Ricky had to go

Updated: December 17, 2003, 8:48 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Eric Williams
AP PhotoEric Williams' veteran presence will set a better example for LeBron James.
For the first time in a while, friends, I can honestly say I like this trade from both sides.

Celtics boss Danny Ainge made a bold move to upgrade his talent base, which had to happen if Boston is to remain among the East's elite. Don't be fooled by the five-game win streak. Paul Pierce needs more help, and on a long-term basis, especially with Raef LaFrentz lost for the season.

I've been on Ricky Davis all season, true, but that's because I like watching him play when he's trying his hardest. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and dare to suggest that he can handle being a second fiddle to Pierce, an unquestionable superstar, better than he can handle playing in LeBron James' teen shadow.

From the Cavaliers' end, Ricky simply had to go. Coach Paul Silas didn't know night to night which Ricky he'd be getting. I was in Boston recently to see Ricky shoot the ball every time he touched it. I was in Cleveland last week to see Ricky refuse to shoot, as if to tweak his coach. Eric Williams, meanwhile, is the no-nonsense, rugged veteran Cleveland has been looking for to put beside LeBron. He'll be a better teammate for James than Davis, who was Cleveland's best on-the-ball defender ... but, like Randy Moss, only when he wanted to. Too often in Cleveland, Davis didn't.

I credit Ainge for taking a gamble after his attempts to land Bonzi Wells before Memphis were thwarted. The Cavs would have preferred trading Ricky for Williams straight up, but Boston also is searching for size to fill the LaFrentz void. That's why Boston held out for Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart.

Cleveland's retaliation was getting Kedrick Brown instead of Walter McCarty. That means Jim Paxson is happy and so is Tommy Heinsohn.

And so I am, at first glance. Bringing Davis in makes as much sense for the Celtics as moving him out does for the Cavs.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

ALSO SEE