tclakin

Shaq to Cleveland: Does it Matter?

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm
Shaq and LeBron will team up in Cleveland next year

Shaq and LeBron will team up in Cleveland next year

ESPN.com is reporting that the the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns have agreed to a deal that will send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic, plus the 46th pick in this year’s draft and $500,000 to Phoenix for Shaquille O’Neal, providing a dominant inside presence for the reigning MVP, LeBron James.

Shaq and LeBron? Whoa.

On paper, this trade is a blockbuster, an absolute game-changer. On paper, Shaq gives LeBron the force down low he has been sorely lacking thus far in his title quest. On paper, the Cleveland Cavaliers just won the 2010 NBA Championship.

But in reality, what does this deal really mean for a team and a city desperately trying to hold on to soon-to-be free agent James, their homegrown franchise face and future Hall of Famer?

It means…well, nothing, at least in the long run as far as I’m concerned. Sure, it’s a huge deal, one that – if O’Neal stays healthy and rested during the regular season – can potentially carry the 2010 Cavs team deep into the postseason, maybe even to a championship. But even if Shaq can somehow manage to get in shape, regain his former dominance, and help lead the Cavs to a title – and that’s a HUGE if – what happens after the season? In the summer of 2010, regardless of what happens during the season, both Shaq and LeBron will be free agents. Say the Cavs win the title – Do Shaq and LeBron reunite for another run at a ring in 2011? Or is it more likely that Shaq, wanting to retire on top, calls it a career and leaves LeBron to shoulder the burden of a woefully weak Cavs team?

Doesn’t it sort of feel like this trade is a little…well, desperate?

I mean, the Cavs just traded for a 37 year old overweight Big Name well past his prime. Sure, the argument can be made that Shaq gives them a shot at the title this year (true) and that when his contract expires next year, the Cavs will free up a lot of money to sign LeBron and go after another big free agent (Chris Bosh?) in a loaded FA class (also true). But, at the same time – the Cavs have had 6 years now during which to build a solid team around LBJ and, before today, the second best young player on the team was….Mo Williams. That kind of growth doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and it won’t go a long way towards ensuring that LeBron stays in Cleveland after next year.

Neither will this trade. What the Shaq deal does do, however, is 2 things: It makes the Cavs an exciting team to watch next year and it serves as a “Look how hard we’re trying!” gesture for LeBron. But when the final NBA whistle is blown next June, Shaq will be gone and LeBron is still going to be forced to choose between the loyalty of his home town and the bright lights of a big city.

If I were him, I’d go hang with Jay-Z. But that’s just me.

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