After getting several dozen e-mails with varying amounts of paranoia, I wrote a story today about how the mortgage industry crisis affects the Cavs. The answer given to me yesterday by the chairman of Quicken Loans and the majority owner of the team, Dan Gilbert, is not at all. I 100 percent believe him.
There seems to be a demand from Cavs fans to explain why they are not signing anybody. It is understandable and explainable but not buyable to all fans, especially those who notice how close the team is to the luxury tax line while they read stories about mortgage companies laying people off or closing altogether.
Cavs fans have had to go through three layers of player additions with no news to chew on, evaluate or get excited about. First it was the draft, where the Cavs had no picks. Then it was the initial wave of free agency, when the Cavs were not in position to land any of the major candidates. Then it was the trade market, when the Cavs were unable to make a deal for Mike Bibby while Eastern Conference rival Boston landed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. New York got Zach Randolph and Charlotte got Jason Richardson.
There is a belief among many out there that because the Cavs have not yet done anything, they are worse off. There is a belief that everybody else is better. In July, August and September in the NBA you can make a case for a lot of things. But that doesn't make any of them true or false.
Here's the way I look at it: Of the teams that made the playoffs in the East last year, only one of them has made a major addition. That's Orlando, the No. 8 seed, and Rashard Lewis. In my opinion the only other playoff team to upgrade in a way that will help them immediately is New Jersey, which brought in Jamaal Magloire and will pair him with returning Nenad Krisitc to shore up their weak front line that cost them the series with the Cavs in May.
I am not trying to defend the Cavs, just doing what I always try to do, add perspective.
Regardless of the Quicken Loans issue, the Cavs no doubt have been more cautious with money. From people I have talked to and my reading of the situation, one of the major reasons the Bibby deal did not go down was money. The proposed three-way trade between the Cavs, Spurs and Kings would've added about $3 million to the payroll right off the top. Then there would've been free agents Luis Scola, Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic to deal with. The Cavs would've been facing a payroll probably near $75 million. Plus Varejao would have better leverage since Drew Gooden would've been gone. Next year the payroll would've probably exceeded $80 million and you're passing into nonsense territory.
Apart from the money issue is strategy. The coaching staff and front office have been reluctant to sign a free agent guard that would potentially stifle Daniel Gibson, whom they see as potentially being a Mo Williams type of player. If they are able to trade for a front-line point guard who instantly makes them better, like Bibby, and it doesn't smother their flexibility they will do it. They have been trying for months now and eventually I believe Danny Ferry will make a significant/major trade. But that trade doesn't have to be made today or next week or next month regardless of the impact on the NBA news cycle in the offseason. More important for the franchise is that the trade is smart, because they are close.
As for Pavlovic and Varejao, there is nothing going on. Most GMs and agents are off on vacation this time of the year. Varejao and Pavlovic's position isn't any different today than it was three weeks ago, so from their standpoint why not wait and see if market events change their demand. If you want to watch something as a fan, keep an eye on the teams that are going to be forced to release players soon. The Knicks, Timberwolves, Mavericks all have too many guaranteed contracts and still need to sign draft picks. Meanwhile there are lots of teams that have decisions to make with partial-guarantee guys and draft picks. So the Cavs sitting there with 11 contracts (10 considering David Welsey's will be gone at some point) right now and may be able to land a quality player by waiting around.
As for Allan Houston, nothing new I can report. I know the Cavs have interest in him and I've read he's interested in the Cavs. We'll see. Signing a guy coming out of retirement isn't something you would normally do until near the end of the summer because you want to see what kind of shape he's in close to training camp.
And a final note, I don't think you can expect Charles Oakley playing for his hometown team anytime soon. In this fantastic interview on ESPN.com, Oak says, among other wild stuff, that he's only coming back for a contract of two years and around $10 million. Good luck.