CLEVELAND - Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry rattled off all kinds of reasons for making the colossal trade.
Chicago Bulls' Ben Wallace, center, battles for a rebound with Phoenix Suns' Leandro Barbosa, left, of Brazil, and Amare Stoudemire during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago in this Jan. 27, 2008 file photo. In a three-way trade involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago, the Seattle SuperSonics and including 11 players, the Cavaliers acquired Wallace from the Bulls and forward Wally Szczerbiak from the Sonics.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
It makes Cleveland tougher. It fills some holes. It makes the Cavs bigger. It gives them more experience. It will make a difference in the playoffs.
Ferry left out the most important one: It should make LeBron James happy.
On Thursday, with one minute to spare before the NBA's trading deadline expired, Ferry dismantled his team with less than 30 games remaining in a season he hopes will end with an NBA title.
In a complex, 11-player swap involving Cleveland, Chicago and Seattle, Ferry dealt half his active roster to acquire center Ben Wallace and forward Joe Smith from the Bulls, and forward Wally Szczerbiak and guard Delonte West from the SuperSonics.
James, the Cavs' super-duperstar wants to win a championship, several of them, and after seeing several other teams land big-name players via trades in recent weeks, the All-Star game MVP made it clear he needed help.
Ferry heard his cry.
"I didn't think we were good enough to win the championship," Ferry said, explaining his motives for the moves. "I thought we had a very good team. But I do believe if we have a chance to make ourselves better we should try.
"Was it a risk in doing so? Yes, it was a risk. But we're going to have to make some decisions that have some risk in them if we want to continue to build and grow as an organization."
Unable to finalize major deals in the past, Ferry pulled off one that could define his tenure just before the 3 p.m. buzzer. He sent guard Larry Hughes, forwards Drew Gooden and Cedric Simmons, and guard Shannon Brown to Chicago for Wallace, one of the game's top inside enforcers, and Smith, a versatile veteran.
Cleveland also acquired the sharpshooting Szczerbiak and West from Seattle for forwards Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall, two expendable parts. In addition, the Cavs will get Chicago's second-round pick in 2009. The Sonics will receive guard Adrian Griffin from the Bulls.
While giving the Cavaliers a new core to surround James, Ferry didn't hurt his team's long-term salary cap flexibility. He did create one short-term problem, however. Because their new players have to take physicals, the injury-plagued Cavs could be very short-handed for Friday's game against Washington.
"I think Mike Brown might be a player/coach," Ferry joked.
He's dead serious, though, about getting the Cavaliers their first title. James, who led them to their first finals appearance last season, had publicly campaigned for Ferry to do something before the deadline.
James got his wish. Ferry overhauled the Cavs, trading 60 percent of the starting lineup Brown used Wednesday night.
The deal caps a busy month of trades as several stars, including Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Pau Gasol, all were dealt to new teams. The Gasol swap triggered an arms race of sorts among the Western Conference's top squads, while this one could have a major impact atop the East.
In the 33-year-old Wallace, the Cavaliers are getting a defensive intimidator. Big Ben will give them next to nothing on offense, but that's not what the defending Eastern Conference champs need.
"Ben Wallace is tough," Ferry said. "He'll bring an energy, a toughness, a presence to what we are doing."
Wallace was a major disappointment for the underachieving Bulls, who are 17 1/2 games out of first in the Central. Chicago signed Wallace to a four-year, $60 million contract in 2006.
At the time, the Bulls thought he was the missing piece to get them back into contention for an NBA title, something they haven't sniffed since Michael Jordan retired.
Wallace got the Bulls into the second round in last year's playoffs. But the team hasn't recovered from a slow start this season and he's averaging 5.1 points and 8.8 rebounds — his worst season statistically since 1999-00.
Bulls GM John Paxson defended the decision to sign Wallace.
"When we made the deal for Ben, we did it for the right reasons," he said. "He helped us become a better team last year and advance in the playoffs. I'm still as surprised as anyone that this year, we weren't better than we played."
Much like Wallace, Hughes didn't deliver as the Cavs had hoped. They signed him to a five-year, $60 million free agent deal in 2005, but he struggled with injuries and his jump shot.
Hughes had become a target of abuse at Cleveland home games as fans grumbled with every miss and every mention of a contract — he's making $12.8 million this season — that seemed untradeable.
Paxson said bringing in Hughes doesn't mean they're preparing for Ben Gordon's departure. Gordon turned down a five-year extension last year and is eligible to be a restricted free agent this summer.
"It gives us an issue in the backcourt, but it's a good issue to have," Paxson said. "This has nothing to do with Ben Gordon's future."
The Cavaliers will be the eighth team for the well-traveled Smith, a 32-year-old veteran averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Smith brings the Cavaliers experience and versatility up front.
Gooden, too, should boost Chicago's inside game. The 26-year-old is averaging 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Szczerbiak, who was part of the draft day trade that sent Ray Allen to Boston for the No. 5 pick — Jeff Green — and West, added scoring punch in a reserve role for the rebuilding Sonics.
He averaged 13.1 points, second behind rookie sensation Kevin Durant, and consistently showed he was fully recovered from offseason ankle surgery. In his final game with Seattle on Tuesday, Szczerbiak scored 24 points, including the go-ahead basket with 31 seconds remaining in a victory over Memphis.
Szczerbiak should get plenty of open looks in Cleveland. With more and more defenses double- and triple-teaming James, the club needs perimeter players capable of making outside shots consistently — something Hughes couldn't do.
"When you have a superstar like LeBron James, it's important to be able to put shooters around him," Ferry said. "When you have guys who make the extra passes, having somebody to knock down that shot is big."