As the Cleveland Cavaliers relentlessly try to accumulate talent to surround MVP favorite LeBron James, the unending question is this: Do they dare mess with a franchise on a collision course with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals?
So, here is what the Cavs are asking themselves now: Do we dare?
Miami has had discussions with several teams lately on Marion, including the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, sources say, but Cleveland could deliver the most intriguing proposition. Marion has struggled with the Heat – averaging well below his career averages in scoring and rebounding – but several league executives believe he'll be more motivated and valuable with a championship contender. That's the reason Cleveland is entertaining the possibility. GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown are wondering whether Marion could be the difference in a conference final against the Celtics.
Nothing is imminent, but it's an intriguing possibility. Since Marion's trade to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal last season, his value has steadily declined. Before the season, his agent, Dan Fegan, turned down a three-year, $30 million extension. Marion will be lucky to get more on the market this summer. Marion, 30, makes $17.8 million this season.
For the Heat, Szczerbiak has a $13 million expiring contract, and Varejao has a player's option on $6.2 million. He'll likely opt out. This leaves Miami with a chance to negotiate a new contract with Varejao, or let him lapse and allow the Heat even more cap space for the summer.. Still, Cleveland is 20-4 and hesitant to mess with the chemistry. Nevertheless, the Cavs are trying desperately to win a championship with James prior to 2010 free agency.
Brown loves to play big lineups with Varejao on the floor, but Marion could give the Cavs the versatility on defense that he did the Suns. In the same series, Marion could cover Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Against the Celtics, Marion could spend time on Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. For the Cavs, it's something to consider as the days and weeks churn toward the Feb. 17 trade deadline.
League executives say that the agent for ex-Hornets shooter Jannero Pargo is trying to create a market for the exiled guard in the NBA.
Because the Moscow Dynamo have been slow to pay the guard and his agent this season, Mark Bartelstein could have grounds to terminate Pargo's contract with the elite Russian team based on late payments to his $3.8 million contract. Multiple teams have interest, but the New York Knicks are considered the favorite because so few teams are willing to significantly increase payroll in these economic times.
After New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn made general manager Jeff Bower withdraw an offer to keep Pargo over the summer, the free agent guard's best chance for a payday turned out to be the Dynamo. Yet now, most Russian teams are struggling to meet payrolls on time, what with money transferring so slowly through the banking system. The decline in oil prices has dramatically hurt most basketball ownership groups.
Nevertheless, sources close to Pargo say that the Dynamo will make sure Pargo gets all of his money, and that they've worked hard to take care of him. The Dynamo have ultimately met their payments to Pargo but have been consistently late, one league source said. That's happening everywhere in Europe, where several stateside agents say they're still waiting on Russian teams to pay agent's fees on contracts.
As one agent for a prominent company said, "I'm guessing that Russian salaries for players will go down by as much as 30 percent next season. You're going to see fewer guys jump over there."
For all the discussion about Philadelphia GM Ed Stefanski's old New Jersey Nets ties to Eddie Jordan, one source close to him thinks there's a much better chance he pursues television analyst Mark Jackson this summer. Jackson was a Nets broadcaster while Stefanski was the assistant GM. … Sacramento Kings players had grown tired of listening to Reggie Theus tell them that whenever he did get fired, he'd have a good college job waiting for him. Maybe so, but they didn't care. After his firing Monday, he can go back to campus. … The Celtics have offered their first-round pick, J.R. Giddens, around the league for a future first-round pick. So far, there are no takers. Giddens is playing for the Utah Flash of the NBA Developmental League. … The Bulls are actively shopping several players, including forwards Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas. … The NBA Retired Players Association made a terrific choice when it hired Charles Smith as its new executive director.