DALLAS — Ask the Mavs for a definitive backup plan to Dwight Howard and they don’t offer definitive answers. But sources on Sunday told DallasBasketball.com and FOXSports exclusively about how Andrew Bynum represents an “imperfect Plan B” – and how Dallas’ contact with Bynum is focusing on his willingness to include protection from his knee problems via a little-used section of the NBA Uniform Player Contract, Exhibit 3.
“Once you’ve got degenerative knees,” one Dallas Mavericks source says, “you really don’t ever get better. You can get functional. But not better.”
A fully healthy Andrew Bynum would be more than functional. He’d be a max player, a terrific consolation prize for the team that finished second in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes. Yes, even with Bynum’s flakiness (which in a sense is not unlike Howard’s flakiness), he’s just 25 and has experienced moments of All-Star awesomeness.
The Lakers were prepared to build a franchise around him. Then the Sixers were prepared to do the same.
What’s in play for the Mavs to do the same?
There are arguments to be made for any number of Plan B options. But, “There are no ‘grade-A’ guys in there, in terms of giving them the money they go into this process wanting,” a source says.
And none of those players are bigger and better than the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum – when he’s healthy The last time he was right, in 2011-12, he was a major NBA force, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Dallas’ discussions with Bynum will only get serious, of course, if the courting of Dwight fails. (The Mavs are scheduled to meet Howard in LA on Tuesday.) At that time, two wings of the Dallas front office will be deeply involved. Casey Smith and Dallas’ medical team will have its hands full (and maybe will qualify as a selling point to Bynum). And owner Mark Cuban and company will have to be creative in protecting the Mavs from risk by constructing a contract that one source says might be a one- or two-year deal heavy with stay-healthy incentives.
We get indications Dallas would be willing to consider using half of its theoretical available $18 mil on Bynum — giving him an annual salary that may be a slight bump over the $8-mil, one-year deal given Chris Kaman last summer.
But for the Mavs, an even bigger factor in what they will offer will be the ability to protect against the possibility that Bynum’s knees are permanently gone. Not only would it be a huge financial blow to sign him to a big contract only to lose him to injury, but it would also cripple the team’s cap for years. Our understanding is that, to this end, the Mavs’ negotiations with Bynum and his agent will focus on his willingness to include protection for the team from his knee problems via a little-used section of the NBA Uniform Player Contract, Exhibit 3.
In essence, Exhibit 3 makes the player, not the team, take the financial risk of his prior injury happening again.
It will be an imperfect offer to Bynum. And he might be an imperfect signing. But it’s a Mavs’ Plan B – featuring the NBA’s Exhibit 3.
But let’s say in the summer after the first season, he somehow hurts his knees and comes to training camp hobbling with no healthy end in sight. At that point, the Mavs – if they felt they would be better off walking away – could waive him under Exhibit 3’s protection and would only owe him $6 million ($2 million for each of the remaining 3 seasons). And under the stretch rule, the payout and cap hit on that would be spread over 7 seasons, at about $835,000 per season.
The Mavs, if Dwight goes elsewhere, will pitch themselves to Bynum as a “start-over” opportunity. A new city with stable ownership and coaching with an on-court role that was tailored to Dwight … but can be easy re-tailored to him.