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Lebron James’ contract is up after next year. Just in case you didn’t know.

Cleveland GM Danny Ferry is rumored to be in a frenzied state searching for ways to take his Cavaliers to a championship level before King James decides to hold court elsewhere.

The latest, and perhaps most intriguing development in the constant whispers involves Phoenix’s Shaquille O’neal. Word has it that Ferry reached out to fellow former role player Steve Kerr, the Suns’ GM, to revitalize rumors that died down during the winter.

O’neal, now 37, is slated to make $20 million next year. His departure would provide Kerr with the cap space to shop around in the 2010 off-season, when a host of young, all-star talent like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh hit the free-agent waters. Additionally, Cleveland would get the desperately-needed interior presence to combat Dwight Howard, who saw them out of the playoff picture with a monstrous 40 point and 14 rebound performance.

The teams hit a snag this winter when Kerr asked for Delonte West in return for O’neal. Ferry refused to part with the young guard and talks came to a halt.

Ferry appears to have now put together an alternative package that pleases Kerr. It would include Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavolvic, and possibly some sort of draft day exchange.

Keep in mind that no talks can officially occur until July 1 and that Kerr, if indeed he wants to open up cap space, would probably make O’neal’s availability far more public in hopes of starting a bidding war.

The story does not end there.

SLAM Magazine reported Ferry having a strong interest in Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace. Additionally, the report listed a sign-and-trade with the Clippers for problem-child Zach Randolph as a backup plan.

All three of these players are well past their prime and notorious for destroying team chemistry. And while their status as agents of destruction certainly lowers their value to an attainable level, Danny Ferry must be careful in his scratching and clawing for talent.

Lebron James is not a moron and can tell the difference between a token move made to keep him in Cleveland from one made with the genuine intention of helping the team succeed. He will leave if O’neal, Wallace, or Randolph are the cancer to Cleveland that they were to their laundry-lists of other teams.

Finally, despite Mike Brown’s recent Coach-of-the-Year honor, other reports  have Cleveland window-shopping for a new coach. Their top prospect’s name: Pat Riley. Frank Isola of The Daily News reported the possibility last week in his Knicks Knation blog.

The logic against this possibility is obvious. First, Riley shot down the report the next day. Also Coach-of-the-Year losing his job two weeks after he was awarded the title is ludicrous. Lastly, the Cavalier players all like Brown. Removing him would be a very abrupt shift and compromises some player-coach chemistry.

Not to be neglected, though, is the somewhat-valid argument for it. The vast majority of the games that Cleveland did win were the ones that “didn’t  count.” They performed questionably against the leagues top teams, including two double-digit losses to the Lakers, and barely squeaked out a game 7 win against a severely depleted Boston Celtic team.

All of this being said, these rumblings could all end up being nothing more than the rumors of over-thinking analysts and wishful fans. However, the fact that there are so many probably means that something is up. Any team that does not win a championship has its eyes open in the off-season and the Cavs are no different. They aren’t playing basketball in June, so moves are to be made.

How else would pictures like this come into existence?

Hopefully this is just the beginning to an interesting off-season. Cheers.

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