Are the Cavs missing a Big Sidekick?


Shaquille O’Neal has spent his entire career winning big as the dominant big man on a team featuring a sidekick stud wing, from Penny to Kobe to D-Wade.

As Shaq gets up in age, it might make perfect sense for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers to get together on a deal that would add LeBron to that illustrious list.

Yes it would be very strange to see Shaq playing the Big Sidekick role to LeBron’s megasuperstar, and you’ve got to wonder how Shaq’s ego would play in such a position, especially after he made a point to come up with a better pregame intro than LeBron’s camera intro.

But Shaq desperately wants that fifth ring to pass Duncan among big men this era, and LeBron badly needs a sidekick better than Mo Williams, as we saw during the Orlando series. And could you imagine how fun a LeBron-Shaq partnership would be for the rest of us to watch?

Those two are the most gregarious stars of this era off the court, and allowing Mo to be the No. 3 guy and everyone else to become a solid role player would make the Cavs the preseason favorite to win it all.

That means it’s time for the Suns and Cavs to revisit a deal that was in the works around the deadline: Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic for the Diesel, which works according to ESPN’s Trade Machine.

Yes, the Cavs offered this same exact proposal at the deadline only to be turned down by the Suns, who wanted Wally Szczerbiak’s Expiring Contract in the deal.

At the time, I thought any Shaq to the Cavs talk was dead for good, but two crucial happenings of the past few days change everything:

The Cavs must win it all next year

After being knocked out in the East Finals Saturday night, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it, the Cleveland Cavaliers must win the championship next season if they want to prevent LeBron 2010 in New York and another few decades (at least) of not winning championships in Ohio.

As much as everybody seems to think LeBron to the Knicks is an inevitability, it would be awful tough for him to leave his hometown Cavs fresh off a championship.

However, if a supporting cast that’s just not good enough (like this year) prevents LeBron from winning it all next season, Clevelanders can all but forget about him ever coming back except when the Knicks visit.

The Cavs are embarking on their most crucial offseason in team history. Last year Danny Ferry did a nice job of bringing in a star role player in Mo Williams, but he’s not the type of sidekick that Jordan or Kobe have ever won titles with, and we just saw what happens when the LeBrons run into a team as deep with quality players as Orlando.

Second off, the Cavs had no chance guarding Dwight Howard with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao. They just couldn’t do it.

Put the original Superman in the equation and Howard won’t be just overpowering people like he did this series.

Being over the cap with a low draft pick and having no need to sign a long-term midlevel guy before knowing LeBron’s future, Cleveland’s only hope is to package its unneeded assets for a short-term, big-impact player who has been down this road before.

And nobody available under those terms brings the pedigree of the Shaqtus.

As for those assets …..

Ben Wallace might be retiring

That means Wallace’s $14 mil albatross of a contract could be essentially a $14 million trade exception, of which the Suns may only be responsible for a minimal amount or none at all.

Wallace told The Associated Press, “I think I deserve [a buyout]. But if I don’t get one and I’ve just got to give it up, that’s what I’ll do.”

If Wallace does indeed give that money up, then that would mean the Suns would only be responsible for Pavlovic’s $4.95 mil salary for next season.

Not only would they be gaining a solid player in Pavlovic, who could take Matt Barnes’ rotation spot and fit in well as a shooter with length, but they would be saving about $15 million next season without taking on any long-term obligations.

Such a move would put the Suns below not only the luxury cap but the salary cap, possibly allowing them to sign a decent piece in free agency for at least next season and comfortably re-sign Grant Hill.

That combination would make Robert Sarver happy in terms of his checkbook and the kind of team his Suns would put on the floor.

As great of a season as Shaq enjoyed last season and as much as the Suns want to talk up the virtues of being able to throw it down low to Shaq when the offense stalls, he is just a case of being a square peg trying to be forced into a round hole, the type of player who also takes away from the effectiveness of Amare Stoudemire.

The Suns would be better off just playing to their strengths completely and trying to run players like Shaq off the floor, whereas the Cavs desperately crave a low post presence so Cleveland fourth quarters can consist of something more than LeBron trying to make something happen.

Judging by the last two months of the season under Alvin Gentry, the 2009-10 Suns might be the fastest Phoenix team yet, but they also likely will need to make a move to cut down on their bloated payroll.

Judging by the last two weeks of the Cleveland-Orlando series, the Cavs are one player away from a title, and they are entering a season in which they must win now regardless of how bloated their payroll must get.

Can’t wait to hear what the Big Nicknamer calls himself if this deal goes down.