CLEVELAND, Ohio — A year ago at this time, it seemed every free-agent or trade rumor in the NBA involved the Cavaliers.
In those heady days while Dwight Howard was still plotting his escape from Orlando, the Cavs, with their willingness to deal and their attractive salary cap space, were rumored to be getting everybody from Andrew Bynum to Kris Humphries. Those inside the organization tried to tamp down the overly enthusiastic reporting, but it was like trying to hold back a tsunami for a while.
Eventually, of course, Howard wound up with the Lakers and Bynum and Humphries stayed put with Philadelphia and New Jersey, respectively.
This year, with most of the attention on where Howard would land as a free agent, the Cavs were barely mentioned, until they wound up at the head of the pack for Bynum’s services, while also signing free agents Earl Clark from the Lakers and Jarrett Jack from the Warriors.
Guess which way Cavs general manager Chris Grant prefers?
Grant does not like to advertise his intentions, so he’s perfectly happy to fly under the radar. But there’s no denying that the Cavs are one of the winners in the NBA off season, so far. While the Bynum deal is still not finalized, it is all but risk-free for the Cavs. If he can return to form — and that’s a big if, in my opinion — they got a steal. If he can’t, they can cut their losses after a year. Grant has managed to remake his roster — and re-engergize his fan base — without sacrificing any of the salary-cap flexibility he so desires.
Clark and Jack likely will play key roles, with Jack exactly the sort of veteran leadership presence needed for the Cavs promising young stars.
But the Cavs have not been the only busy team since the end of the season. As opposed to last summer, which was all talk and no action, the first two weeks of free agency have been a whirlwind of activity this year.
Houston won the big free-agent sweepstakes by signing Howard, who seems happy — at least for the time being. The Brooklyn Nets made the biggest trade, obtaining Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston for rookie head coach Jason Kidd.
The thought heading into the summer was that the notoriously indecisive Howard would jam everything up while he made his decision, and then the pieces would start to fall into place once he signed. Even though he actually made a quick decision, there was quite a bit of movement even before that with some big names changing teams. And let’s not even start on all the coaching changes.
Andre Iguodala went to Golden State. Josh Smith went to Detroit. Zanesville’s Kevin Martin went to Minnesota. Tyreke Evans went to New Orleans. Then again, one of the biggest free agents, Chris Paul, resigned with the Clippers with relatively little fanfare.
Count the Clippers among the big off-season winners, too, as they lured coach Doc Rivers from Boston, while keeping their core roster intact and adding sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
Conversely, though, count the Celtics among the biggest off-season losers. Obviously, a rebuild was in order, but in one fell swoop Boston lost Rivers, Pierce and Garnett, one year after losing Ray Allen. General manager Danny Ainge stunned most observers by hiring Butler coach Brad Stevens, although college coaches have a notoriously difficult time in transitioning to the NBA. That’s a lot of changes for a franchise that had been stable for so long.
The Lakers came out on the short end of the stick as far as Howard is concerned, although given the last year in Los Angeles, perhaps it’s addition by subtraction. Kobe Bryant, who will turn 35 in August, will be recovering from Achilles surgery, but no one should ever, ever count him out.
Atlanta thought it had a legitimate chance to woo native son Howard home as the centerpiece of Danny Ferry’s remade Hawks. But the Hawks didn’t get Howard and lost Smith to Detroit. Ferry did re-sign Kyle Korver and added Elton Brand but things didn’t turn out as he’d hoped.
Denver lost coach George Karl, along with Iguodala and Canton GlenOak’s Kosta Koufos of Ohio State, while Utah lost its front court of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
The two teams in the NBA Finals — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs — basically stood pat, re-signing their own free agents. Meanwhile, Portland and Milwaukee made a lot of changes.The Blazers lost J.J. Hickson and traded for Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez, while the Bucks shuffled their backcourt, losing Monta Ellis, Redick and Mike Dunleavy Jr., while signing O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour. More changes could be in store as there are rumors that restricted free agent Brandon Jennings does not want to return.
But change has been the name of the game for the first two weeks of what is proving to be one of the busier off seasons in recent memory. This year’s rumors are turning into reality.
- AP Source: Cavs, Bynum agree to 2-year deal (miamiherald.com)
- Report: Andrew Bynum In Cleveland For Face To Face Meeting (cleveland.cbslocal.com)
- Cavaliers still working on deal with Bynum (espn.go.com)
- Cavaliers set the stage for 2014 with Andrew Bynum signing (miamiherald.com)
- Bynum chooses Cavaliers (toledoblade.com)
- A healthy Bynum makes Cavs intriguing (clevelandsportschat.com)
- Free-Agency notes and targets- Cavs Chatter (clevelandsportschat.com)
- NBA free agency: Cavaliers offer Andrew Bynum 2-year, $24 million contract (sbnation.com)
- Bynum Weighing 2-Year Offer From Cavs (npr.org)
- Bynum agrees with Cavs (clevelandsportschat.com)