INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — As he addressed his reasons for signing with the Cavaliers, guard Jarrett Jack was asked about the team’s new center, the former All-Star with the balky knees and uncertain future.
What can Andrew Bynum do for the Cavs?
“Who?” Jack joked.
Cleveland’s free-agent class is still missing one member.
Bynum, who has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Cavs, was not present at a news conference Friday as the Cavs introduced their two newest players: Jack and forward Earl Clark. The Cavs and Bynum’s agent, David Lee, are still finalizing the complex deal that should eventually land the enigmatic 7-footer in Cleveland sometime next week.
Bynum never played for Philadelphia after being traded to the 76ers last summer because of knee injuries, and the Cavs are making sure they have protection in case he’s not ready to play. The sides agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal that only guarantees Bynum $6 million and includes a team option in the second year. Bynum can earn $12 million in the first year if he reaches performance incentives.
While he works on closing Bynum’s deal, general manager Chris Grant said he’s excited to add players who bring toughness, leadership and playoff experience to the Cavs’ young core.
“We spent a lot of time debating and talking about these two gentlemen here and how well they fit into our organization,” Grant said. “We’re very happy to add both of these true professionals to our team.”
By league rules, Grant was not allowed to discuss Bynum. However, Jack was eager to analyze what the big man could do for a franchise that has gone 64-166 the past three years.
“An anchor in the middle is something every team is desperately in need for and when healthy, he’s one of the best, if not the best big men in the game,” Jack said. “If we’re able to lock it down, and make this thing come to fruition, I think he definitely helps take our team to the next level — and if he’s able to stay healthy, obviously.”
Jack signed a four-year, $25 million contract after averaging 12.9 points and 5.5 assists in 79 games for Golden State. Once the Warriors renounced his rights as a restricted free agent, Jack looked at his options and decided the Cavaliers, despite winning just 24 games last season, were a good fit.
“When I talked to my agent, we looked over the situation and found out that coach Mike Brown was the one spearheading this thing,” Jack said. “That was the only vote of confidence that I needed. Looking at the makeup of the team, it’s a very, very young team, but I think with a promising future. That’s something I desperately want to be a part of. People tend to forget that when I joined Golden State they’d won 24 games that year.
“Taking on a challenge is something I pride myself on.”
One of the biggest is trying to get a Cleveland team to the top. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary since any of the city’s professional teams won a championship.
“That’s the thing that drives all of us,” Jack said.
Soon after he agreed to sign with Cleveland, Jack called Browns cornerback Joe Haden. The two grew up on the same street in Maryland and remain close friends.
“I said, `Which one of us is going to be the one to take us to the top?'” Jack said. “Knowing the incredible talent that has come through, not being able to get to the mountaintop, it would be an incredible thing.”
Clark, too, has some background — albeit brief — with Brown.
Known mostly for his defense, Clark spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, who fired Brown after five games. The 6-foot-10 Clark prides himself on his ability to guard smaller players on the perimeter and he’s excited about being a stopper for Cleveland.
“That’s something that comes easy to me, I like the challenge of guarding the best player out there,” he said. “I just want to play under coach Brown a little more in training camp. I know he’s a defensive coach and that’s what he preaches. I’m excited to be here and excited to go out and play defense.”