, given that Bryant, Gasol, Artest and possibly Odom (should they re-sign him) are all in the prime of their careers.
Celtics Stock up with 'Sheed
Rasheed Wallace is a hothead. Rasheed Wallace shoots from the outside too much instead of posting up down low. He will blow up at the least convenient time.
With 29 other teams, that's true.
With the Celtics franchise and teammates Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce around him, it's not.
Boston is a team that demands respect with its legacy. Garnett and company demand respect with their example and presence. Even the temperamental Wallace will cool off under all that.
'Sheed gives them a big-game performer that gets under the opponent's skin, much as Dennis Rodman did for the Bulls in the late 90s. His ability to hit from anywhere will also free up Pierce and Ray Allen, who was hunted to distraction in the postseason without Garnett to take away the pressure.
Like the Lakers, Boston is trying to maximize its core's window of opportunity, rather than investing big money in a younger standout player (Glen Davis). It could very well pay off in the short-term. It could also speed up Boston's fall from its 2008 glory.