In a new feature on The North Coast Sports, we will take a look back at historical moments in the past of Cleveland sports as it pertains to the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers or the Ohio State Buckeyes as it happened on that date or during within the week. To get things started, we’ll look back at a blockbuster trade that the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off back in 2009
In the early morning hours of June 25, 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns agreed to a trade at the time that sent shockwaves around the NBA world.
Cleveland sent Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, $500,000, and a 2010 second-round pick to Phoenix for All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal.
At the time, Cleveland was looking to upgrade their frontcourt after Orland Magic center Dwight Howard dominated Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Anderson Varejao in the Eastern Conference Finals when the Magic defeated the Cavaliers in six games.
O’Neal was coming off his 17th season in which he was still productive averaging 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game for Phoenix. The Suns were looking to shed salary and with O’Neal having an upcoming expiring contract after the 2009-10 season, it made him easier to move. Phoenix eventually bought out both Wallace and Pavlovic and they never played for the Suns.
Shaq arrived in Cleveland with a ton of fanfare and once he proclaimed his goal was to ”Win A Ring For The King” in reference to Lebron James, fans were hopeful that the big man would help Lebron achieve his goal in his home state much as he did with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and Dwayne Wade in Miami.
Well things didn’t go as planned for the 2009-10 Cavaliers. O’Neal played in 53 of the team’s first 59 games and was somewhat effective averaging 12 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game but minutes decreased from 30 minutes per game in Phoenix to 23.2 per game in Cleveland.
O’Neal missed the final 22 games of the regular season after severely injuring his thumb against Boston which required surgery.
Once returning for the playoffs, O’Neal had to find his spot back in the rotation with Antwan Jamison, who was acquired right before O’Neal’s injury and second-year forward JJ Hickson along with Varejao and Ilgauskas all occupying the frontcourt during his absence.
O’Neal averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the postseason but Cleveland never even got the chance to seek revenge against Orlando as the Cavaliers were eliminated in the semi-finals against Boston. O’Neal joined Boston the following season and retired following the 2010-11 season.
In hindsight eleven years later, Cleveland should have pulled the trigger on the Tyson Chandler trade that was mentioned in the video above by Chris Broussard. Chandler was still only 25 years old at the time and was entering the peak of his career which he eventually hit with Dallas helping them win the 2010-11 NBA Championship and then had a solid run with the New York Knicks.
The relationship between Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry and then Suns general manager Steve Kerr was likely the catalyst in the trade to help two friends’ teams out. It ultimately didn’t help either as both were out of their respective positions following the 2010 season.