CHICAGO: Two years ago this day seemed nearly impossible. Even a year ago at this time, any type of extension for Anderson Varejao seemed far-fetched. Ever since the Cavs’ rebuilding plan started four years ago, Varejao’s name was a constant in trade rumors.
He seemed destined to be gone before his current deal expired, yet Varejao not only survived the length of the deal, he agreed to an extension on Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a league source with knowledge of the deal said it was for three years and worth $30 million, although the final year of the deal is non-guaranteed.
Varejao was not in the locker room before Friday’s game against the Bulls.
“We’re all very, very happy in the organization,” coach David Blatt said. “Andy is a valued member of this team. He’s really part of the fabric of Cleveland sports. It’s just a good news story all around.”
Varejao is in the final year of a six-year, $49 million deal and would’ve been an unrestricted free agent next summer. But the return of LeBron James prompted both sides to strike a deal. Varejao is one of James’ favorite all-time teammates.
“He’s worked hard and been loyal to this franchise and they rewarded him with it because of his hard work and dedication to the game,” James said. “It’s exciting for him for sure. There were a few trade rumors last year and the year before. For him to be at this point right now, it’s successful for him.”
With Varejao out of the way, the Cavs had until midnight Friday to reach agreement on an extension with Tristan Thompson. Otherwise he is set to become a restricted free agent next summer and the Cavs will have the right to match any deal he receives.
The Cavs were trying to negotiate similar contracts with both Varejao and Thompson. There was a sensitivity to keep both deals similar in annual value, particularly since Blatt has said repeatedly the two players are interchangeable. Thompson (23) is considerably younger than Varejao (32) and can command a fourth guaranteed season, but it’s difficult for the Cavs to give Thompson a significantly higher annual salary now that Varejao has beat him out for the starting job.
Thompson and James share an agent in Rich Paul, who also has the Phoenix Suns’ Eric Bledsoe. James pushed on social media this summer for the Suns to agree to a deal with Bledsoe, which they ultimately did. But he has stayed relatively quiet in regards to Thompson’s extension talks with the Cavs.
“They drafted him for a reason, because they felt like he was very good for this team, could be very productive for this team and he’s going to continue to grow as a young guy,” James said of Thompson. “I don’t think worrying about an extension should affect the way you play. You play well I think things come to you. Be humble about it and his contract will take care of itself either by [Friday] or throughout the offseason.”
When he saw the stat sheet following Thursday’s loss to the New York Knicks, James immediately flashed back to his first game with the Miami Heat. James had eight turnovers in his Heat debut against the Celtics in Boston, just as he had eight against the Knicks.
Some of the turnovers were the same, too. James threw the ball out of bounds when he aimed for Kyrie Irving in the corner and Irving instead cut backdoor. James and Dwyane Wade fumbled the identical play that night at the Garden.
“I’m like Peyton Manning. I need my reps,” James joked. “I need that seven-on-seven in the offseason. Obviously, it was a crazy offseason. I wasn’t able to get my seven-on-seven. That resulted in me having a lot of interceptions.”
In fact, with so many emotional high points of Thursday’s opener, James said the lasting thought he’ll take with him from the night was the eight turnovers.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.