This was bound to happen sometime. In a trend story in the Sporting News about NBA restricted free agents threatening to go to Europe, Sasha Pavlovic's agent, Marc Cornstein, makes a half-hearted threat that Sasha may go to Europe instead of taking a qualifying offer with the Cavs. Someone's frustration with the current situation was going public and Sasha's side was the first to blink.
I haven't written here in awhile because, frankly, there was nothing to write about. There still isn't a whole lot because this bluff by Cornstein -- who is a good agent just trying to do his job -- isn't a very good one and the situation is still the same as it was. We'll talk about that in a minute.
Restricted free agency often turns into a mess and for lots of different reasons. If teams pay the asking price they often are chided for overpaying and not letting the market play out. If a team signs a player to an offer sheet and it gets matched the team often looks like a fool. If the player waits until the end and takes the qualifying offer (as might very well happen with both Anderson Varejao and Pavlovic) there are angry vows made and plenty of hurt feelings. Sign-and-trades are very difficult to pull off and sometimes nullify the effectiveness of the entire signing. In fact, last summer's seemingly fair resolution when Drew Gooden signed a market value contract for three years is a rarity.
This is also the time of year unsigned restricted free agents -- the ones the market has passed by due to their status and sign-and-trade deals have gone by the wayside -- get crazy with frustration. Which is why next week there could be fireworks one way or another with Andy and Sasha. Either you're going to see smiling faces with 11th hour deals or you're going to hear very tough talk and threats about walking if they are forced into signing one-year qualifying offers. There's very little chance of it going another than those two directions.
In Sasha's case, he's not going to Europe. First off, his $2.8 million qualifying offer would be the most he's ever made and he's not going to get that overseas. Also, those training camps have already started and he's never played at the top level of Eurobasket and he's not been very good in international competition, either. Not to mention, if he wants to come back to the NBA, he'd still be restricted. The problem with him is the deals swingmen have signed this year are all over the board. Jason Kapono, a great guy for whom I couldn't be happier, got a crazy contract with the Raptors for the full mid-level. Then there were guys like Morris Peterson and Desmond Mason, wing veterans who are more highly regarded than Kapono or Pavlovic, getting around half of that. Then there's a guy like Ruben Patterson, who averaged more points and rebounds than Pavlovic and is a much better defender, and he signed for the NBA minimum. Plus, due to his status, the Cavs would be bidding against themselves for Sasha at this point. I am all for players getting paid, but just why would the Cavs increase whatever offer they have made? It isn't because of the Cornstein threat, I'll tell ya.
Even Charlie Bell, who was a good player in Europe and had a legit offer from a quality European team on the table, couldn't convince the Bucks when he tried the same tactic. It wasn't until his agent, Mark Bartelstein, shrewdly convinced Miami though a media blitz that Bell hated the entire state of Wisconsin, that he got an offer sheet from the Heat. Sasha has no such suitors. By the way, it's been quite a summer for Bartelstein, who sold the Bucks that Mo Williams actually would leave tens of millions on the table to play in Miami rather than Milwaukee. The Bucks raised their offer and suddenly January on Lake Michigan didn't seem so bad to Mo. Gotta love it. Now ask me if I believe Andrei Kirilenko is dropping $63 million (that's um, $1.5 billion rubles by the way) on the table. Yeah, right.
As for Varejao, for him the stakes are higher. His qualifying offer is much lower, just over $1.2 million. If he plays for that my guess is he'll be leaving at least $4 million on the table for this season alone. If he wants to prove his point and vows to walk next summer, the best he is probably going to get is the mid-level exception from a team (ask guys like Stromile Swift and Vlad Radmanovic). It's likely the Cavs are offering him more than that now. So, if I were him, despite his strong desire to land a $50 million contract or whatever, I'd pay attention to what Gooden did and take a three-year deal that will likely increase his net worth by 10 times while still putting him in position to command a massive deal when he's in his prime. But don't ask me, I'm just trying to be objective.