During the last two seasons there were few people who watched more Cleveland Cavs games than I did. Many homework assignments were put off or neglected entirely because I was entrenched in front of the TV to watch the Wine and Gold. But this year has been different. I ve become bored with the Cavs and have admittedly slacked as a fan. It became frustrating to watch the same group of mediocre players stand around while LeBron James tried to win games on his own. I felt as though there was no chance the Cavs would return to the NBA finals, and winning the title was completely out of the question. Why waste my time?
My feelings have changed significantly following today s blockbuster trade that has invigorated both the Cavs --- and if I m at all representative of the masses --- and their fan base. As part of a three-team, 11-player deal, the Cavs acquired Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Chicago s second-round draft pick. Are the Cavs now a title contender? Eh, I don t know. But they are once again exciting and I m absolutely jazzed.
For those who had hoped to read about BG basketball, scroll to the bottom of the page. For those interested in the Cavs transactions, keep reading.
- Ben Wallace is the most important piece to this trade. If he is able to find his old self from the Detroit days, or even close to it, this becomes an excellent deal for the Cavs. If not, the trade won t be viewed as anything less than decent. Wallace was not happy with his role in Chicago, and like Shaq, who was recently traded to Phoenix, an address change might be all Wallace needs. Don t forget that his defensive impact in Detroit was based largely on the contributions along the perimeter of Prince, Hamilton, Billups, etc The Cavs play solid team defense, which just might free up Wallace to again become a nasty low-post defender.
- You re going to see many opponents settle for jumpers because they ll be reluctant to attack the basket against Wallace and flop-artist Anderson Varaejo.
- Similarly, I think Larry Hughes, who is on his way to Chicago, can resurrect his career in a new setting. Hughes was a colossal failure in Cleveland, and no one should be saddened to see him go. He couldn t stay healthy, couldn t knock down open shots, and fit awkwardly in a system in which he did not have a defined role. By all accounts, Hughes is nice guy and a respected professional, but he simply was not what Cleveland had in mind when they signed him to a lucrative deal three years ago. Good riddance.
- I ve always been a Drew Gooden supporter, but what can really be said about a guy who wasn t trusted to play in the fourth quarter? He ll do well in Chicago but won t be sorely missed in Cleveland. As for the departures of Ira Newble, Cedrick Simmons, Shannon Brown and Donyell Marshall Cleveland has trimmed some fat along its waste line.
- I m sensing that many fans are frustrated that the Cavs couldn t make a deal for a legit point guard, notably Jason Kidd or Mike Bibby. Folks, trades in the NBA are hard to complete, and the Cavs simply did not have enough assets to pull the trigger on a deal to bring in an all-star caliber point guard. Apply a little perspective and you ll understand that. Delonte West is anything but an all-star caliber point guard, but he s young and reasonably talented.
- I m most intrigued by the addition of Wallace, but perhaps I m more excited about obtaining Szczerbiak. The former Miami of Ohio great is shooting almost 43 percent from beyond the arc this season, which will complement the outside touch of Boobie Gibson (47 percent on 3-point tries) very nicely. Just imagine LeBron bringing the ball up the floor. To one side of him is Wally. To the other is Boobie. Talk about stretching a defense. I m not too concerned with Szczerbiak s egregious contract (more than $12 million a year) because it will be off the books after next season.
- This trade also adds stronger depth for the playoffs. Imagine the starting lineup (Z, Wallace, LeBron, Wally and West/Gibson) backed up by a strong bench (West/Gibson, Varaejo, Smith, Pavlovic). That rotation doesn t even include Devin Brown or Damon Jones, who are both capable in small stretches.
- Lastly, I want to recognize the Akron Beacon Journal s Brian Windhorst for breaking this story on his blog last night. The original deal had Hughes going to Chicago for Wallace straight up, but obviously things became more complicated today. Windhorst got ripped by his readers for providing minimal details, which just baffles me to no end. He had to protect his sources, who would have alienated him had he released too much information. It s laughable that readers failed to consider the long-term ramifications of such behavior. Brian is a friend in the industry and has on several occasions advised me on career decisions. He s one of the best.
Now for some thoughts on BG basketball. Ladies first.
- Saturday s game at Miami is a biggie. The RedHawks dealt BG its first conference loss, which began that inexplicable three-game losing streak. The teams are tied atop the MAC at 9-3, one win ahead of Ohio (8-3) which has yet to make-up its game against Northern Illinois. BG visits OU on Wednesday, making Saturday s visit to Oxford even more important. Should the Falcons win both, the MAC title will likely be theirs. Pretty remarkable for a team that graduated five of its six best players. Also, Curt Miller will become the winningest coach in program history with one more victory. It would be sweet for that to happen Saturday. Not that further validation was needed, but this season proves just how great of a coach Miller is.
- I m not surprised the men have lost five of six. With the possible exception of the Central Michigan game, the Falcons haven t lost a MAC game they absolutely should have won. Conversely, wins over Ohio and Miami were unexpected. BG is not a great team and does not have enough good players, but the future is bright under Louis Orr, who most consider to be a very good coach. It s possible BG may not win another regular season MAC game (although a win at Buffalo on March 4 seems likely) but none of that will matter when the tournament starts. Who knows, maybe the Falcons will find some magic in Cleveland. If not, this season was a solid step in the right direction.