INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — With the NBA’s power shifting eastward, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t want to fall too far behind.
Just hours before the league’s trading deadline, the struggling Cavs acquired point guard Baron Davis and an unprotected 2011 first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers for guard Mo Williams and forward Jamario Moon.
While it’s not comparable to the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony-to-New York or Deron Williams-to-New Jersey deals, it’s an important step for a Cleveland team rebuilding in the wake of LeBron James‘ departure.
“We’re excited about the future here,” coach Byron Scott said.
At 10-47, the Cavs, who recently lost a record 26 straight games, have the league’s worst record in their first season without James, the two-time league MVP who bolted for Miami as a free agent last summer. Cleveland general manager Chris Grant‘s goal has been to add draft picks to replenish his roster, and he’ll go into June’s draft with two first-round and two second-round picks.
“We feel good about it,” he said. “We’re eager to keep going and keep moving. Our scouting department just got a little busier, which is a good thing.”
Grant said the club could make another move before the deadline.
In Cleveland, the 31-year-old Davis will be reunited with Scott. The two clashed repeatedly during their time together in New Orleans, but Scott said they fixed their relationship last summer.
Scott said Davis approached him before a preseason game and apologized for his past behavior.
“He hugged me and said, ‘I love you,’” Scott said. “It’s water under the bridge. We let it go.”
Scott said he was moved by Davis’ gesture.
“I was very touched,” he said, “to the point that I was speechless. From that point on, our relationship has been very good.”
The Cavs are taking on Davis’ huge contract, another sign of owner Dan Gilbert‘s determination to get his team back on top. Davis is owed $29 million over the next two seasons.
The Clippers are taking on Williams’ $9.3 million contract this season. He has player options over the next two years, so Los Angeles may be able to get him off their books if things don’t work out. Moon’s $3 million contract expires after this season, and the Cavs were probably going to buy him out.
Both Davis and Williams sat out their games on Wednesday night with apparent injuries. Davis didn’t play in New Orleans because of swelling in his left knee while Williams, who has battled injuries all season, missed Cleveland’s loss against Houston with a sore ankle.
Scott is counting on Davis being a mentor for young guard Ramon Sessions, who is excited about the chance to play with one of the league’e top point guards.
“He’s a guy who can teach me a few things,” Sessions said.
Williams is getting another fresh start.
He’s had a rough few months in Cleveland. Acquired by the Cavaliers before the 2008 season to help James win a title, Williams was deeply troubled by the two-time MVP’s decision to leave as a free agent for Miami. Williams injured his groin before training camp opened and has been slowed by a hip flexor for weeks.
Before the deal was officially complete, Williams reached out to Cleveland fans on his Twitter account.
“I wanna say thank you to all Cavs fans,” he wrote on mogotti2. “It’s been great. We’ve had some really good yrs and memories. I will never forget u guys.”