Cavs' trade counting on James' return

7/10/2014

By JASON LLOYD

By JASON LLOYD

Akron Beacon Journal

CLEVELAND (MCT) — They can talk about fallback plans, they can point to Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons, but let's make one thing perfectly clear: Wednesday's trade that unloaded Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev in a three-team deal was all about clearing the way for LeBron James' return to the Cavaliers.

Regardless what team officials say, they're clearly counting on it happening. Why else would they essentially give away three first-round picks over three years (Zeller, Karasev and a future first) for nothing?

The Cavs shipped Jack and Karasev to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday and Zeller and a future first-round pick to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the draft rights to three players from the Nets, Yahoo Sports reported. Don't worry, you've never heard of any of them and never will again after today.

One of the three, Christian Drejer, is 31 years old and retired from basketball. He was drafted in the second round by the Nets in 2004, never appeared in an NBA game and retired from playing overseas six years ago. He has been working in interior design for the past three years, so maybe he can design the Cavs' trophy case if James does indeed return.

For now, that remains an "if" as large as the James banner that was previously draped across downtown Cleveland. But the Cavs have believed for months they'd be in the conversation this summer if James opted out of his contract and now clearly are confident they can land him.

There's no other incentive to now make this trade, which can't become official before Thursday.

Jack's departure was expected. They've been trying to unload the final two years on his contract since the trade deadline. But purging Zeller and Karasev, two youngsters with bright futures, plus a future first-round pick (top 10 protected 2016-18, unprotected in 2019 according to Yahoo), is certainly a risk with no guarantee of a payout.

Cavs General Manager David Griffin loved Karasev and gushed about his potential after the team selected him last summer. It's easy to see why the Nets insisted on his inclusion, given the Russian roots he shares with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Zeller was briefly shopped at the February trade deadline. Together, Zeller and Karasev clear about $3.2 million in salary cap space. The Cavs could've saved more than that simply by releasing Anderson Varejao, whose $9.7 million contract is only partially guaranteed.

But Varejao's presence is another selling point to James, who would want to play with his buddy.

Nevertheless, it's a big risk for the Cavs. Not the kind that will set the franchise back 10 years, but teams don't give away 7-foot centers for free very often.

If James spurns them yet again, it won't be on him this time. He hasn't given any indication he's returning because from all accounts, he has kept quiet since the season ended. But the Cavs met with his agent, Rich Paul, last week and have been working toward this reunion for years. Wednesday's trade was simply the most obvious step.

The Cavs have let Spencer Hawes and C.J. Miles walk in free agency without putting up a fight. Luol Deng will be the next to go. Gordon Hayward arrived in town last week believing he was going to get an offer sheet, but left without one and ultimately agreed to a max offer sheet instead with the Charlotte Hornets.

If the Cavs swing and miss on James, there isn't much left. Parsons is certainly appealing, but he's restricted. The Houston Rockets strategically allowed him to enter restricted free agency this summer in an attempt to attract a max contract through free agency and still retain Parsons by matching any offer he receives.

The Cavs can make a run at him, but it will be difficult to get him out of Houston. Ariza's name has also been floated as a possibility, but the Cavs had enough space to pursue him without all these moves. And let's be honest: Expecting James and landing Ariza is like inviting the Pope to dinner and watching Father Guido Sarducci give the blessing.

Much like four years ago, the Cavs are all in on LeBron James. Now they'll sit, wait and wonder if he feels the same way.

comments powered by Disqus
I commented on a story, but my comments aren't showing up. Why?
We provide a community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day.
Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. We expect civil dialogue.
Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome.
Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum.

If you don't see your comment, perhaps you ...
... called someone an idiot, a racist, a moron, etc. Name-calling or profanity (to include veiled profanity) will not be tolerated.
... rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
... included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
... accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
... made a comment in really poor taste.

MULTIMEDIA