DALLAS – Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry met Friday at All-Star weekend, a sure sign that Cavaliers’ pursuit of Amar’e Stoudemire has intensified. But if anybody knows the downside of such a move, it’s Kerr.
One snag in a possible pairing of Stoudemire and LeBron James in Cleveland would be another kind of pairing that’s already been tried and didn’t work. Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire could not co-exist in Phoenix, one of many reasons Kerr was forced to undo his mistake and send Shaq to the Cavs.
According to sources, there’s a fear among some members of the Cavs’ organization that, while Stoudemire would be a good long-term pairing with LeBron, incorporating him on the floor with Shaq might present too difficult an adjustment for the rest of the season. In Phoenix, Shaq and Stoudemire were unable to make the low-post, high-post thing work – and that was with a world-class point guard, Steve Nash. With the Cavs, Shaq and Amar’e clogging the middle might frustrate LeBron and turn him into too much of a jump shooter.
This problem would be moot after the season, when Shaq presumably will sign with another team or retire. But with an NBA-best 37-11 record at the All-Star break, shaking things up would be risky. It only underscores how critical this decision is for Cleveland. Make a bold move to placate LeBron, only to risk accelerating his departure.
The Cavs brass are said to be consulting LeBron on all matters Amar’e, and it’s possible that James will be able to sell GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown that he could make it work. Having said that, sources say the Miami Heat’s interest in Stoudemire has not waned. Miami, though, has the luxury of possessing enough cap space to sign a marquee free agent to pair with Dwyane Wade this summer. The Cavs are capped out and would only be able to give LeBron another top-shelf free agent through sign-and-trades.
With that sense of urgency in mind, the Cavs have not moved off Washington’s Antawn Jamison as a solution. Jamison was James’ original target, and sources say the Wizards – despite playing hard-ball in discussions with rival GMs – are now committed to trading Jamison. Like Phoenix, the Wizards don’t merely want cap relief in exchange. They want assets and possibly a quality draft pick as well.
Here’s more of the trade chatter, culled from conversations with GMs, agents, and others in the know in Dallas and beyond:
• The Wizards-Mavericks deal has now expanded to include two more players and now looks like this: Washington gets Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, sources say. You may be wondering, as I am, why Washington chose this deal instead of another blockbuster that would’ve sent Jamison and Butler to Boston for a package including Ray Allen. According to sources, a handful of Eastern Conference GMs pressured Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld to shy away from the Boston deal for obvious reasons. “It would screw up the balance of power in the East for three years,” one executive said. One theory circulating in Dallas is that Grunfeld didn’t want to alienate other teams he might need to do business with as he continues dismantling the roster in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas firearms fiasco.
• There’s hope in some circles that talks between the Rockets and Bulls on a deal centering around Tracy McGrady and Tyrus Thomas could be rekindled, although one source with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Houston’s interest in Thomas could be separate from any McGrady scenario. McGrady’s $23 million expiring contract would help the Bulls amass the kind of cap space they’re seeking in their bid to lure two max free agents this summer. But several other teams – Portland, San Antonio, and Denver – could have more to offer.
• The Knicks continue to pursue Thomas in a package that would send Al Harrington and his $10 million expiring contract to Chicago. Harrington’s movement-killing tendencies on offense are frustrating coach Mike D’Antoni, who believes Thomas’ length and athleticism would be a good long-term fit. In any event, D’Antoni would get to look at Thomas in his system for the rest of the season before deciding whether to retain him as a restricted free agent.