INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Even if they fail to make a trade before Thursday's deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers have reinforcements on the way.
Forward Leon Powe, signed during the offseason from Boston, could make his debut Thursday against Denver following summer knee surgery. Mo Williams may need a little more time, but isn't far behind, and Delonte West is finding his rhythm after returning to the lineup in the final game before the All-Star break.
While the Cavaliers continue to be linked to Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire and Washington's Antawn Jamison as possible trade targets, they're assured of getting back a former All-Star point guard in Williams and a gritty defender in Powe in the coming days.
"I had to go in the shop for a lot of months," Powe said. "I know how hard I worked and I knew the hard work was going to pay off sooner or later. Hopefully it's about that time."
Powe may not be an elite scoring option at power forward like Stoudemire or Jamison, but his defensive mindset should fit in well with Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. Powe was credited with supplying interior toughness during the Celtics' championship run in 2008 before tearing his ACL during the playoffs last season. Boston chose not to re-sign him. In Cleveland, he will join Anderson Varejao and starter J.J. Hickson to give the Cavaliers a deep set of forwards.
That is, if Hickson is still on the roster by Thursday's tip-off against Denver.
Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, said he expects the All-Star to be traded by Thursday's deadline, with Cleveland and Miami the most likely destinations. Walters and the Suns have exchanged figures on an extension, since Stoudemire can become a free agent after the season.
Phoenix failed to win with Stoudemire and O'Neal playing next to each other and Steve Nash running the offense. Should the Cavaliers obtain Stoudemire, he would be joined in Cleveland by O'Neal, James and another former All-Star point guard in Williams.
Williams has missed the last 11 games with a sprained left shoulder, but it has hardly slowed the Cavs (43-11), who have the best record in the league. Cleveland is riding a 13-game winning streak and can set a franchise record for consecutive wins with a victory over the Nuggets on Thursday.
Williams has been shooting around pregame for the last couple of weeks and participated in his first full practice on Wednesday, but tweeted after practice that he doesn't expect to play against the Nuggets.
"Didn't have a good practice today," Williams tweeted. "A lil rusty. Gone [sic] take me a few days."
Powe also practiced, but hasn't been cleared by the team's training staff. He was hopeful that could come Thursday.
"I feel like I could play. I feel real good," Powe said. "I've felt good for the last month, actually, but they've been real careful with me. Now they have to communicate with each other and see what they want to do."