Cleveland isn’t in a good stretch at the moment:
The city of Cleveland has experienced one sports victory since the end of September. The Browns, Indians and Cavs are a combined 1-20 in their last 21 games. The city has one win in October in 10 tries between three sports, and amazingly enough, it came from the Browns.
Things aren’t great; Rolling Stone is making fun of the Browns’ coach, Cleveland fans seems to have forgotten that Adrian Wojnarowski does this every year (last year it was after only one game and he had LBJ going to freaking Detroit) and the Cavs seem to be on the verge of making a panic move:
Golden State wants Zydrunas Ilgauskas from Cleveland, but the Cavs aren’t willing to give him up because they need him to back up Shaq. The Warriors would like Manu Ginobili from the Spurs, but I can’t see the Spurs parting with Manu. I’m told the Warriors’ discussions with Denver were brief because Jackson’s $7.65 million salary doesn’t fit under their $7.4 million trade exception.
- Our evening check, via NBA front-office sources, likewise suggested that Golden State is still getting largely unappetizing offers for Jackson. The Warriors are undoubtedly prepared to move Jackson but have said from the start that they won’t rush the process just for the sake of making a deal.
- Cleveland nonetheless continues to be nominated by executives around the league as the most likely destination for Jackson. Yet we must again pass along the disclaimer that obstacles to a Cavs-Warriors swap remain, even if Cleveland’s 0-2 start has put LeBron James and his overhauled supporting cast on a path toward desperate faster than anyone imagined.
- Sources say that both LeBron and Shaq — although they have no plans to say so publicly – like the idea of acquiring Jackson. But Cleveland’s reluctance to part with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his $11.5 million expiring contract in the exchange, which would make the Cavs smaller as a team and strip them of their O’Neal injury insurance, has been well chronicled.
- If the Warriors were willing to package Ronny Turiaf along with Jackson or planning to waive Ilgauskas after they got him – potentially setting up Big Z to rejoin the Cavs after a 30-day wait as seen last season with Antonio McDyess – Cleveland’s perspective would presumably change. Every signal I’m getting, though, suggests that Golden State would be amenable to neither of those scenarios.
- So, either another team (or two) must be recruited to help facilitate a Jackson-to-Cleveland swap. Or that deal depends on the early season discomfort in Cleveland or Golden State reaching the point that it causes one of the teams involved to amend their current stance.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I think Stephen Jackson would be an awesome starting 2 guard next to LeBron. On the other hand, his contract stinks and I’m not sure that, if the Cavs are trading Z, that Stephen Jackson is right guy coming back. I also have a really hard time giving up on last years core to make sure Shaq works out. Also, you’re gonna have Mike Brown work Shaq and S-Jax into the offense on the fly? Sweet (though to be fair to Brown, Shaq spent the summer filming a reality show and LeBron was on a book/movie tour- it’s not like they were logging time on the practice court together working out their kinks).
As I wrote the other the day, the starting 5 from last year’s 66 win team is still intact (Delonte pending, but still), they shouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
The Cavs really only have two options if the Shaquisition doesn’t go well: they can cut their losses or double down.
To me, cutting their losses doesn’t mean dumping Shaq all together (though that’s certainly an option), but it does require then to move Shaq to the bench. Shaq’s ego aside, I don’t think this should go too badly:
The other thing that starting Z does for the offense is it allows the Cavaliers to separate LeBron and Shaq. As of right now, those 2 are not showing any signs of being able to coexist in this offense. Furthermore, the Cavaliers bench is getting destroyed when LeBron sits. Because Shaq relies on his inside post game, coming off the bench cold isn’t quite as big of an issue. By moving Shaq to the 2nd unit, you can allow the first team offense to run as normal, and then when Shaq comes in you can focus on running the offense through him. It would give the bench unit an offensive presence to lean on, which is something sorely missed right now.
I know this team got exposed against Orlando last year but there’s no need to blow this squad up. They needed some perimeter length and some extra size down low, two issues they’ve addressed this offseason (Parker and Moon for length, Shaq and Powe for size). Trading for yet another starter (or will The Captain be willing to come off the bench?) and getting further and further away from what worked so well a season doesn’t seem too bright to me.
Do Mike Brown and Danny Ferry have the testicular fortitude to reinsert Z into the starting lineup (rather, move Shaq to the bench)? I doubt it. But I really really really hope they do (and hell, you could even start Shaq down the road once everyone gets comfortable with each other). Despite how the season ended, the Cavs had a really good basketball team. It’d be a shame to screw that up.