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Friday, February 22, 2008

After Cavs pull off trade, the question of Danny Ferry’s “legacy”

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 1:07 AM

wallace%20wide.jpg (Related: Denise Grollmus on loving Ben Wallace for all the things she used to hate about him.) As we headed to bed last night, with visions of Basketball’s Baddest ‘Fro dancing in our plainly coifed heads, much of the reaction to the Cavaliers’ blockbuster trade centered around GM Danny Ferry, and his ability to “finally pull something off.” There was a lot of talk of “his legacy.” On comment boards and talk-radio and TV, fans and talking heads predicted that the move would save – or, if it went bad, cost – Ferry’s job. All wonderfully dramatic stuff. If only it were true. ... Ferry’s boss, owner Dan Gilbert, possesses a great deal more patience than Cavs fans, who are convinced that only multiple titles will keep LeBron James from fleeing toward the ocean of his choice. When fans wanted Gilbert to hire a proven coach in Flip Saunders, Gilbert hired a rookie coach in Mike Brown. And when Gilbert learned last week of the original Jason Kidd trade, the owner didn’t lament the Cavs’ inability to land the point guard his star and fans so coveted. He suggested that the Mavericks had given up too much to get him. (If it says anything for their relationship, just a couple of minutes after Gilbert said this, Ferry came happily wandering into the owner's "bunker" in the Q, where I was interviewing Gilbert for a story about Mike Brown).
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What Ferry could have done -- maybe -- to jeopardize his job was risk the Cavs’ roster flexibility in coming years. That’s what he did in 2005, when, presumably with Gilbert’s blessing, he cannon-balled into a lukewarm free-agent pool and came up with three water-logged veterans he’s since been trying to unload (Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones). But Ferry didn’t do that yesterday. Though the Cavs will shell out more cash for their new additions, they’ll stay about as flexible this summer, next season, and the following summer as they would have had they slept through Deadline Day. They still have one seemingly immovable object (it was Hughes, now it's Ben Wallace). And they still have two players whose contracts will expire after next season. Long-term, it's basically a wash. Will it help in the short-term? Maybe. Maybe Ben Wallace brings some picked-out insanity to help Cleveland bang with Detroit and Boston. Delonte West isn’t Jason Kidd, but he could be the guard help the Cavs need – a guy who can hit a jumper when James flings it to him, but also occasionally can create himself and fling one to a cutting James or a standing-there-looking-really-tall Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Joe Smith (drafted, by the way, first overall ahead of four future all-stars, including Kevin Garnett) isn’t as young as Drew Gooden. But being a grown-up and whatnot, he might stick around for longer than nine minutes a game, which seemed to be as long Gooden could ever stay interested. And the rumor is Wally Szczerbiak can still stick it from his locker-room recliner. But even if the thing goes to hell – if James’ shoulders give out in the conference finals or even the second round – Ferry’s job is safe. He didn’t have a championship-caliber roster to begin with, especially considering the look of pained boredom that had increasingly been gracing the faces of Hughes and Marshall. So if the move works, yeah -- it’ll be Ferry’s “legacy,” at least until the next big deal. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Gilbert will still fling his checkbook to Ferry and send him wading, gently, back into the pool this summer. – Joe P. Tone

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