Updated March 2
When looking to deal Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his attractive expiring contact at the trade deadline, rumor has it the Cavaliers considered only partners likely to waive the big guy, allowing him to return to Cleveland this season.
Some believe the Cavs even went as far as to require "off the record" that the other club cut the veteran before March 1 so he would be eligible for postseason play after he signed back with his old team.
|The Cavs, who are now without Shaquille O'Neal, could regain Zydrunas Ilgauskas' services later this month. (Getty Images)|
Look, I'm not here to say the Cavaliers did anything illegal or even unethical in their successful double-dipping -- acquiring Antawn Jamison from Washington without really losing Ilgauskas -- on Feb. 17. Rumors are, after all, rumors.
But Ilgauskas is widely expected to re-sign with Cleveland later this month, and when a move appears so shady it leaves itself wide open to such suspicion, the NBA really needs to change its rules.
Allowing a team to acquire a potential difference-maker while at the same time basically assuring it loses nothing isn't fair to fellow competitors.
In the past, the NBA has taken steps to prevent such transactions. First it placed restrictions on the number of first-round picks a team could trade. Then it required that all trades be of equal financial value.
Now it has this problem on its hands, and once again stepping in to prevent it from reoccurring seems obvious.
How can this be addressed? Simple. Instead of waiting just 30 days, a traded player cannot play again for the team that dealt him until the start of the next season. Period.
There goes your problem.
In fact, I would take this rule one step further.
Another popular late-season occurrence in recent years has been buyouts. They seem like a win-win situation: The team saves money it owes to a generally useless player, while the guy gets a chance to leave for a better situation and yet still gets most of what was guaranteed in his contract.
So you end up with Mike James for all intents and purposes refusing to play anymore for a bad team like the Wizards, forcing them to pay just to send his selfish act elsewhere.
Berger: Z-to-Cavs a foregone conclusion
Again I say: There's something wrong with that.
There has to be a way to allow a club to rid itself of such a headache and save a little money in doing so, while at the same time giving the guy an incentive to accept 75 cents on the dollar (or whatever the going buyout rate is at the time).
In fact, there is such a compromise: Make any buyout recipient ineligible for the playoffs that season.
The team still gets an opportunity to extract a problem and pocket the change; the player still gets his money and a one-way ticket to greener pastures. The only difference is the guy can't relocate into a situation where he affects the balance of power, eliminating the temptation for title-chasers to encourage such bad behavior.
Bottom line: The NBA is better off if Ilgauskas and James sit out the rest of the season, rather than potentially play a role in some innocent bystander's postseason demise.
And why would these two highly compensated players complain? They would be getting paid to do nothing.
Commissioner Stern, it's time for you to step in.
With or without Ilgauskas, it's looking more and more like a Cavaliers-Lakers showdown in the NBA Finals. They remain far-and-away 1-2 in my weekly CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings.