The Cleveland Cavaliers began the 2013-14 season with playoff aspirations and the looming specter of a LeBron James return playing in the back of their minds. Barely more than a third of the way into the campaign, the organization has been exposed as arguably the most dysfunctional in the league outside the New York City lines.
In the latest in what's been a series of farcical events, the Cavaliers announced the indefinite suspension of center Andrew Bynum for "conduct detrimental to the team." There has been no one inciting incident reported, and head coach Mike Brown was typically vague when discussing the suspension with the media.
"I'm worried about the guys in the locker room," Brown said, via ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "It's simple as that. In our business, there are a lot of ups and a lot of downs throughout the season. So what you do as a head coach is keep moving forward. Any time you look back on anything or dwell on anything, is wasted energy from the guys in the locker room, which is obviously very important."
No, don't worry. You read that correctly. And it makes as little sense as you thought it did. Brown strung some words together that sounded vaguely coach-y, as if he were filling out an NBA Coach Mad Lib, and expected no one to notice that he may as well have been talking about Beowulf.
That's fine; Brown isn't required to give us the particulars. What it exposes, though, is that Bynum wasn't being suspended for telling Brown off or, I don't know, getting into such an intense argument with a teammate the Internet runs rampant with rumors of fisticuffs.
Andrew Bynum was suspended, essentially, for being Andrew Bynum. The same aloof enigma that took three-pointers in Los Angeles and put only requisite effort in his rehab in Philly.
Ridding themselves of such a player isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bynum is averaging 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 41.9 percent shooting. The Cavaliers scored seven fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor—the difference between being slightly below average and being the league's worst team.
Folks will forgive a perceived loaf when he's averaging 19-12 nightly lines. The leash isn't as long when you're turning in 0-of-11 nights.
The way the Cavs have handled this, though...yikes.
Cleveland's "indefinite" suspension of Bynum will last exactly five games, when his Jan. 7 option to guarantee his contract for the rest of 2013-14 comes up. Only $6 million of the $24 million on Bynum's two-year deal is guaranteed, with Cleveland having multiple outs—ostensibly designed for injury issues, but being used here to eradicate a personality defect.
Suspending Bynum for these five games will save Cleveland roughly $365,853. That number assumes an 82-game prorating for the $6 million that he's guaranteed for the season. The length of the suspension is such that Cleveland can get out of a substantial chunk of the real money on the deal, while not raising the ire of the players association.
It's all justifiable, even if it's a bit manipulative. Only the Cavs have managed to take what could have been a relatively short, quiet story after the initial burst and managed to keep the coals firing all weekend by indicating they'd look to trade Bynum.
Chris Grant, piece of advice: If you would like to trade an asset, you typically want to enhance said asset's value—not torpedo it by issuing a suspension that makes it blatantly obvious you have no interest in keeping the player. Grant was going to have a difficult time finding a suitor to begin with. Bynum hasn't remotely looked like a $12 million player, and the only reason a team would trade for that contract is to dump long-term salary.
Sure, Danny Ainge would love 'Drew. How does Gerald Wallace sound in return?
Any team that has actual interest in Bynum will wait it out. Why pay a guy $6 million now when you can wait a little over a week and pay him the minimum (or slightly above) when he hits the open market?
And there's nothing the Cavaliers can do about it. They can't keep him suspended without pay for the rest of the season. They can't bring him back to that locker room. They certainly can't opt in on Jan. 7 and pay him to stay away for the rest of the season.
The fiasco screams incoherence—something which the Cavaliers have become well-versed.
This is an organization that reached for Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett and were somehow shocked that their overdrafts didn't turn into superstars. Thompson and Waiters have already heard their names come up in trade talks and have unsurprisingly stayed put when teams weren't fawning over a slightly-above-replacement-level big and an inconsistent shoot-first guard whose NBA destiny is a sixth man.
This is an organization that saw Mike Brown struggle to create an offensive game plan around LeBron James for five years, watched him fail in Los Angeles and then somehow decided that signing up for five more years at $20 million was a good idea. You will be shocked to learn that the Cavs are averaging 98 points per 100 possessions and spend the fifth-most time in isolation in the league, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Who is at fault for the Cavs' current struggles?
This is an organization that added Jarrett Jack, who needs a ton of dribbles to be effective, to a roster that already included Waiters and Kyrie Irving—both of whom use a ton of dribbles. Grant thought it was a good idea to draft Bennett over Victor Oladipo (despite Thompson's presence) because Waiters was already on the roster and then subsequently tried trading Waiters.
The Cavs somehow still think LeBron James is giving even the slightest consideration to coming back. They're the team once equipped with a war chest of assets that is dangerously close to throwing it all away. And none of this notes the widespread incompetence and short-sightedness that led to James' departure in the first place.
Andrew Bynum is a problem. His personality, which B/R's Kevin Ding covered, is such that he does whatever he wants when he wants—like a spoiled child. He can be your best friend—or he could clothesline you in an embarrassing act of petulance. Drew will either work his behind off in rehab or he'll jeopardize everything in pursuit of a 7-10 split.
That's who Bynum is because it's who he's always been. The Cavs knew that. They took the risk anyway. Now they're looking to get out. But with the way this organization is being run, will anyone be even remotely shocked if Bynum suddenly recaptures his passion outside that toxic environment?
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