LAS VEGAS: Nine days after Andrew Bynum announced he would play for the Cavaliers, the team is finally ready to make it official. Bynum will be introduced at a Friday morning news conference after signing a two-year deal potentially worth $24 million.
The lapse in time between Bynum’s decision last week and Friday’s official announcement was for a variety of reasons, particularly the language that had to be written into the contract to protect the team and Wednesday’s 5 p.m. amnesty waiver claim deadline. By dragging out the Bynum contract, the team left itself with cap space to potentially make a claim on a player who was waived under the league’s amnesty provision.
The Cavaliers examined Mike Miller, but ultimately passed without placing a bid. Miller has back problems, the Cavs would’ve had to carry money for him on their books next season and Miller made it clear to those close to him in recent days he had no desire to play in Cleveland.
Instead, within hours of the amnesty waiver claim deadline passing, the team announced today’s press conference involving Bynum.
The preliminary plan now is for Bynum to primarily remain in Cleveland throughout the summer. His agent, David Lee, insists his client is completely healthy, but any remaining rehab work Bynum needs on his knees will be completed under the care of the Cavaliers.
The deal, as previously reported, includes just $6 million guaranteed for this season. But if Bynum is healthy, he can be a game-changer for the Cavaliers.
“He’s an All-Star. Having him healthy is going to help us a lot,” said Tristan Thompson, who watched the Cavs’ summer league game Thursday from their bench. “Having him and Andy (Varejao) and Tyler (Zeller) at the center position, you can never have enough bigs. We’re going to have a good frontcourt and I’m excited.”
Bynum’s arrival could dramatically reduce Zeller’s minutes. He was the starting center for most of last season following the injury to Varejao, but if all the bigs are healthy, Zeller will enter camp this fall as the fifth big.
“I hope he’s healthy and playing well,” Zeller said. “I think he can help us tremendously. He’s huge and he’s a great player.
“Every day we have to go out and fight for our minutes. It’s kind of the way the league is. I’ll fight for all the minutes I can get, and if I don’t get them, hopefully I can learn a lot this year and get better.”
Zeller said he has added about 15 pounds of muscle and his biceps are visibly bigger. He still has a little more muscle to add, but he’s pleased with where he’s at and said he’s anxious just to practice every day against an All-Star like Bynum.
“You don’t get to play against people like that in practice very often,” he said, “and really learn how to play against those guys.”
Bynum’s signing will complete a stunning summer for the Cavaliers, which includes the signings of Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark and the addition of draft picks Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix. After three relatively quiet summers, the Cavaliers have positioned themselves to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“To be a playoff team or to have a chance to make noise in the East, you have to bring in guys and take the guys you have and get them seasoned,” Thompson said. “We were expecting some moves to happen and some signings. It’s part of becoming a good team and we’re excited.
“I think if we take care of business, we should put ourselves in position to be able to play in May and June, but time will tell. I think it will be quite interesting.”