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Jamison makes Cavs title favorites

The Cleveland Cavaliers have become title favorites Wednesday after acquiring two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison for -- potentially -- very little.

The three-team deal sends Jamison and Sebastian Telfair to the Cavaliers, Drew Gooden to the Clippers, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Al Thornton, Brian Skinner and Cleveland's first-round pick to Washington. The Wizards also get the rights to Slovenian forward Emir Preldzic from Cleveland. Note that the Cavs didn't have to surrender young forward J.J. Hickson in the deal.

Now watch for news of an expected buyout by Washington of Ilgauskas, which would enable the 7-foot-3 center to return to Cleveland after 30 days to come off the bench and match up with the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Jamison was warming up with his Wizards teammates Wednesday before their game in Washington against the Timberwolves when he was pulled off the court and informed of the trade.

Two things stand out about this trade. First was that Cleveland was in the driver's seat -- the Cavs and the Mavericks being the only contenders willing to take on longterm contracts -- and that general manager Danny Ferry executed the turns perfectly. He was able to leverage interest in Phoenix's Amar'e Stoudemire in order to drive down the price on Jamison, who was viewed by many rivals as the best possible fit for Cleveland.

Second is that this trade, more than anything, is proof that the current collective bargaining agreement is broken and badly in need of overhaul. If the team with the best record can acquire a no-nonsense star like Jamison and then retrieve an asset like Ilgauskas, something is seriously wrong with the system. No one can say there is anything dirty about an Ilgauskas buyout either, because it is in the best interests of the Wizards to pursue such an agreement to limbo themselves under the luxury tax, and Ilgauskas may well decide it is his ambition to return home to Cleveland in order to avoid disrupting his young family. The current CBA has essentially leveraged this deal, with Ferry knowing how to manipulate it in his team's favor.

So now LeBron James can look around at a frontcourt of Shaquille O'Neal, who was an All-Star last year, and Jamison, an All-Star two years ago who is putting up 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds this season and whose three-point range will space the floor for Shaq and LeBron and whose maturity will only enhance the Cavs' lockerroom. In the backcourt is point guard Mo Williams, an All-Star last year, and coming off the bench may yet be Ilgauskas, a two-time All-Star himself.

No one can say any longer there isn't star power around LeBron. Perhaps this confluence of talent will help influence his decision as a free agent in July?

As for the Wizards, this deal isn't a bad move for them in this oppressive market. They wind up receiving the first-round pick of the Cavs and Al Thornton as a promising young player from the Clippers -- comparable to what Phoenix was proposed by Cleveland for Stoudemire, when the Cavs were said to be offering their No. 1 and Hickson. After they unloaded Caron Butler last week to Dallas, the Wizards were on the path of no return and the departure of the large salary of Jamison, a 33 year old who is owed $28.5 million over the next two full seasons, puts Washington on the fast-track to rebuild their roster for likely new owner Ted Leonsis.

The Clippers gain the expiring $4.5 million salary of Gooden, who -- if he isn't bought out to return to Dallas -- will serve as a short-term frontcourt replacement for the departed Marcus Camby following his trade to Portland.

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