In the days before the NBA trading deadline last month, LeBron James was miffed and didn't hide his frustration. While other contending teams were making moves to gear up for what should be a wide-open playoff race this spring, the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared to be standing pat -- again.
|Ben Wallace does give the Cavs another big body, but can he help get them a ring? (AP)|
James' plea for help -- particularly an All Star-caliber player to take pressure off him -- appeared to be falling on deaf ears. But Cavaliers management stepped up just minutes before the Feb. 21 deadline to pull off an 11-player, three-team blockbuster that essentially brought Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West to town for Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and Donyell Marshall.
"This isn't the type of deal I expected," James said then. "You guys heard what I wanted, but I am grateful for the situation. We got some good caliber guys that are coming in.
"We've added some depth to our front line, which we needed, and we added some more shooting, which we needed. We don't have much time, but what is good about the guys that came in is that they have playoff experience."
The trade certainly makes James happy, but it remains to be seen whether it makes the Cavaliers better.
The key to the deal (and whether the Cavaliers can repeat as Eastern Conference champs) is which Wallace shows up -- the defensive enforcer/rebounding maven from his days with the Detroit Pistons or the seemingly washed-up performer from his 1½ years with the Chicago Bulls.
That remains to be seen, but it's clear that Wallace, 33, is motivated after moving up six spots in the conference standings.
"I'm excited," he said. "Things like changed over night for me. Fighting, trying to get in the playoff picture and then getting traded over here and you're right there in the playoff [hunt] trying to move up in the standings.
"This is a team that's just not trying to get in the playoffs; it's trying to win a championship. At this point of my career, that's who I want to be playing for. I definitely don't want to be on a team that's trying to rebuild. I know my days in this league are numbered."
So far, the results on the court have been mixed. The Cavaliers were 3-2 since the players involved in the trade donned Cleveland uniforms heading into Wednesday night's game at New York.
As for Wallace, he was averaging eight points and 8.8 rebounds in the five games. The scoring average is up from the 5.1 points he averaged in 51 games with the Bulls this season, while the rebounding average is exactly the same.
The Cavaliers can live with the offensively challenged Wallace scoring eight points a game, but ideally would like to see him average double figures in rebounding.