Â LeBron James was in Shaq shock.
Like nearly everyone else, Cleveland’s megastar was floored by Shaquille O’Neal’s trade to Phoenix.
“Unbelievable,” James said after practice Wednesday. “That’s all I got. It’s unbelievable.”
O’Neal, one of the league’s top centers for more than a decade, was traded by Miami to the Suns for forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks, a blockbuster deal that rocked the league like one of Shaq’s backboard-bending dunks.
It was the second jaw-dropping swap involving All-Star players in days. Last week, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired 7-foot center Pau Gasol from Memphis, a trade that may have forced the Suns into retooling their team in order to stay ahead of their nearest competitor in the Pacific Division.
For James and the Cavaliers, Shaq’s departure from the Eastern Conference is a plus. They’ll only have to face him twice in the regular season, and won’t have to worry about him until the finals, assuming, that is, they ever get back there.
“It’s always good to see guys like that leave the East,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “But the reality of it is if you expect to win it, you’re going to have to play somebody like him or Gasol or [Tim] Duncan eventually.”
But the Shaq-to-the-Suns trade also raised another issue in Cleveland: When will the Cavaliers make their own super swap?
James recently said he would love for general manager Danny Ferry to make a run at New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, who has made it no secret that he wants the Nets to dish him off before the Feb. 21 trading deadline.
When James was asked if being paired with Kidd, his teammate last summer on the U.S. national team, could win the Cavs their first championship, Cleveland’s superstar delivered an answer as resounding as any of his powerful slam dunks.
“Yeah,” James said. “It’s that easy.”
If that was only the case.
The Cavaliers have been active in talks on several major trades in the past two years, but Ferry has been unable to pull one off since taking over the club in 2005. He made a strong push for Sacramento’s Mike Bibby last year and may still be interested in adding him to Cleveland’s roster.
Ferry, though, has been hampered by a roster filled with unappealing contracts and few tradable assets.
But getting a major deal done involving All-Stars isn’t an impossibility as the Gasol and O’Neal deals have shown. Whether they work out, well, that remains to be seen.
The Cavaliers would like to add another star player to complement James, who’s having an MVP-caliber season. Larry Hughes hasn’t been what Cleveland had hoped since Ferry signed the oft-injured shooting guard to a five-year, $60 million contract before the ’05 season.
James was asked if it’s necessary for a team to have multiple stars to win an NBA title.
“It helps,” he said with a laugh. “It does help when you have guys on the team that are perennial All-Stars or can go out there and produce every night and you know what you’re going to get.”
Reminded that Kidd was still available, James grinned.
“I know that,” he said.
James, too, knows that adding another big player can lead to problems.
“It can mess up the chemistry a little bit and it could take a little longer for them to fit in, maybe not,” he said. “The reward is you get a good player. Like the Lakers, they got a guy [Gasol] who has averaged 20 [points] and 12 [rebounds] for his whole career. Last night, Kobe Bryant gets six points and the Lakers win by 15, that’s the reward.
“It all depends on what caliber of player you are getting and how fast he can adjust to the new system.”
If the Cavaliers stand pat and don’t make a trade, James is confident the defending Eastern Conference champs are still good enough to win it all.
“As long as I’m healthy, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “No matter who is out on the court with me.”