The Cleveland Cavaliers made sure to hedge heavily in signing free-agent center Andrew Bynum, offering the All-Star-turned-fractured fairy tale a two-year, $24.8 million deal with just $6 million of the first year's salary fully guaranteed. The remainder of the cash reportedly hinges on the 25-year-old pivot meeting a variety of games-played and minutes-based incentives; after Bynum missed the entire 2012-13 season following his trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers with injuries to both knees that required season-ending surgery back in March, the Cavs wanted him to have to sing for his supper.
If he couldn't, his expected frontcourt minutes would be divided among the likes of Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, top pick Anthony Bennett and a hopefully healthy himself Anderson Varejao, which was the plan before Bynum fell in Cleveland's lap at a bargain rate. If he could, though, he'd give former and future head coach Mike Brown a low-post weapon and rim protector to bolster the Cavs' chances of making the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James flew south, and Brown, general manager Chris Grant and the rest of Cleveland's brain trust were willing to be patient in the pursuit of that latter possibility. We expected this. We wrote this. Just two weeks ago, we discussed Bynum's reported focus on returning and the "fluid process" of getting him back on the court.
It's not surprising that neither player nor team know exactly when he'll be ready, but a pair of Tuesday reports seem at least somewhat intended as pre-emptive strikes against fan freakouts about Bynum's health. First, from Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer:
While Bynum continues to be diligent in working with the Cavs trainers, it's still too early to know if he will be ready for the opening of camp — in terms of full basketball activity. Remember, he has two bad knees. He had surgery on both in March. He didn't play a single game last season. The Cavs are in no rush for him to play early in camp. When he does come back, they want his knee strong enough so that he can remain healthy.
Next, from Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio:
The Cavs haven't set a specific timetable for Bynum’s return to actual game action — but they do have a plan. It’s to make sure Bynum is completely healthy before he ever puts on a uniform. In other words, the Cavs won’t rush him back just to quash any sort of fan anxiety.
Training camp begins Oct. 1, with the Cavs’ first preseason game a week later (vs. the Milwaukee Bucks).
One source familiar with Bynum’s progress told FOX Sports Ohio that Bynum is nowhere near ready and is likely to miss the entire preseason. He could, however, give it a go early in the regular season, if not for the opener Oct. 30 vs. the Brooklyn Nets.
That draft you just felt was the combined quelle surprise! gasping of every single Sixers fans feigning shock at the same damn time. Any unmoored items on your patios and backyards should be securely fastened or brought inside, lest the sarcastic gale hoist them into the air and turn them into projectiles even more dangerous than Bynum 3-point attempts.
It's a neat trick that updates like these perform. In one breath, they cite a team's clear, calm intentions not to stoke fan fear, and in the next, they do the stoking themselves by invoking the same lack of certainty that tortured Philadelphians last year, all without actually updating much of anything. What we know now — Bynum is working out and rehabilitating, he isn't yet ready for full-court work and there's no timetable set for his return — is exactly the same thing we knew two days ago. Thanks to a shift in framing, though, the situation seems more dire and in greater need of hand-wringing, doesn't it?
No, Bynum might not be ready for training camp, or for preseason, or even for the start of the regular season. (Varejao and Bennett, however, are both expected to be ready for the start of camp, which is great.) At the moment, though, that doesn't seem to be bumming the Cavs out at all, because this is a contingency for which they've prepared and planned; it's a different situation than what the 76ers faced at the start of last season. Whether the end result winds up being the same remains to be seen, but Cavaliers fans would be wise not to lose their tempers until there's clear reason to do so, irrespective of subtle narrative nudges.