Cavs no strangers to deadline deals
While he was walking through the halls of Quicken Loans Arena prior to a recent game, Danny Ferry paused to let LeBron James pass into the Cavaliers' locker room.
Every move Ferry makes seems to be geared toward his superstar.
Now as James' pending free agency nears this summer, Ferry could be facing his most challenging moment in his five years as Cleveland's general manager.
The Cavaliers are again center stage amid trade speculation as Thursday's 3 p.m. EST deadline looms. Last season it focused on Shaquille O'Neal, whom the Cavaliers tried to acquire from Phoenix on deadline day. Both teams passed during the season, only to strike a deal over the summer.
Now they're at it again.
Cleveland is trying to acquire Amare Stoudemire, although Suns general manager Steve Kerr believes the decision on whether to trade the All-Star forward will probably come down to Thursday's deadline.
``Nothing has changed,'' Kerr said Tuesday. ``I'm still gathering information.''
Along with Cleveland, Miami and Philadelphia have been linked to the Suns as potential trade partners for Stoudemire. As Phoenix prepared to play at Memphis on Tuesday night, coach Alvin Gentry questioned whether his star forward would even be dealt.
``I've been in the league 21 years and they talk about all these blockbuster deals being made,'' he said. ``In 21 years, I think there's been three or four of them. So we'll see what happens.''
The Cavaliers exit the All-Star break with the NBA's best record at 43-11 and riding a 13-game winning streak. Now Ferry must decide whether another roster shake-up is needed for Cleveland to win its first championship and persuade James to remain with his hometown team.
Ferry is no stranger to deadline deals. He has made Cleveland one of the more active participants over the last five years.
He made a pair of minor moves in 2006, his first season on the job, and flirted with the O'Neal trade last season. But his biggest swap came two years ago, when he dealt half the roster one minute before the deadline.
Ferry traded away six players as part of a three-team, 11-player trade that netted Cleveland Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West.
It laid the groundwork for this championship run, since Wallace was subsequently used in the O'Neal deal, Smith was traded for All-Star point guard Mo Williams and West is still an integral part of the team.
Szczerbiak is no longer playing, but Cleveland holds his rights and could use his salary in a sign-and-trade to obtain Stoudemire, Washington's Antawn Jamison or anyone else between now and Thursday.
Cleveland won't have enough salary cap room over the summer to sign a marquee free agent to pair with James, should he elect to stay, leaving this week as Ferry's last chance to make a bold move and illustrate to James the team's commitment to winning.
Two years ago, James said midseason the roster needed upgrading and Ferry delivered at the deadline. Before the All-Star break this year, James was happy with how the Cavaliers were constructed.
``I think our team is built to win a championship,'' he said. ``With the group of guys we have here, if we continue to get better, we're headed in the right direction.''
That was before James knew Stoudemire, the 27-year-old perennial All-Star, could be available. The Cavaliers wouldn't make a trade this big without consulting him.
The pairing of Shaq and Stoudemire didn't produce a championship run in Phoenix. The Suns won just one playoff game with the duo, missing the playoffs last season.
Stoudemire seems open to the idea of trying it again. He acknowledged the trade talk surrounding the Cavs in a post on his Twitter feed Monday night, defending his play with O'Neal.
``I play very well with Shaq,'' Stoudemire tweeted. ``I adverage (sic) more pts last year WITH him an (sic) played better D. You guys can stop saying we don't play well together.''
For the Cavaliers to make a move for Stoudemire, they may have to include center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has been on the team longer than anyone, draft picks or second-year forward J.J. Hickson, who has blossomed as a starter playing between O'Neal and James.
``I like our team,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. ``Danny and his staff have to keep working to see if there's a way to make the team better. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm definitely happy with the guys that we have on this team. I'm excited about our potential.''
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix and AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn. contributed to this report.