- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

(AP) — The Washington Wizards have traded All-Star forward Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The trade was announced Wednesday night as part of a three-team deal that also sent Wizards’ Drew Gooden to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The trade was the most recent effort in a near-desperate attempt by the Wizards to salvage a losing season, save money and perhaps rebuild for the future.

The Wizards were supposed to be an NBA playoff team this year with the return of All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas. However, Washington has played poorly in part because of bad team chemistry, which reached a low in December when Arenas brought guns into the locker room in connection with a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

Arenas is now serving a season-long suspension. In addition, beloved team owner Abe Pollin died in November.

On Saturday, the 18-33 Wizards shipped Brendan Haywood, the Wizards’ longest-tenured player, to Dallas along with two-time All-Star Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.

As part of the deal Wednesday, Washington received Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a 2010 first-round draft pick and the rights to Emir Preldzic, who was selected in the second round of last year’s draft from Cleveland.

The Wizards also received forward Al Thornton from Los Angeles.

Cleveland gets guard Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers.

“Antawn Jamison has been the embodiment of leadership on and off the court for this franchise for five-and-a-half seasons and we thank him for all he has done for the Wizards and the city of Washington,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “Unfortunately, our on-court results have not met our expectations and we felt it was necessary to make changes to improve our future and our financial flexibility. This trade accomplished both of those objectives.”

The deal gives Cavalier All-Star LeBron James a new All-Star sidekick.

Team officials hope Jamison will fit in between James and Shaquille O’Neal on a championship front line.

“Antawn is a great pro. We are very excited to have an experienced all-star player of Antawn’s caliber and character join us,” Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement announcing the trade. “He has the ability to add a special, unique dimension to our team with a strong inside presence and the ability to stretch teams defensively, while impacting the entire court.”

The Cavaliers had long coveted an athletic power forward who could play on the perimeter after they were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

They had reportedly been involved in trade talks with Phoenix for Amare Stoudemire, but instead ended up with another former All-Star.

Jamison, who had been with the Wizards since 2004, is averaging 20.5 points this season. He was not in uniform for Washington’s game with Minnesota on Wednesday.

Jamison left the arena shortly before the game. As he entered his car, he said to reporters: “Not now.”

He did have a message for Wizards fans: “You know I love them more than they love me.”

Jamison should immediately step in at power forward for Cleveland and supply James with another legitimate scoring option as the Cavaliers’ seek their first championship. Jamison is still owed $28 million over the next two seasons.

Cleveland (43-11) has the best record in the NBA and can set a new franchise mark by winning its 14th straight game Thursday night against Denver. Still, the Cavaliers couldn’t pass on the opportunity to add a proven veteran like Jamison, who can stretch opposing defenses with his perimeter shooting and open up the lane for James and O’Neal.

Ilgauskas, who is 34, has played his entire 12-year NBA career with the Cavaliers. He was supplanted as the starting center by O’Neal this season. He’s averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds this season. His career averages are 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.

“Z has been a cornerstone part of this franchise and his jersey will hang in the rafters here some day, not only because of his play, but because of the tremendous person he is and what he has meant to the franchise and the community,” Ferry said. “He has represented the Cavaliers, Cleveland and the NBA at a consistently high level for many years. We wish Z and his family the best.”

James can become a free agent this summer, leaving this as Cleveland’s final shot at a championship before he decides to stay or go. The Cavaliers also had the league’s best record last season, when they failed to reach the NBA finals.

Maybe Jamison can help them take that next step.

He was extremely popular not only with fans in Washington, but also with his teammates and Pollin. After Arenas was suspended indefinitely early last month, Jamison was the one who was chosen to speak to the crowd before the Jan. 8 game. He apologized for a skit that pantomimed shooting guns, calling it: “very embarrassing.”

Now Jamison is gone and Wizards coach Flip Saunders lauded him.

“He’s one of the most professional guys I’ve ever been around,” Saunders said.

The Wizards had just acquired Gooden, in the multiplayer trade Saturday.

Gooden was reportedly seeking a buyout. Unlike his three former Mavericks teammates, he did not practice with the Wizards on Tuesday, but was at shootaround Wednesday morning. He was listed as inactive.

“Basically, we started looking at opportunities to clear cap space for this summer and in the meantime acquire assets that we also liked,” Clippers general manager Mike Dunleavy said. “In the last two days, we were able to do that. And it gives us the flexibility to pretty much go in a lot of different directions.”

Jamison was an All-Star in 2005 and 2008, and averaged 20.5 points in 41 games. He missed the first nine games of this season with a sprained right shoulder.

The 33-year-old played his first five seasons with Golden State and after playing the 2003-04 season with Dallas, was traded to Washington. Jamison has a career average of 19.9 points.

The 6-foot-7 Thornton has averaged 13.7 in his three-year career with the Clippers.

Telfair, who’s 24, will be playing for his fourth team. The former first-round pick has averaged 7.9 points in his career.

Times reporter Joseph Weber contributed to this story.

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