Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Don't get Ferry-ed away by the past

So who exactly are these fans who haven't gotten over the Ron Harper-Dan Ferry trade? Just google the two players names and the media would have you believe the Cavs won't sell a ticket for next season because of fan backlash to a 15-year-old trade.
Nothing like a little reverse over hyperbole there.
As far as I can tell, Danny Ferry did not forget to block Jeremiah Castille or throw his second best pitch in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series.
We all remember what the trade did to the Cavaliers but maybe what is more shocking is what it didn't do for the Clippers. Harper's knees faltered and he didn't become the player he should have been. Sure, he became a great veteran reserve for the Bulls and Lakers, but he looked to be so much more. And those three draft picks the Cavs sent as a party favor to the Clippers? Do the names Loy Vaught, Joe Wylie and Elmore Spencer mean anything to you?
No one has played more games in a Cavs uniform than Danny Ferry. For 10 years, he lived in this city and for all 10 years, he played hard. He may have never become the next Larry Bird, as he was coined after his career at Duke, but at least he had the instincts from that Dukie education to not want to play for the Clippers.
My favorite Ferry memory is the fight he had with the Bulls’ Stacie King, which I suppose does say something about the lack of big moments in those 10 years. He was part of the transition of Nance, Daugherty and Price to some really bad basketball and a revolving door of coaches.
But never has there been a more exciting time to be a Cavs fan. Ever.
Ferry is only 38 years old and he has never been a GM before. But just as potential got him a 10-year guaranteed deal as player, he does have a basketball management pedigree. His father Bob, who got the job at 33, was a highly respected GM of the Washington Bulls, and Ferry has spent the last two seasons working with one of the best front offices in basketball, the San Antonio Spurs. And while it is no blueprint for success, you have to respect him standing up to Dan Gilbert.
I suppose you can't fault Gilbert for flirting with Larry Brown. Some may say it was unreasonable to dislike Brown as he is a winner. But despite his success the last two years with the Pistons and his winning records at every stop in college and the pros (expect of course his HORRIBLE Olympic coaching job), he never sees anything through. Every job leads to the next job. That is not what you want in a GM.
Ferry, apparently, was ready to walk away from the Cavs. He demanded and he received complete player transaction control. He didn't get to pick his own coach, but it is a coach he has worked with. If Ferry is going to fail, he is going to do it on his own terms. You have to respect that.
And what terms they are. LeBron James and $28 million dollars to build a team around him. If I was Ferry, I would like my chances of success as well.
I understand the history of the Cavs, the second-half collapse and the long drawn-out courtship of Larry Brown has caused a hangover. But this could be the best summer ever for the Cavs and start a path never before possible.
Will it be easy? No. Fun? Should be.
Michael Redd is no sure thing. The guy in the bar will say what is the difference between a $72 million dollar contract (the most the Cavs can offer) and $94 million dollars (the most the Bucks can offer.) Well, not to be stupid, but it is $22 million dollars. That, as Bernard Hopkins would say, is the difference between being rich and being wealthy (Rich means you can buy a nice house, wealthy means your grandkid's kids get a nice house.)
Second fiddle to LeBron could lead to a championship, but staying in Milwaukee would make him a local icon. There may be more marketing dollars away from LeBron, and I doubt the Bucks would fire their coach two months after the season and days before the draft if they were not in communication with Redd.
But what if the Cavs did sign Redd? Can you even remember the last big free agent signing of a young bourgeoning superstar in this town?
Resigning Z is tricky. Despite one local columnist’s constant campaign to get rid of him, what choice do you have? The next Lithuanian won't be ready for two or three years. And there is no Bill Russell or even Bill Laimbeer waiting out there in free agency. And, yes, I did see the note that Shaq can opt of his $30 million dollar contract. Go ahead daydream for a moment and then move on.
Fantasy basketball teams don't win games on the court. You need scorers, but you also need defenders and role players. Ferry needs a scorer like Redd or Joe Johnson and a center, but he also needs players who breathe defense and know how to make the extra pass.
And while it would be easy to concentrate on the now, I like that Ferry still has the future in his mind. He knows that Martynas Andriuskevicius won't be ready for a few seasons, but especially with rosters expanding by two with the new labor agreement, sitting M will be better than sitting Juri Welsch.
I know Dan Gilbert wanted to make a splash. But maybe sometimes the deals you don't make are the best ones. We don't know about Mike Brown or Danny Ferry. Basketball can be very complicated, but it is really about the simple things.
Coaching is about relationships. Can you get a player to believe in you enough to work your system? Can you push the right buttons at the right time? Management is about getting the right type of players. Players talented enough to achieve success but who are also humble enough to work hard.
Are Brown and Ferry those guys? It is worth waiting to find out. Never has there been a more exciting time in the city of Cleveland for pro basketball.
And it will be forever a guidepost moment in Cleveland history. The summer of 2005, the year the Cavs finally got it right or the most spectacular screw-up of all-time, the beginning of the end of the franchise.
LeBron will win championships. We all pray it is in Cleveland because if he leaves via free agency, our team will be in Las Vegas, which is a far more entertaining stop for clients. But worry about that later. For now, just enjoy for once. Cleveland gets to be a predator in free agency. It is a lot more fun than the other way around.