Cavaliers' small forward is an important piece in what the team hopes to someday become.
By SAM AMICOFS Ohio
Alonzo Gee doesn’t turn the
Cavaliers into title contenders, but it does enable them to stick with the plan of becoming a young, athletic team on the rise.
Gee, who finished last season as the starting small forward, entered the summer as a restricted free agent. On Monday,
Cavs general manager Chris Grant announced Gee and the team had struck a deal.
While terms were not made available, the contract is believed to be for three years and totaling around $9.75 million. Some reports have stated the third year is not guaranteed, but Gee will have plenty of time to prove himself before then.
Gee is entering his third NBA season -- although it seems more like his second. Last year marked the first time he played in more than 40 games with one team. He played just 11 as a rookie (with Washington).
Now, he’ll be running the floor next to second-year point guard and reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving, second-year power forward Tristan Thompson and No. 4 overall draft pick Dion Waiters. Those four form a breathtaking bunch, and if all eventually goes well, a productive one.
It might sound crazy, but without Gee, the Cavs may have taken a step back. He averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, playing in 63 of a possible 66 games. He can hit the perimeter shot and is (get this) widely considered one of the league’s best dunkers, particularly in traffic.
Most importantly, when the Cavs face a super-duper swingman star along the lines of a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, coach Byron Scott often turns to Gee as his first line of defense. And Gee’s athleticism and effort can foil an opponent’s hopes for an easy scoring night.
“From the start of free agency, we made it clear that re-signing Alonzo was important to us and we’re happy we’ve been able to do that,” Grant said.
Gee made it clear he wanted to be back, too -- and in the sometimes sticky world of contract talks, Gee and the Cavs negotiated without getting all bent out of shape. As far as these things go, it was a fairly smooth process.
“I wanted things to work out for me to be (with the Cavs) and I’m really happy that they did,” Gee said.
His signing brings the Cavs’ roster to 17 entering training camp in early October, and it’s unlikely they’ll bring in anyone else with a real shot at making the team. Possible, but unlikely.
Instead, the Cavs will have to determine who else fits around their nucleus of Irving, Thompson, Waiters, Gee and first-round pick Tyler Zeller, a run-the-floor-and-finish sort of center. But those five, along with veteran big man Anderson Varejao and new swingman C.J. Miles, certainly are a good place to start.
It may not be a winning place worthy of the playoffs, not yet. But it’s a place that gives the organization optimism, and if everyone develops, some highlight-worthy moments and a favorable future.
Gee is considered a key piece of that strategy so, again, it’s good that he’s back and has the sense of security that a multi-year deal delivers.
Perhaps the best news is the Cavs’ flexibility wasn’t affected with the move -- as they remain the franchise with the most available room under the salary cap (somewhere around $20 million). They also have an array of draft picks in 2013 and ’14.
Basically, they seem to be the most resource-heavy team in four major sports leagues. Soon, they’ll have to turn those assets into something that wins games and contends for championships.
Until then, taking care of their own, including guys like Gee, ought to do the trick.