INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry isn’t guaranteeing a championship in 2008, but he’s confident his team is closer to reaching that goal now than it was at 2:58 p.m. Thursday.
That’s why Ferry started finalizing a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics at 2:59 p.m., one minute before the NBA trade deadline.
By the time the deal was complete, 11 players and a draft pick were involved.
The Cavs got big men Ben Wallace and Joe Smith from Chicago and guards Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West from Seattle. They also acquired a second-round pick in 2009 from the Bulls. In return, the Cavs sent Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall to the Sonics and Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown to the Bulls. Seattle, which was basically trying to clear salary cap room, also got Adrian Griffin from Chicago.
“I didn’t think we were good enough to win the championship (prior to the trade),” said Ferry, who wrapped up talks with the league office at 7:20 p.m. “I thought we had a very good team, but if we had a chance to make it better, we should try.
“We want to win a championship. This was a situation where we felt we could better our chances.”
All told, the Cavs dealt six players who were earning a combined $29.1 million this season and received four players earning $34.6 million.
Wallace is making $15.5 million in 2007-08, but that figure goes down to $14.5 million in 2008-09 and $14 million in 2009-10. Szczerbiak is earning $12 million this season and will make $13 million next season, while Smith is getting $5.2 million this season and will earn $4.9 million next season. West is making $1.9 million in 2007-08 and has a qualifying offer for next season.
Hughes’ contract will go from $12 million this season to $12.8 million next season and $13.7 million in 2009-2010, while Gooden is making $6.4 million this season and will earn $7.1 million in 2008-09. Marshall’s contract ($5.7 million this season, $5.95 million next season) is similar to Gooden’s, while Newble is making $3.4 million in the final year of his pact.
Simmons is making $1.6 million this season and will earn about $2 million in 2008-09, while Brown will be an unrestricted free agent after earning $1 million this season.
“We haven’t done anything to mess with our salary cap flexibility,” said Ferry, whose team payroll for 2007-08 jumped from $76.3 million to $80.8 million.
“This demonstrates (owner) Dan Gilbert’s commitment to our organization and city to bring a championship to Cleveland.”
From the Cavs’ perspective, the keys to the deal were getting rid of Hughes, who never jelled with LeBron James, and adding Wallace and Szczerbiak.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Wallace was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year with Detroit, but his numbers and impact went steadily downhill after he signed with Chicago as a free agent in 2006.
The 33-year-old Wallace, a 41.7 percent shooter at the foul line over his 12-year career, was averaging 5.1 points and 8.8 rebounds this season for the disappointing Bulls.
“We’re trying to build our identity on defense,” Ferry said. “Adding a guy of his stature and abilities … hopefully can be big for us. Ben Wallace is tough.”
Ideally, it would seem that the Cavs would want Wallace to team with 7-3 center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland’s starting lineup, but coach Mike Brown would only say the two could “possibly” play together.
Szczerbiak, who played his college ball at Miami of Ohio, should give the Cavs the consistent outside scoring threat they’ve lacked. The 6-7, 245-pounder was averaging 13.1 points and shooting 42.8 percent from behind the arc for the Sonics this season.
“When you have a superstar like LeBron James who passes, it’s important to be able to put shooters around him,” Ferry said.
“One thing we’ve learned is shooting is invaluable to us.”
Szczerbiak, who turns 31 on March 5, has averaged between 14 and 19 points six times in his nine-year career. He’s considered a defensive liability, but he’s also an intelligent player who should improve in that area in Mike Brown’s system.
Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA Draft out of Maryland, can play any position on the front line. The 6-10, 225-pounder isn’t great in any one area, but he’s decent in all facets.
“Joe Smith is a pro,” Ferry said of the 32-year-old, 13-year-veteran, who has averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds for his career.
West is the least-known player Cleveland acquired, but the 6-3, 180-pound left-hander might end up being the key to the deal if he can step in at point guard. The 24-year-old has averaged 9.8 points and 3.7 assists over his four-year career.
“He’s a basketball player,” Ferry said. “He knows how to play. He’s good at everything.”
Talks with Seattle and Chicago initially began as separate deals several weeks ago, but eventually led to one big trade in order to make it work for everyone under salary cap guidelines.
“We lost some really good players today, but hopefully we got some players that fit in different ways to propel us to an even higher level,” Ferry said.
“We were not in urgent mode to make a trade. We wanted to do something that will make us better.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.