Just like everything else that has happened to the Cavaliers over the last seven years, Wednesday’s acquisition of Antawn Jamison inevitably has everything to do with LeBron James‘ future.
Going into the trading season, the only thing we knew was that Cleveland would make some move for somebody’s power forward: Whether it was Amar’e Stoudemire or Jamison or Troy Murphy or (gulp) Corey Maggette was the open question mark. And whichever player the Cavs landed, the move itself was bound to be a defining factor in — not just whether the Cavs can win a championship in 2010 — but whether the Cavs keep LeBron on their side when he becomes a free agent this summer.
Everybody knows what is at stake: You make LeBron happy, you ensure the best basketball player in the world over the next 8-10 years stays in your locker room. Give him enough reasons to lose trust in the organization, and you become the city of Seattle, watching and wondering for the rest of your life how you let the franchise slip away.
Amar’e was the No. 1 pick, a proven young superstar who is one of the five to seven best big men in the NBA. No matter what you think of Stoudemire’s flaws, his arrival in Cleveland would signal to LeBron that his team was willing to do pull the trigger on a risky move and surround him with elite talent. It would be a sign of commitment. And if everything LBJ says about wanting to win championships is true, seeing Amar’e in a Cavs uniform would rightfully make the front-office suits in New York, Chicago, Miami, and anywhere else LeBron was on the target board sick to their stomachs.
On the flip side, had the Cavs brought in Maggette, they might as well have asked the Warriors to include LeBron’s first-class plane ticket to anywhere out of Cleveland in the trade. Maggette isn’t horrible and he can definitely score for a team short on pure scorers. But LeBron would never forget that in a season where he was playing better than ever, the organization had multiple choices to get him an All-Star caliber sidekick and instead filled the “None of the Above” bubble on his wish list.
Jamison? He’s not on the level of Amar’e, but he’s no crappy consolation prize. He was an All-Star as recently as 2008, and this season is putting up 20.5 points and 8.8 boards a night. At 33 years old he’s less of a long-term option than Amar’e or even Murphy, but Jamison at least has enough in the tank to make the Cavs an even more dangerous playoff team right away.
I’ve gotten on Jamison for his shot-jacking in the past, but the bottom line is he produces. He’s like Zach Randolph in that he’ll get his 20-and-10 even if he frustrates you sometimes with his decision making. And you could even argue that the bad habits Jamison has picked up are more the result of being infected with Washington Wizards poison than anything. Given a fresh start on a Cleveland squad that has a real chance to win it all, Jamison could re-learn to keep his ego in check and be a difference-maker.
Jamison is a good pickup for the Cavs, and more importantly, a good pickup for LeBron. His arrival doesn’t guarantee anything, but put it this way: The chances LeBron stays in Cleveland beyond 2010 are better now than they were the day before yesterday.
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