Magic give Cavs third straight loss

LeBron James posted 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Antawn Jamison bounced back from a dreadful Cav debut with a nice 19-point, eight-rebound effort, but the Magic supporting cast came up big in the fourth quarter to give Orlando a 101-95 win.

Jameer Nelson (18-4-5) and Vince Carter (11-1-3) hit several big shots in the final period, and Rashard Lewis (15-4-2) hit a corner three that sealed the win for the Magic. Dwight Howard (22-16, 4 blks) did his usual damage early on, but Orlando went away from him in the fourth quarter, using a series of Nelson-Carter pick-and-rolls to free Carter up on the block.

Shaq (20-5, 2 blks) had a nice game and was seemingly energized by his feud with Howard about who deserves to have the nickname “Superman.” But with both big men such poor foul shooters, neither team threw the ball inside much in the fourth quarter.

Jamison proved his worth with a nine-point spurt to start the third quarter that gave the Cavs the lead. He’s going to be fine in Cleveland’s offense once he gets comfortable. He’s a tough cover for most power forwards, but as Jeff Van Gundy noted, he’s not nearly as tough to defend when he’s playing small forward. (The same goes for Rashard Lewis, who is far more productive at PF.)

LeBron, coming off of back-to-back losses, seemed especially grumpy today, and was complaining just about every time he took the ball to the hoop and didn’t get the call. I think he has entered what I call the “Kobe Zone,” the convergence of talent and ego where a player thinks he can’t be stopped without a foul, so every failed drive to the basket finishes with some signal to the officials that they missed the call. LeBron took the ball into Dwight Howard twice — once in the first half and once in the fourth quarter — and both times he lit into the refs. On the first play, Howard was planted in the middle of the lane and LeBron clipped him as he went by, and it was a good no-call. The fourth quarter no-call consisted of LeBron taking it directly into Howard’s body and raised arms as Howard retreated towards the basket. The ball got knocked out of bounds and LeBron made his sour pickle face and screamed at the refs.

But if the Cavs want an answer for what went wrong today, they need to look at their backcourt. Mo Williams (1-9), Anthony Parker (1-4) and Delonte West (2-9) combined to go 4-22 (18%) from the field, and that’s not going to get it done.

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Jamison’s Cavs debut a dud

Check out this line from Antawn Jamison’s first game in a Cavs uni:

26 min, 0-12 FG, 0-4 3PT, 2-2 FT, 7 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 2 pts

Wow, that’s ugly. But it’s only one game and we all know Jamison is a better player than that.

The Cavs lost to the Bobcats, 110-93. Tyrus Thomas debuted for Charlotte. Here’s his line:

25 min, 3-9 FG, 3-4 FT, 12 reb, 2 ast, 6 blk, 9 pts

Now that’s more like it.

Cavs land Jamison in three-team trade

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers have swung a three-team trade for Antawn Jamison.

Cavs get Jamison and Telfair, Clippers get Drew Gooden and Wash gets Illgauskas, Al Thornton and Brian Skinner and Cavs 1st round pick.

So the Cavs essentially landed Jamison at the cost of Ilgauskas, taking on Telfair’s contract ($2.7 million next season), and their first round pick, which will be very late in the first round. This is an even sweeter deal than the Hickson/Z-for-Jamison swap that has been rumored for weeks. The proposed Amare Stoudemire deal with the Suns either 1) fell through because the Suns wouldn’t pull the trigger quickly enough, or 2) the Wizards willingness to take a pick instead of Hickson convinced the Cavs to trade for Jamison instead. Either way, the Cavs got a good player in the deal. He’s 33 and has a bad contract (2 yrs, $28.4 million), but he’s playing at a high level (21-9, 45% shooting) and gives the Cavs the “stretch 4” they’ve been coveting for months. He’ll be a nice matchup for both Rashard Lewis and Kevin Garnett because he’s comfortable playing defense on the perimeter.

The Suns were holding out for a better offer, but now the only suitor left standing appears to be the Heat. It’s going to be interesting to see if Stoudemire is moved before the deadline tomorrow. The team has reportedly told Stoudemire to suit up to play tonight, so no deal is imminent.

The Clippers will save $5.5 million on their 2010-11 payroll, so they’ll project to have more than $16 million* in cap space this summer (or enough to sign a big-name free agent). They are now legit threats to sign a star like Joe Johnson, who would look very nice in a lineup of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s a savvy move by GM Mike Dunleavy.

And finally, the Wizards will trim $10.6 million from next year’s payroll, giving the team around $9 million* in cap space (with Gilbert Arenas’s deal still on the books). They also get Al Thornton, who has struggled thus far in his career. While he did average almost 17 points last season, his PER has never risen above 13.00, which means he’s not a very efficient player. GM Ernie Grunfeld continues to make perplexing trades. He has moved Caron Butler and Jamison and all he has to show for it are a couple of borderline starters (Josh Howard and Thornton), a late first round draft pick and some cap space.

* assuming a salary cap of $50 million

Update: Brian Skinner is not a part of the deal, according to Ric Bucher.

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Butler, Jamison for Ray-Ray?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports says that the Wizards and Celtics are discussing a blockbuster deal.

In a dramatic move that would resuscitate their fading championship hopes, the Boston Celtics are discussing a deal with the Washington Wizards for forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.

The proposed deal would send the expiring contracts of Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the Wizards, a move that would signal the start of Washington’s rebuilding process.

The trade isn’t imminent, but talks have progressed and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has positioned his organization to make one of the boldest trade deadline moves in years. For the Celtics, ownership would have to agree to take on an additional $24 million in salary next season between Jamison and Butler. Jamison makes more than $15 million in 2011-12, but most owners are discounting those salaries because of an assumption that there will be a labor lockout and some, if not all, of that money will never be paid to the players.

For his part, Celtics GM Danny Ainge denies the rumors:

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Friday he has not discussed trades involving the Charlotte Bobcats or Washington Wizards.

“There is no truth to either one of those,” Ainge said. “I have had conversations with a lot of teams but those have never been discussed. There are a lot of things I would like to do but I don’t feel a need to do something. I am always looking to upgrade the team, if possible.”

Have you ever heard a GM confirm a trade rumor? They always deny, deny, deny. So there’s no telling if there’s any truth to it, though Wojnarowski is a respected NBA writer.

Obviously, this trade would be a coup for the Celtics in terms of talent. Ray Allen isn’t playing horribly (16-3-3, 45% shooting), but he’s shooting a career-low 34% from long range and is 34 years old. Caron Butler (29) and Antawn Jamison (33) are both younger, and are both All-Star caliber players. Wojnarowski mentioned that the contracts are a concern (especially Jamison’s), but if the two players gelled in the Celtics’ lineup, it would push the franchise back into serious title contention.

However, it would be difficult to get the C’s five best players on the court. Paul Pierce and Caron Butler can play on the wings, but for Jamison to play PF, that means Kevin Garnett would play center. Against certain teams (say, Atlanta), this wouldn’t be a problem, but KG would get beat up down low against Shaq and Dwight Howard. Offensively, this lineup would allow the C’s to spread the floor and post up Pierce, Jamison and Butler in favorable matchups.

For Washington, this trade would confirm what we all already know — the Wizards are rebuilding. If I were running things, I’d hold onto Butler (since his contract is affordable) or at least wait for someone to offer a good young piece. The deal, as outlined, is simply a salary dump. The Wizards would be giving Jamison and Butler away for cap flexibility. With this trade, the Wizards would have approximately $20 million in cap space this summer, and that assumes Gilbert Arenas is still on the payroll.

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LeBron wants Antawn Jamison

Ken Berger of says that LeBron James is the driving force behind the Cavs’ renewed interest in Antawn Jamison.

It’s been well documented that the Cavaliers’ infatuation with Antawn Jamison has been rekindled. What’s been underplayed is the reason behind it: LeBron James is the one driving the team’s pursuit of Jamison, according to a source, and Cavs GM Danny Ferry – as usual – is trying to appease the King. A couple of problems: The Wizards want a young asset in return, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas – while a fit salary-wise – doesn’t fit that description. The sensible piece to include in the deal would be J.J. Hickson, whom the Cavs are reluctant to give up. But if the Cavs got Jamison, what value would Hickson be to them as their fifth big man? One scenario that is believed to be under discussion would have the Cavs hoping the Wizards bought out Ilgauskas after the trade, using some cash added to the deal by Cleveland. That way, the Cavs could sign Ilgauskas back on a minimum deal, giving them the player James covets (Jamison) and a 7-foot-4 insurance policy for Shaquille O’Neal. The Wizards would have to ask themselves if getting out from under Jamison’s contract and adding Hickson is enough to justify a deal that would get them under the tax next summer, but not under the cap.

If the Cavs can’t get Jamison, Indiana’s Troy Murphy is Plan B. And yes, there’s a Plan C — Andre Iguodala. Whereas the Cavs’ front office believes Jamison could help them win a championship this year, Iguodala would be more of a long-term solution. And he better be, with four years and $56 million left on his deal.

Even though Jamison is playing better right now than Caron Butler, he’s also four years older (33) and has a much more expensive contract (Jamison: 2-years, $28.4 million, Butler: 1-year, $10.6 million). For a team like the Wizards, who at this point are just trying to get into a position where they can rebuild, Jamison is just too old to be a part of that process. So it makes sense to add a promising young prospect like Hickson, though they’d probably have to agree to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas as part of the trade, so that the Cavs can re-sign him.

Cleveland needs to keep LeBron happy. If he wants Jamison, then they should try to acquire him. He’s a smallish power forward who can also play small forward when the Cavs want to buy a few minutes rest for LeBron. He’s a nice matchup for Rashard Lewis and could potentially give Pau Gasol fits in the Finals, forcing the Lakers to bench one of their big men. With Boston faltering and the Magic looking pretty shaky, Cleveland is a great bet to make the Finals, and if they were to pass on Jamison and lose to the Lakers or some other Western Conference foe, LeBron would have some valid reasons to leave. If they do acquire Jamison and lose in the Finals, then at least the franchise was willing make moves to try to improve the team. With a core of Jamison and Mo Williams, LeBron might be more willing to return to Cleveland.

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