Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Big Splash*

*My pseudo-clever headline is just a sad appetizer of the hackish smorgasbord that awaits sports fans as both the media and blogosphere attempt to give the newest Cavalier a Cleveland-centric nickname. A dozen wacky nom de plumes have already been floated...the dumbest is The Big Pierogi. Really now, that’s just too much.

If you’re a Cleveland fan, how can you not like the trade bringing Shaquille O’Neal to town? Every story about the deal should begin and end with, “The Cavaliers got a 15-time All Star for nothing:” Creaky Ben Wallace was mostly ineffective in his achy, short-lived wine-‘n-gold career. Sasha Pavlovic, while not without athleticism and raw skill, possesses a low basketball IQ to go along with his maddening inconsistency. Let Sasha drive some other fanbase nuts with his lousy ball-handling and inability to finish around the rim.

Perhaps the one regret I have with this trade is the jettisoning of $500,000 to the Suns. Dan Gilbert could have used that money to dress the dance team in tasteful French maid outfits, or to elevate the earsplitting intensity of the pregame introductions from “jackhammer” to “F-14 Tomcat exploding in mid-takeoff.”

Acquiring Shaq is certainly a gamble. The big man, who is slower afoot than even Z, will be 38 once next year’s playoffs begin. It’s likely Shaq will have to sit on some back-to-back nights to preserve his aging carcass for the post-season. He has an ego to match LeBron’s and will no doubt want his touches down low, leading some pundits to believe Shaq will clog the paint and stall a Cavaliers offense that is not exactly dynamic in the first place.

On the happy side of the ledger, the star of “Steel” and “Kazaam,” who has also recorded numerous rap songs with such brilliantly subtle titles as “Shoot Pass Slam,” “Boom!” and “I Hate 2 Brag,” is still a physical presence. Shaq had somewhat of a resurgence last year in Phoenix, and while he is not the titanic force of his Orlando and early-decade L.A. Lakers days, he may still have enough juice left to remind Cleveland fans of his strong if not dominant second-banana pairing with Dwayne Wade in Miami.

You can also say goodbye to those annoying Cavaliers’ double-teams on opposing big men. It’s no secret that Orlando murdered us on those Dwight Howard doubles during the Eastern Conference finals—Mike Brown’s defense simply could not contain Howard down low, nor stop him from finding open shooters. I’ll take even a twilight-era Shaq bodying up Howard if that allows our perimeter guys to stay the hell home on Hedo Turkoglu (who hopefully will leave Orlando via free agency) and friends.

Did I mention The Big Pierogi’s outsized ego? Arrogance can be an advantage, too. Shaq just watched Kobe Bryant win a ring...he and his former running buddy are now tied at four championships a piece. Shaq will want one for the thumb...why can’t the Cavaliers, and by extension us, be the beneficiary of his petty, immature, ego-driven gamesmanship?

And if heaven forbid this Big Experiment doesn’t work during what will be LeBron’s lord-help-us walk year? Well, Shaq’s $21 million contract only runs through next season, allowing Danny Ferry to ditch The Big Chuck & Lil’ John and sign one of the glamorous free agents of the 2010 class...along with LeBron of course.

The acquisition of Shaq is not the only move Ferry will make, either. He has cited the need for an athletic wing man/shooter to help LeBron on offense, perhaps allowing Delonte West to come off the bench. There's also the matter of resigning free agent Anderson Varejao, as well as finding a back-up point guard.

Whatever transpires, the buzz around this team is going to be deafening come November. Maybe, just maybe, we will be joining Shaq and LeBron on Euclid Avenue for the parade, all of us crying hysterically like a Swedish girl at a Michael Jackson concert. The soon-to-be Big Cuyahoga can make our golden dreams come true!