I love blockbuster trades. When your team is looking to buy, there is nothing more exciting than the thought of a major roster addition and all the hype that goes with it. But beyond my natural desire to feel the rush of a major trade, because the Cavs approached this deadline as an elite team with a major asset to move in a buyer's market, my expectations were through the roof. To put it mildly, I had been eagerly anticipating this day for months in the hope that it would be the day that the Cavs potentially took the next step from contender to favorite.
Well, we're now two hours past the deadline and we can be sure that, with the exception of the potential addition of a Joe Smith or Mikki Moore, the Cavs roster will remain unchanged . . . and much to my surprise, I'm thrilled. I don't know what happened in the last 24 hours but somehow, I went from being desperate for the addition of a marquee player to excited about the future that lays ahead as the current roster gears up for the playoffs. How did this happen? Well, I'm not 100% sure but I can basically attribute it to a few factors:
1. I was outraged by the demands of other teams:
Plain and simple, in this economy, any team that is at or near the luxury tax threshold and is not contending should be giving away big contracts solely for cap relief and should be damn thankful for the opportunity to do so. For the Cavs to be offering Wally to a team like Milwaukee, the Clippers or Washington is an absolute gift. These teams have no chance of contending any time in the foreseeable future and will be hemmoraging money all along the way. Really Donald Sterling? You're not interested in a free $10 million dollars in exchange for a guy who will have no material impact on your team's record or gate receipts? Fine, choke on it. Same to you Abe Polin and Herb Kohl. I don't fault Danny Ferry one bit for balking at any demand from a non-contending team that included any young players or picks. We're 41-11 and one of the few teams in the league willing to add a single dollar to our payroll. I think Ferry correctly determined that he had no reason to give in to the delusional demands of GMs that had no leverage, and for that, as much as I wanted another second-tier star, I applaud him.
2. I'm drinking the Cavs kool-aid:
I didn't want to watch the Raptors game last night for two reasons. One, at this time of year, I'm so fixated on the makeup of the roster that I turn a blind eye to any on-court happenings. Two, I knew they were going to win. That second thought it what's really important here. Yes, I know the Raptors are crappy. Still, it was a road game in which the Cavs would be missing two starters...yet, in my head, it was a foregone conclusion. Once I let that sink in for a bit, I started thinking back to the beginning of the season....when a healthy motivated Cavs team was absolutely demolishing everyhing in its path. More than most people, I have always been one to get wrapped up in the trade deadline...but I've also never had the good fortune to root for an awesome team. This team is really really good. They can legitimately win a title. There's a reason that Lebron wanted to keep the current roster intact (and I don't think he was just saying that for PR reasons). He thinks they're good enough to win it all. He's not the type of guy to say that just to be the good soldier. If he believes in this roster, why shouldn't I?
3. You can't completely ignore the money:
Cleveland is an impoverished mid-market city at the precipice of a frightening recession with an owner who just so happens to have his fortune tied up in the mortgage business. Gilbert, Ferry...the fans...none of us can ignore that fact. Now, I'm not for one minute suggesting that these economic realities mean that the team should do anything less than everything they possibly can to retain Lebron (the majority of the franchise's value)...but you still can't just turn a blind eye to the future financial ramifications of a trade. If you're going to pay an extra $20-40 million for a guy (salary X number of additional years on contract X 2 for the luxury tax) you'd better make damn sure that said player puts you over the top. If you're going to commit an extra $100 million to a guy, you'd better be even more certain.
I believe with full confidence that money wasn't the reason the Cavs didn't make a move today. But, and it's a very legitimate but, I'm sure it was a factor in the decision. How do you committ a small fortune to a player who is either a marginal talent upgrade or on the downside of his career without considering how it will impact your ability to re-sign your own players (Varajao), use future expiring contracts to fill more pressing holes down the road (Wallace), or pay the electric bill at the Q (obviously an exaggeration but you get my point). You can't ignore the money. Franchises that have done so in the past have consistently failed throughout the course of sports history. It's just not a good way to run a business, especially in these precarious economic times. Ferry and Gilbert have to build a winner to keep Lebron. I'm sure they're well aware of that fact. But if today is any indication, they realize that the best way to accomplish that goal isn't necessarily to go out and spend like drunken sailors with no regard for the economic ramifications of their decisions.
. . .
So, for those reasons, I'm happy that the Cavs stuck to their guns today. In regard to the deals that weren't, here are my thoughts: Camby was a no brainer if he could've been had for expiring money alone. Jamison was less of a no brainer but enough of an impact guy that his contract would've been worth the risk if the deal had just been for expiring money. Amare was another no-brainer but I don't think that deal was ever close to happening. As for the Shaq deal, I was somewhat indifferent although I can't imagine paying $40 million for a 37 year-old Shaq next year. Still, if, as rumored, the piece to be traded was Wallace rather than Wally's expiring deal, the additional cost might have been worth it for the extra offense Shaq would've brought to the table. As for Richard Jefferson, I've never liked his game and even though he can score, I'm happy the Cavs didn't bite on his 43% shooting and giant contract.
In terms of the other deals and non-deals of the day, I really only have a few comments:
1. Watching the Bulls work is insanely entertaining. Calling them a rudderless ship is an insult to rudderless ships everywhere. What on gods earth are they doing?...although in fairness, any day that you get rid of Larry Hughes is a good day in my book.
2. Dear Wizards: You still just don't get it, do you? Keep clinging to the idea that once everyone is healthy, you'll be a contender. As a Cavs fan, I'm just trembling at the thought of Arenas limping around firing up terrible shots while Blake Griffin, Brendan Haywood, and 30 somethings Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison look on in disgust. Great plan Wiz. Keep swimming the opposite direction while teams like the Cavs try to throw you life preservers.
3. Probably a smart move by the Magic getting Alston. You can't just take a 39-14 team and leave them for dead without at least trying to fill the void left by Nelson. Still, i'm not exactly worried. Alston is a chucker with a PER in the Pavlovic zone, not a guy who can really fill Nelson's shoes.
4. I read somehwere that Boston is pretty confident that they can land Joe Smith if and when he gets bought out. I have no idea what Smith's intentions really are but I can't imagine that he is really thinking about signing with Boston over Cleveland. If he is, maybe someone should let him in on a little secret: The Cavs are better than the Celtics.
That's it. Time to put this deadline in the books and get ready for what I fully expect will be the most exciting Spring and Summer of Cavs basketball ever. I'll say it one last time: I love this team and I sincerely believe that they can win this thing.