CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers are expected to offer free-agent center Greg Oden a two-year contract with a team option for a third year after the Feb. 21 trade deadline passes, according to a league source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of negotiations.
The Cavs have about $4 million in cap space, which they are preserving now for potential trades. Teams around the league don’t want to sign Oden until after the trade deadline.
Oden has visited with the Boston Celtics and could meet again with the Cavs in the coming weeks, his agent said Friday.
Oden is living nearby in Columbus. His agent, Mike Conley Sr., said last week Oden has been to see the Cavs a couple of times already, but was evasive when pressed as to what capacity.
“Greg has been up there [to Cleveland] before and he’ll probably be up there again in an official capacity,” Conley said Friday.
The Cavs have been interested in Oden for years, believing their partnership with the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic (which holds naming rights to the team’s practice facility) could be huge for Oden’s career.
Oden has endured three microfracture surgeries on his knees — including two on his left knee. He has not played since Dec. 5, 2009, after the Portland Trail Blazers made him the top overall pick of the 2007 draft.
He played in just 82 games in five seasons with the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. They finally released him near the end of last season.
Conley said Oden’s spirits are “the best they’ve been in a long time. I would say since I’ve known him, but I’ve known him since he was 9.”
Conley told the Beacon Journal last week Oden is healthy and anxious to return to the court, but that won’t happen until next season.
“He’s going to make an impact on whatever team he’s on — a big impact,” Conley said. “He’s already back in my eyes. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll get better and better. He hasn’t had a chance to improve his game of basketball because of all this. The upside on him is tremendous. He’s a young kid. He just turned 25. He’s in the prime of his life.”
Oden’s contract would take effect immediately, even though he won’t play this season. The Cavs would have him under contract for next season and hold the team option for 2014-15.
Kyrie Irving was a bit surprised he was named to the 3-point contest, but he was more annoyed he was drafted third for the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend.
Irving was selected by Team Shaq on Thursday, but only after Shaquille O’Neal chose Portland’s Damian Lillard first and Charles Barkley selected Anthony Davis.
O’Neal explained later in the evening he took Lillard first because he was concerned Irving wouldn’t play heavy minutes in the game considering his All-Star responsibilities on Sunday. O’Neal selected Blake Griffin with the top pick last year, then Griffin played only 10 minutes because he was an All-Star. The snub only irritated Irving, who scored 34 points to win Most Valuable Player of the rookie/sophomore game last year.
“I might go out and have 50 this time, honestly,” Irving said. “I think they probably didn’t think I was going to play, but now being picked third, I definitely want to play now. … I plan on playing starter’s minutes.”
Practice for shootout
As for the 3-point shootout, Irving will get a practice test on Tuesday. Coach Byron Scott participated in the 3-point shootout twice, finishing last in 1987 and third in 1988 behind winner Larry Bird and runner-up Dale Ellis.
Scott wants Irving to have some sort of idea what he’s getting into, which is why the Cavs will set up racks and give him a practice run on Tuesday. Then Scott will get two rounds to try to beat Irving’s score.
“The first time I was going in blind. Didn’t have a clue,” Scott said. “That’s the thing I tried to tell him today. That 60 seconds is a lot of time. When you first go through, if you haven’t been through it, then you really rush. That’s what I did the first time. The second time I knew it was no big rush, just take your time and knock your shots down.”
Irving didn’t sound too interested in Scott’s advice, however.
“I just think I’ve got to get advice from a first-place winner,” Irving said. “He came in third place.”
Irving will have a busy weekend between the Rising Stars game, the 3-point shootout and the actual All-Star Game. But no one seems concerned he’ll get overworked.
“It’s my first All-Star Game, so anything they throw at me, I’m going to welcome it with [open] arms,” Irving said. “Everyone else there has been picked multiple times and is probably used to this process, but me, I’m a 20-year-old kid. I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible.”