If you were circling the political wagons in South Carolina, an aide to humiliated governor
Similarly, if you want to convince
The Cavaliers' latest, greatest maneuver to encourage James to stay put beyond the summer of 2010 has the surely unintended result of plopping down beside him the man who reigns as the biggest, most crushing free-agent departure in NBA history. O'Neal left the Orlando Magic in July 1996 for brighter lights, a bigger stage and a better chance to win, all of which he achieved by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Three rings and four trips to the Finals later, O'Neal moved again, swapping Southern California,
This is the guy, now, who is supposed to persuade James not to leave, by deeds if not words. Trouble is, O'Neal's words speak a lot louder these days than his deeds. The big man did have a solid season in Phoenix, as disappointing as the collective effort was there, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. If the Cavs' top competitive priority is getting past Eastern Conference champion Orlando, that means finding a way to counter
Then again, Cleveland GM
Obviously, this is a one-year move, based on what O'Neal has left both in his tank and on his contract ($21 million). Freeing up money for more potential helpers is as important to the Cavs as putting a ring on their franchise player's finger next June. But see, that's where a player like New Orleans center
This move screams "One and done!" in ways that might only compound the Cavaliers' challenge and their fans' worries about James' next contract and ZIP code. And while it's screaming, The Big Example will be around for nine months, mumbling, whispering, maybe even rapping about life after the team that drafted you.
A few other thoughts on this move, which again tilts the NBA landscape from West to East as Shaq shifts his weight for the fourth time in his career:
• Maybe, beyond coping with Howard, this is a way for Cleveland to thwart Orlando at its head. As in, having Shaq around to needle and torment
• If the Cavaliers preferred O'Neal's one-year deal to the two years remaining on Chandler's, let's hope it wasn't a pragmatic view of "Why be paying Chandler big bucks in 2010-11 if LeBron already is gone?" Fretting about payroll and luxury taxes should be nowhere on Cleveland's radar, when you think about the costs incurred in plummeting franchise value and ticket sales if James actually leaves. As dreary as things have been for the Cavs in the past, a slide back to the bottom would be worse because everyone would be toting failed expectations. How you gonna keep 'em down on The Flats, after they've seen Paree?
• With that in mind, if Cleveland does go after
• Poor, poor Phoenix. That beautiful brand of basketball that brought lots of fans back to the sport is long gone, replaced by the proverbial ashes from which the Suns will try to rise. This was a money deal for them, driven by green but serving as a white flag on whatever it was owner