As I'm writing this, it's Saturday afternoon and we still have yet to see Ben Wallace and the new Cavs crew take the floor for the Wine and Gold. Provided all players involved in the trade pass their physicals, the new-look Cavs lineup should make its debut Sunday evening against the Grizzlies.
After several nights' worth of sleeping on the trade and reading some of the reaction, here are some additional thoughts:
The biggest complaint against this trade appears to be the fact that the Cavs lost their best perimeter defender in Larry Hughes. It's a legitimate complaint.
Danny Ferry traded perimeter defense for interior defense. Even with Wallace inside, it doesn't totally make up for the fact that Mike Brown is going to have to find new solutions to stop the likes of Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton in the Cavs-Pistons playoff series that will inevitably occur if the Cavs are to make it back to the Finals this spring.
Hughes, even on a bum leg, harassed Billups and Hamilton enough to take the edge off their games in last spring's Eastern Conference Finals. With Hughes gone, Eric Snow is now the Cavs' best perimeter defender, and it appears that it's taking a long time for him to recover from his preseason knee surgery.
Even with Snow 100 percent recovered, it's still hard to envision a Cavs lineup with the offensively-challenged Snow, Wallace and Anderson Varejao on the floor together in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. Even if LeBron James and Wally Szczerbiak are the other two on the floor, they would still be hard-pressed to play offense two-on-five.
That means Brown is going to have to get creative when addressing the perimeter defense issue. With Delonte West's athleticism at his disposal, there is always the possibility that Brown could grind defense into his head the way he did with Sasha Pavlovic, who is now a respectable defender. If Brown can get "Offense Is My Defense" Pavlovic to embrace basic defensive principles, there is reason to believe Brown could do the same with West, who has the added bonus of not being a born-and-bred Euro-softie working in his favor.
Did Ferry panic?
Count Joel Hammond among those who believe that Danny Ferry caved to the demands of LeBron in making this deal. Joel, like me, would just as soon have seen the Cavs wait until the summer to make a major move than watch Ferry mess with the expiring contracts and subsequent financial flexibility he had waiting for him once this season ends.
The thing is, Ferry really didn't mess with the Cavs' flexibility. In fact, he now has more money in expiring contracts to work with this summer.
Yes, I believe like Joel that Ferry was pressured into making a trade like this at least in part by LeBron's camp. A number of national media outlets have reported time and again that LeBron's camp -- possibly apart from LeBron -- is dangling his potential departure in 2010 over the organization's head like the Sword of Damocles. But given the landscape of the situation and the high-risk magnitude of the trade, Ferry actually positioned the Cavs fairly well for the coming two years.
Ferry could have taken on multiple horrible contracts, saddling the team for the next three or four years. But outside of Wallace's albatross of a deal, which more or less replaced Hughes' albatross of a deal, Ferry kept the Cavs nimble, at least from a trade standpoint.
Ferry traded away two contracts that would have come off the books at season's end (Ira Newble, $3.4 million; Shannon Brown, $1 million) and three deals that would have become expiring contracts this summer (Drew Gooden, $6.4 million; Donyell Marshall, $5.5 million; Cedric Simmons, $1.6 million). In return, he took on two deals that will become expiring contracts this summer (Szczerbiak, $12.3 million; Joe Smith, $5.2 million) and one deal that could potentially come off the books at season's end (West, $1.8 million with a $2.7 million qualifying offer for next season).
In total, Ferry shipped out about $4.4 million in expiring deals this year and took on about $2 million. For the purposes of this summer, Ferry shipped out about $13.5 million in '08-'09 expiring deals, taking on about $17.5 million. So while Ferry will have less money coming off the books this summer, he'll have an additional $4 million in expiring deals to play with on the trade market if he so chooses. That's on top of the deals of Eric Snow ($7 million), Damon Jones ($4 million) and Anderson Varejao ($5 million) that will enter expiring status this summer.
In short: Ferry will have the ammo to make another significant trade during the offseason, depending on who he's willing to give up and what he's willing to take on, and how much more luxury tax Dan Gilbert is willing to pay.
Good luck, Larry
Larry Hughes got a bum rap for all the shots he took and missed during his two and a half seasons in Cleveland. After his ticket to Chicago was punched, he told assembled media that he simply didn't fit here, that it was a bad match of player to scheme.
It wasn't all that. Hughes took way too many jumpers, had poor shot mechanics and, until his recent spike in play, it had become apparent that he was avoiding contact on drives to the hoop for fear of injury.
Having said all that, Hughes is a smart basketball player, and it's a shame it didn't work out better for him here. Despite all the masonry he laid from 20 feet, he understands how the game is supposed to be played, he treated defense like something more than a necessary evil, and he willingly, if sometimes not happily, accepted his role as LeBron's lieutenant.
During his stay in Cleveland, Hughes' brother died of heart failure and his wife had to undergo surgery for a brain aneurysm, which undoubtedly affected his play, though he continued to plow through the adversity and stay on the court when his brittle body would let him.
I know Cavs fans from Columbus to Ashtabula are ecstatic that Ferry foisted Hughes off on another team. But I sincerely hope his fortunes take a turn for the better with the Bulls.
One man's trash...
I'm also hoping with every bit as much sincerity that Ben Wallace's attitude takes a turn for the better with new surroundings.
Wallace is one of the NBA's iconic tough guys. Like Rick Mahorn and Paul Silas in eras previous, he makes his living by projecting a salty persona on the court. The trouble is, Wallace can be every bit as salty off the court.
Think Kenny Lofton with height and muscles. Wallace is moody, temperamental and prone to sulking when he doesn't get his way. And for a year and a half in Chicago, he seldom got his way.
All you had to do was listen to Wallace's departing comments to the Chicagoland media, and it's easy to see why most Bulls fans aren't sorry to see him go.
''I'm used to being under the bus by myself, so that doesn't bother me,'' the SouthtownStar quoted Wallace as saying shortly before he hopped a plane for Cleveland.
Chicago-area columnists reacting to the trade painted a picture of a destructive locker-room force, a player of whom much was expected and little realized, a player as responsible as anyone for the Bulls' smoking crater of a season, one year after going 49-33 and reaching the second round of the playoffs.
"When he arrived, the impression was that Wallace was the perfect teammate, one willing to run his hands through the mud and do the hard labor – rebound, defend, knock on his butt some foolish guard who thought it’d be wise to drive the lane," wrote the Northwest Herald's Nick Pietruszkiewicz. "When he exited Thursday, Wallace showed one final time the true lessons he had taught the Bulls’ youth over the past 18 months, that the individual meant more than the team."
In Detroit, Wallace had other veteran teammates to perhaps keep his attitude in check. In Chicago, that veteran presence really didn't exist. We can only hope that the presence of LeBron, Joe Smith, Eric Snow and other leadership-minded veterans can help Wallace get back to the mental place where he resided when he played such dominant interior basketball for the Pistons.
The most important item: Does LeBron approve?
If early returns are true, His Kingness gives the trade a thumbs up. Not Roger Ebert two-thumbs-way-up, but based on his comments to the media, it appears he approves of the trade on a wait-and-see basis.
At least it was Ferry acknowledging that the Cavs needed personnel improvements to have a realistic shot of winning a title, something LeBron had been looking for out of the front office since the Finals ended last spring.
LeBron put in one last plug for Jason Kidd, the teammate he really wanted. But he seems to like the fact that Ferry wasn't afraid to shake up a roster that had plateaued, and do it midseason.
Prior to Friday's shorthanded win over the Wizards, LeBron brought his new teammates, in street clothes and on their way to watch the game in Dan Gilbert's suite, into the pregame huddle right before the active Cavs ran out onto the floor. It was a nice moment of unity for the new-look Cavs, but only time will tell how long it will take for that unity to become evident on the floor, and more importantly, in the standings.