If all goes well with Andrew Bynum, the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t need to worry about LeBron James.
Not that the Cavs would ignore James should he opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. No team would.
It’s just that if Bynum can stay healthy, and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving continues his rise, the Cavs will be desperate for no one.
Bynum met with reporters at the Cavs’ practice facility Friday and said all the right things.
“I feel a lot better than I did last year. I’m ready to work,” he said. “I’m going to stay in the gym as much as possible to get my game back.”
“I want to get back to All-Star level,” he said. “We want to work extremely hard, get this team back in the playoffs and really make some noise. The Cleveland fans deserve that.”
He’s right about that last part.
He’s right about the first, too. If Bynum is healthy and willing, the Cavs can really go places.
As for James, and the endless speculation about a possible return to Cleveland … well, those won’t be going away anytime soon.
But if Bynum, Irving and the others do their part, people around the world might be able to focus on something else for a short while.
And the Cavs and their fans might be able to get excited about what’s taking place on the floor, as is, right away.
That’s because Bynum is a 7-footer with a wide array of skills. He mostly put them on display two seasons ago, when he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a career season that came under Mike Brown.
Brown is now the head coach of the Cavs, and a man whose primary focus is defense. After that, Brown preaches defense and more defense.
Bynum knows Brown’s voice well and said he respects it. That’s good news, particularly after the nightmare that was Bynum’s year in Philadelphia this past season.
He played zero minutes in zero games, with the only notable numbers being his two knee surgeries (one on each).
On the down side, those knee issues weren’t his first (he also missed the entire Lakers playoff run to the 2008 Finals) and history tells us they’re not likely to be his last.
On the bright side, he’s been checked out thoroughly and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.
With Bynum, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, free-agent signee Earl Clark and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, the Cavs’ frontcourt is deep, big and versatile. With the likes of Irving, Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack and C.J. Miles, the backcourt ain’t too shabby, either.
But again, so much of this depends on everyone staying healthy, and of the above list, only about half has a recent history of doing so.
King of free agency?
As for James, sources close to him told FOX Sports Ohio he is likely to test the waters next season by opting out of his current contract. He enjoys the recruiting process too much not to, sources said, and mostly, it’s just a smart business decision. Not just for James, but for anyone anywhere.
Other big names either can or will be free agents as well. That includes New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and forward Pau Gasol, and Heat guard Dwyane Wade and big man Chris Bosh.
But so much of the focus in Cleveland is James — the local guy who departed the franchise via free agency in 2010.
Obviously, a number of different scenarios involving James, the Heat and the Cavs could play out.
First, the Heat’s Big Three of James, Wade and Bosh may have run its course by next summer. That’s especially the case with Wade showing occasional signs of breaking down. If so, James could look for a livelier and younger team with available cap space to help prolong his career.
Second, the Cavs could be such a team — again, with Bynum and Irving in the starring roles of center and point guard, respectively.
If that happens, a fantastic swingman-type may be all that’s missing. That, of course, only leads to more speculation about James.
But the bottom line is the Cavs can’t and won’t worry about any of that until the time arrives. The same is said of James. He is said to be concentrating on nothing beyond the task ahead of him after winning two straight titles in Miami.
If James does opt out after the season, sources said his decision will come down to two places: Miami, or Cleveland.
The only way the Cavs can make their case is by doing well on the court, staying healthy, and being the exciting young team they have the potential to be.
So there are a lot of unknowns heading into the season, but they are unknowns that can’t be disregarded as everyday ridiculousness.
But if Bynum, Irving and the rest of the Cavs do their part, again, it won’t matter. They’ll become a tempting destination for free agents of all shapes, sizes and names.
That includes LeBron James and whoever else you might want to throw in there.