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News » Ferry's Cavaliers are built to last

Ferry's Cavaliers are built to last

Ferry's Cavaliers are built to last
The Cavaliers are the 1995 Indians, only their superstar hasn't corked his sneakers or cussed out a network television reporter. They are a dominant team. They have improved enormously with the addition of new blood.

With the Indians, it was the signing of veteran free-agent pitchers in time for the opening of Jacobs Field in 1994.

With the Cavs, it was General Manager Danny Ferry's trades. When the dust settled, he had acquired three 2008-09 starters in Mo Williams, Delonte West and Ben Wallace, rid the team of unhappy Larry Hughes and unfocused Drew Gooden, and created the NBA's deepest bench in last year's playoffs with Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak.

Later, Smith, a fine though aging player, was traded along with little-used Damon Jones in a three-way deal to acquire Williams, the long-sought sidekick for LeBron James. Williams should have been an All-Star.

Because James is a coachable player who values teamwork, there have been no distractions. Albert Belle, the angry signature player of the 1990s Indians, scrawled his moods across the locker room and the face of the city.

Many fans do not realize that James is not the highest-paid Cavalier. Wallace is, at $14.5 million to James' $14.4 million. So little fuss is made about it that Wallace, the lightning rod for fan unhappiness in Chicago, is free to play defense and lead in the locker room, as he did in Detroit. He does not have to bother with being a spokesman.

Ironically, the Cavs kick off Super Bowl Sunday by playing at Detroit this afternoon. Joe Dumars, the Pistons' GM, has not had a very good year, underrating Chauncey Billups by trading him for Allen Iverson, a great individual talent who has yet to prove he can fit seamlessly into a team concept. Dumars probably looks at Iverson as salary-cap space in waiting with his expiring contract.

The critical thing is that Ferry can look at Wallace, as well as Szczerbiak, in the same way.

The contracts Ferry has negotiated are club-friendly for the most part. That's even though, with a $90 million payroll, the third highest in the NBA, the Cavs will have to pay $19 million in luxury tax for exceeding the $71 million salary cap. The key is that the big contracts can be moved in trades because the hypothetical trading partner acquires future cap space with the expiring contracts. The Cavs are not buried under big, long-term contracts like the New York Knicks.

Ferry also has proven to be a flinty negotiator with restricted free agents. Last season, negotiations were tough with Boobie Gibson, West, and Gooden. West and Gooden signed late in the off-season. Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao held out. But the Cavs got ultimate control over the contracts' length in every case but Varejao.

By design, not much is said about this. Unlike the Indians' GM of the glory years, John Hart, Ferry doesn't harp on the contract advantages. That only angers players, whose revenge is to leave as free agents.

The '95 Indians would have won the World Series if it hadn't been their first time there. They were better than Atlanta.

The Cavs' NBA Finals chances this season? James, Gibson, Pavlovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Varejao and, with Detroit, Wallace have all been there before.

To reach Bill Livingston:, 216-999-4672

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: February 3, 2009


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