POSTED: Jul 10, 2013 8:41 PM ET
The Cleveland Cavaliers had free agent money available. Andrew Bynum needed a place to play. The result was a marriage of convenience that both sides hope will be more beneficial down the road than it may be next season.
Bynum agreed Wednesday to sign with the Cavaliers on a two-year deal worth $24 million. But that $24 million, really, is just $6 million in guaranteed money for next season. The other half of Bynum's salary next season would come if he reaches certain incentives. The Cavaliers have a club option for the second and final year of the deal.
The deal is a small gamble for the Cavs, who continue to rebuild their team in an orderly manner. They had already added first overall Draft pick Anthony Bennett, former Warriors combo guard Jarrett Jack and ex-Laker big man Earl Clark since June to a core that includes guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, forward Tristan Thompson and centers Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller.
Now they add Bynum, whose abilities when healthy are unquestioned. The 25-year-old center averaged 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 2011-12 with the Lakers, his final season in L.A., and looked to be one of the game's best young big men.
But knee injuries have plagued Bynum throughout his career, and kept him from logging a single game with the Philadelphia 76ers last season after being part of the four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala from the Sixers to the Nuggets and several young players and Draft picks to the Orlando Magic.
Bynum, according to sources, is still not able to participate in full-court drills. But the Cavs don't need Bynum next season. They have the veteran Varejao, recovering from a blood clot that ended his season last January, and Zeller, the second-year center from North Carolina.
Bynum was impressive in interviews with all three teams. But only the Cavs were willing at the moment to go as high as $6 million guaranteed for next season.
ESPN first reported Bynum's decision.
Bynum did not play a minute for the 76ers last season, as month after month passed without his being able to be cleared to resume full-court work. Every bit of progress would be followed by some kind of bad turn in his health. When his right knee started to come around in November, he began experiencing problems with his left knee.
"I had a little bit of a setback," Bynum said then. "Just working through some issues with the right knee, I kind of have a mirror thing going on with the left knee. I don't know what's going on. The doctors are saying it's a weakened cartilage state, so we kind of wait, I guess. We can't do anything. I just have to wait for the cartilage to get strong."
Bynum later acknowledged he injured the left knee further after going bowling.
The 76ers went slow, but Bynum could never get over the hump. After finally being cleared to begin limited work with the rest of the team in February, he had another setback, complaining of swelling in his right knee. Eventually he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees, officially ending his 2012-13 season.
His agent said he was cleared to resume practice at the end of June, but the 76ers had moved on by then, expressing next to no interest in re-signing a player who got $16.5 million for no production.