CLEVELAND: As the relationship between the Cavaliers and Andrew Bynum enters its final days, those close to Bynum seem surprised it’s ending so abruptly. Bynum is expected to be traded or released prior to Tuesday’s important deadline, when only half of his $12 million salary is guaranteed.
Bynum has remained in Cleveland until his future is resolved, although he hasn’t been around the team. One thing his agent made clear Friday is Cleveland wasn’t the issue. The Cavs have historically struggled attracting premiere free agents, but they were the only team willing to offer Bynum big money last summer. His agent, David Lee, insisted Friday his client didn’t come to Cleveland simply because it was his only legitimate opportunity to prove he can still play in the NBA with the intent of eventually forcing his way out.
“Cleveland is not the problem. Cleveland is not a negative connotation,” Lee said. “Andrew has shied away from publicity his entire life. He’s not a guy who needs the limelight. He lives in a simple neighborhood there. He walks his dog and rides his bike to the store. He goes to the movies by himself. Cleveland wasn’t a problem for him.”
Lee did not want to publicly get into specifics of why the relationship with the Cavs failed, but raved about the Cavs’ training staff, beginning with physical therapist George Sibel and his efforts to get Bynum back on the court.
After he had spent about two months working with the Cavs last summer, Lee asked Bynum what he thought of the training staff. Bynum told him, “I think they’re trying to help me.”
“Best answer I could ever get,” Lee said. “Their motivation was more important to me than saying they’re good or great. They were trying to help him. Can’t ask for a better answer than that. The training staff has been incredible.”
So where did it all go wrong? It’s hard to tell. Those close to Bynum concede he was disgruntled in recent weeks, but believe his dedication in working out six days a week from the time he moved here in July should prove his commitment and outweigh a couple of bad weeks.
The Cavs disagreed, suspending him for one game and excusing him from the team after he was shooting wild shots from around the court last Friday and acted disinterested in practice. Sources close to the Cavs insist it was a culmination of events that led to his dismissal and not just an isolated incident.
“No one expected him on the court in the first game, nobody expected 10 [points] and 5 [rebounds] his third game,” said one person close to Bynum, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation. “He’s done whatever everybody has said he couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Are you telling me he’s not buying in? I have a hard time rationalizing that after all the work he did all summer.
“From the day he signed, he bought in. He moved out there and was working six days a week the entire summer. Does that sound like somebody who has given up or doesn’t buy in?”
The Cavs have struggled to win all season, and despite multiple efforts from both sides, Bynum never seemed to fit well with what they were doing in games. When problems surfaced in practice and away from the court, the team quickly moved to separate themselves from him.
A deal between the Cavs and Lakers remains in a holding pattern, one league source said, while the Cavs continue to explore other offers. Yahoo Sports reported Friday the Cavs were mulling multiple offers involving Bynum and were hopeful of choosing one by Monday.
Six teams — the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the Lakers — are over the league’s luxury tax threshold and in line to pay severe penalties after the season. Bynum’s unique contract could get some of those under the threshold or at least reduce the penalties by millions for teams exorbitantly over like the Nets or Knicks.
If he is traded, no one in Bynum’s camp knows where he’s headed, but it’s probably irrelevant. Bynum is likely to be released by any of those six teams that trade for him, making him free to sign elsewhere, likely for the league minimum.
While Bynum admitted earlier this season he has contemplated retirement, and even people in the Cavs organization question how much he wants to play, those close to Bynum insist he wants to keep playing and will play again this season. But it won’t be in Cleveland.
“I’m not really sure what happened and that’s what is most troubling,” said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Nothing I have seen has warranted this, which is why I’m scratching my head.”
Kyrie Irving did not make the trip to Brooklyn for tonight’s game, which will mark the second he has missed with an injured left knee. His status for Sunday’s home game against the Indiana Pacers hasn’t been determined.