For the last two years the Cavaliers have mostly enjoyed harmony and good chemistry. It has been part of the reason they've become one of the best teams in the league even though from top to bottom they do not have the best talent. While other teams have had players fight, demand trades, boycott their coach and the like, the Cavs have gotten along for the most part. Those intangibles and under valued attributes like defense and rebounding made the Cavs an elite team. But, as Paul Silas liked to say, "Ain't nothing in the NBA going to be a bed of roses." So, at long last, here come some thorns.
Despite having three months to reach deals, the Cavs will open training camp without Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao. Neither of them signed deals my midnight Sunday and they are now, effectively, holding out.
I have written a great deal about Sasha and Andy over the last few months. There is no way to predict how things will go now. Their decision to not take qualifying offers is unprecedented in recent NBA history. It is a radical attempt to summon up some leverage, which they do not have now. There is some belief among people in the league that Varejao and Pavlovic are actually working together behind the scenes are are trying to put pressure on the Cavs by staying at home. There will certainly be pressure on the front office from the Cavs players and coaches, who surely want their full team on the floor, and from the fans, most of whom don't understand why the Cavs aren't signing key players.
Here is the nitty gritty: Money is so tight in the NBA right now that agents are getting radical. Only two free agents got more than the mid-level exception this summer while changing teams, Rashard Lewis and Darko Milicic. Guess how many free agents got the full mid-level exception for max years this summer? Try zero. Three years ago, there were around a dozen, last year there were just four. They were Joel Pryzbilla (Blazers), Nazr Mohammed (Pistons), Vladimir Radmanovic (Lakers) and Jared Jeffries (Knicks). Think any of those teams are happy with those deals at this point? Well, it's showing in the marketplace.
Last season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban correctly predicted this summer would be a "nuclear winter" for free agents. For the most part, he was right. Guess what, a peek at next summer looks like it will even be worse because there is less money and better free agents. After heavy spending from 2004-2006 (including a big salary-cap jump in '05), many teams are very close to the luxury tax these days and spending likely isn't going back up until the summer of 2009.
Sasha and Andy are caught in the tightening and the Cavs are staring at a market without opposing bidders and where flexibility with contracts is more valuable than salary-cap space. So Danny Ferry is making what he considers is the proper decision for the long-term health of the roster and franchise, even if it is unpopular. Meanwhile, Pavlovic and Varejao are coming off career years and trying to get paid like their brethern have for the last three summers. They can't be blamed for that.
I can explain all day why there is an impasse, but I can't tell you how or when it is going to get resolved.