The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the second-half of the season by welcoming a new player and saying goodbye to a veteran. It’s all part of the plan to try to win the NBA championship that they just barely missed out on last year. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about the moves and what they mean for the Cavs.
The Cavs upset fans when they traded 12-year veteran Anderson Varejao in exchange for Orlando Magic forward Channing Frye just before last week's deadline. Pluto says it was a bittersweet move.
"It's one of those things where most of the time it's the player himself deciding to leave. Not too often do you see a guy towards the end of his career who wants to stay, being traded. But it's business."
It's not personal
"Here's the deal," he adds. " The moment LeBron James showed up, everything the Cavs do is designed to win now. It's not sentimental and it's not about building."
"'We have to maximize every season that LeBron is here;' that's how they think. Even though Andy was very close to LeBron, he was one of those players who was moved."
Bring Varejao back?
Shortly after Varejao was traded, the Portland Trailblazers released him, making him a free agent. So, why didn't the Cavs quickly re-sign him and bring him back to Cleveland? Pluto says the league put a stop to that maneuver.
"In 2010, the Cavs traded another longtime favorite, Zydrunas Igaulskaus, to the Washington Wizards for a veteran player named Antawn Jamison. Washington had no intention of keeping Z and they cut him and the Cavs immediately brought him back. So basically they got two for the price of one. Washington got some salary cap relief. The NBA didn't like that kind of move and so they put the rule in that if you do one of these salary-cap trades, you cannot re-sign that player for a full 12 months."
Landing in Golden State
As for Varejao, he ended up signing a contract for the rest of the season with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
"The Portland Trailblazers will be paying him about $20 million over the next two years and he signs with Golden State for a minimum contract. He was able to pick and he had four or five contenders interested on bringing him in."
The new Cavs' big man
In exchange for Varejao, the Cavs signed Channing Frye, who suited up for the Cavs for the first time Monday. He scored two points and grabbed four rebounds in 9 minutes. Pluto likes the acquisition of Frye, who's a 10-year NBA veteran.
"He's 6'11". He can make three-point shots. The Cavs actually had a deal in place in 2014 to sign Frye as a free agent. Had LeBron James not returned to the Cavaliers, Channing Frye was one of several players they were going to bring in. But when LeBron decided to come back, that wiped out all their salary cap money so they weren't able to do it."
Pluto takes Frye over Varejao
"Channing Frye has been a favorite of General Manager David Griffin for years," Pluto says.
"What David Griffin wanted was another big power forward [like Kevin Love] who can make shots from the outside. And he's a couple years younger than Andy. I would rather have Channing Frye than Anderson Varejao at this point in their careers for what the Cavs are trying to do."
What's the key for the Cavs going forward?
"They want to play more games like they did Sunday against Oklahoma City, probably the fourth-best team in the NBA and they just demolished them. They did it by playing very physical, with purpose and with focus. LeBron James has been to the last five consecutive NBA Finals. They want to get him there for the sixth time. He's 31-year-old. He's played more minutes over the last six years in the NBA than anyone else. Time is passing with LeBron."
"People say, 'Right now, if the Finals started tomorrow, Golden State is a really healthy team, they're playing better than anyone else in the NBA at perhaps a historic pace.' Would they be favored in the NBA Finals if they were to start tomorrow? Of Course. But they don't start tomorrow. They start in June and a lot of things can happen between now and June. Players get hurt. Teams cool off. The trade was a little part of that to give them a chance for the Finals."