Justice Is Served

February 19, 2010 12:08 AM

LeBron looks at trading 'Z' as strictly business


LeBron James called it strictly "business," and his words aren't ones that a Cavs fan can quarrel with. I mean, when James speaks, what choice does anybody have but to listen?

And he spoke Thursday night about the trade. 

Yes, the trade, the deal that, people in NBA circles are saying, has made James and the Cavaliers the odds-on favorite to dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers as NBA champions. 

But business has a hard edge to it, and when it separates teammates who enjoy each other's camaraderie, business becomes nothing to celebrate - no confetti or streamers, no high-fives in situations that, from a personal perspective, eat away at a man's core. 

Not that James let on that losing center Zydrunas Ilgauskas hurt that deeply. James played the politician, the nonpartisan player who, as he put it, understood that getting Antawn Jamison required the Cavaliers give up more than, oh, assistant coach Chris Jent and a rack of basketballs.

Ilgauskas was the price, and isn't that a fair price to pay for a player who, if luck and pluck stick with the Cavaliers going forward, could be their missing piece - the athletic power forward with length who can score inside, shoot with a deadeye from outside, rebound and play Velcro defense.

Still, parting with "Z," a man who's been associated with Cavaliers basketball since before James arrived, isn't something that goes down without discomfort. He didn't ask to go anywhere, and a lot of fans didn't want Z to go either. They looked at him as the loyal trooper, a basketball player who never complained, who worked hard and who represented the best of what fans have come to expect in a professional athlete. 

Z's elsewhere; he's a Wizard, for now. 

"It hurts," James said. "It definitely hurts to lose him."

To let sentimentality govern trade decisions can ruin whatever grand dreams an organization like the Cavaliers might have. For the James and teammates, those dreams are for an NBA title, and they needed a player like Jamison.

"He's been around the block more than once," James said.

He's expecting Jamison, a pro's pro, to settle in well here. He won't be asked to play the star's role; the Cavs have a star: LeBron James himself. Jamison will be here to complement James, who welcomed the addition even as he bemoaned the subtraction.

James can't think about the loss of Z - not for longer than his pregame interview. He had to focus on the addition and on making sure it can mesh with all the talent that's on the roster now.

The roster has plenty of talent, a point that can't go unnoticed.

For one night, James and the Cavs could only have Jamison on their mind; they couldn't have him in their lineup. It was a paperwork thing that kept him out, which is to be expected whenever three NBA teams and a fistful of players are involved in the trade.

Jamison should be on the floor Friday night when the Cavs travel to Charlotte. He should then give their fans a glimpse of the talent that made him a coveted addition, the player who has, a lot of people say, strengthened the team - on paper, if nowhere else.

"You can't win a championship on paper," James said. "I'll tell you that."

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