SH Blog: For Cleveland, Dallas and Atlanta, the Bynum Safari Continues

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andrew-bynumAndrew Bynum, with his inclusion of the Cleveland Cavaliers as a “serious” candidate to land the two-time NBA champion center, has started what’s referred to as the “Bynum Safari” on the popular Cavs forum, RealCavsFans.com.

The term Bynum Safari stems from the legendary “Amar’e Safari” thread on RealCavsFans. The Amar’e Safari became the most popular thread in RealCavsFans history a few years back in 2009, when the Cavaliers were flirting with the opportunity to trade for Amar’e Stoudemire to pair with LeBron James (and entice him to stay, of course).

Amar’e-to-Cleveland rumors carried on for what seemed like years only to disappoint Cleveland when they gave up hope and settled for signed Antawn Jameson (instead of centering a deal around J.J. Hickson), effectively ending the Amar’e Safari.

While this may mean nothing to you, it does explain the current infatuation Cleveland has with Andrew Bynum, who was made a two-year, $24 million offer by the Cavs on Monday. CBSSports’ Ken Berger reported late Tuesday morning that Bynum would have a decision by this evening:

While he considers a two-year offer from Cleveland, Andrew Bynum is meeting withHawks officials in Atlanta on Tuesday and expects to make a decision later in the day, league sources told CBSSports.com.

“There should be a deal today,” said a person familiar with the negotiations.

If Berger were to be correct, I could have to rewrite this blog at any given minute.

Thankfully, I can work at more of a relaxed pace due to the latest report from the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd:

After visiting the Cavaliers’ facility on Monday, Bynum visited with the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and will meet with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, his agent, David Lee, told the Akron Beacon Journal. While reports surfaced early Tuesday morning that Bynum could make a decision by the end of the day, Lee said there is no timetable and was vague when asked if it will be made this week.

“It might be, but it’s hard to say,” Lee said. He wouldn’t get into specifics of the visits in Cleveland or Atlanta and wouldn’t disclose what the Hawks offered.

“It’s ongoing discussions and I’d prefer they stay private among the parties,” he said.

A few tweets by Sam Amico help clarify Lloyd’s report…

 

 

Mo WilliamsIf Cleveland does land Bynum, it will be their biggest free agent signing in quite some time. With apologies to Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and Mo Williams (trade), Bynum would clearly top the list. Jarrett Jack would fall to No. 2.

More importantly, the Cavs would be putting themselves in the ultimate low risk/high reward situation. The second year of their proposed deal includes a team-option. Hypothetically, if Bynum doesn’t work out this year, they can simply pass — without penalty — on bringing him back for year two and focus on making another major move in 2014′s heralded free agent class.

Cleveland’s proposed contract is also rumored to include several incentives that would protect them against Bynum’s extensive injury history such as games and minutes played. They would also be protected by what is known as “Exhibit 3″ in the NBA’s new CBA. ESPN’s Larry Coon explains it well here:

Coon: I’d say four years, $64 million — with an “Exhibit 3″ to protect them. Bynum is an interesting case. If healthy, you know that some team is going to max him out. But he’s not healthy, and never really has been. Contracts can be written with an escape clause called Exhibit 3, which is a prior injury exclusion. It’s what Brandon Roy got with the Timberwolves, and it allowed them to walk away from Roy without owing additional money. It says that if the team waives the player because of a prior, known injury, then his salary is not guaranteed. Exhibit 3 is tailor-made for this situation, and gives teams the insurance they need to offer him a higher salary.

Despite their cursed history, Cleveland fans should be feeling pretty good right now. Chris Grant has made Bynum a lucrative offer with an exceptional amount of team protection, which also gives Bynum the ability to play his way back onto the NBA map and capitalize on another big contract in 1-2 years.

Brand reinvention may be harder than brand invention. And for Bynum, once unanimously thought to be a max-player, is struggling to draw interest from the majority of teams in the NBA. This tweet from Sam Amick should put it all in perspective.

Stiemsma 12, Bynum 3?

Once thought to be — by more than a few — the best center in the NBA, is seen far more as a risk than a reward. This is Bynum’s reality.

Exiled from Los Angeles, Bynum has been off the map for some time now.

Ironically, with all things considered, Cleveland of all places has to look pretty appealing to Bynum right now.

Between the three teams he is considering — Dallas, Atlanta, Cleveland — the Cavs have by far the most talented roster, the most flexibility to improve that roster moving forward, a star point guard who won’t treat him as little brother, a coach he is familiar with and has had success under — Bynum averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds under Mike Brown in 2011-’12 — and the opportunity to be treated by the world’s best doctors at the Cleveland Clinic year-round.

None of this is to say the Cavs will land Bynum. After all, he has made strange decisions before. And would it surprise anybody if he was attracted to the bright lights of Dallas and the glitzy ownership of Mark Cuban?

Probably not.

Would it surprise anybody if Dallas, in a desperate pursuit of a big name, guaranteed Bynum a three or four-year contract?

Probably not.

And it would not surprise me to see Bynum take it.

Cleveland, you’re almost through the Bynum Safari.

Hang in there.

Ben Baroff is a basketball journalist who blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter here.

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