April 24, 2014

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Newest Cavalier Andrew Bynum plans to be ready to go by the start of training camp, despite knee problems

INDEPENDENCE — Slowly but surely, general manager Chris Grant’s plan to rebuild the Cavaliers is coming together.

Cleveland took another step forward Friday by introducing former All-Star center Andrew Bynum, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract. Only the first season and $6 million are guaranteed.

Bynum joins point guard Jarrett Jack and small forward Earl Clark in the Cavaliers’ summer spending spree, which now totals $58 million since the NBA free agency period opened July 1.

“It’s been an interesting process for us,” Grant said, smiling. “We’ve added guys like Andrew, Jarrett and Earl who have an enormous amount of experience at a high level and have played this game very successfully.

“I know Andrew, in particular, is very hungry. He is in a different place right now and he’s excited to move forward, which has all of us very excited.”

Despite missing all of last season with chronic knee problems, the 7-footer vowed to be ready for the start of training camp on Oct. 1. He underwent season-ending surgery on both knees in March, leading to an ugly breakup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bynum spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers — making the Western Conference All-Star team in 2012 — before being traded in the Dwight Howard megadeal.

“Watching from the outside last year, I could see what I needed to do when I came back,” the 25-year-old pivot said. “Rim protection, defense, posting up bigs, creating double teams. I’m ready to do all those things.

“I’ve been an All-Star in this league, but I feel like I still have a lot of room to grow. My best basketball is definitely still ahead of me.”

Though Bynum’s work ethic has been questioned since he was drafted out of Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph’s High in 2005, he bristled at such talk during his introductory press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

As did Grant, pointing out that Bynum has already moved to Cleveland and is rehabilitating his injuries under a plan devised by the team’s medical staff.

“I’ve been doing a lot of non-weight-bearing exercises to protect my knees because I need to strengthen my body, so that I’m able to play,” said Bynum, who averaged 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds for the Lakers two years ago.

“I’m at 305 (pounds) now, but I’ll be down to my playing weight in the 280s by the time camp starts. This organization has really laid the whole plan out for me to follow.”

Bynum also denied persistent rumors that he clashed with then-Lakers — and current Cavaliers — coach Mike Brown during the 2011-2012 season. He even took a thinly veiled shot at his former Los Angeles teammates by pointing out one of Brown’s strengths.

“Mike is really, really big on chemistry and is completely aware that a team without chemistry — no matter how talented they are — just won’t go as far as it should,” Bynum said. “He really helped me mature as a player when we were together. We have a great relationship.”

Bynum struck all the right chords in his first public comments since agreeing to come to Cleveland two weeks ago. He referred to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving as having “talent (that) is world renowned,” and said he relished the chance to play with a “great point guard for the first time.”

Center Anderson Varejao, who will move to power forward if Bynum is healthy, also was singled out by his newest teammate.

“I can’t wait to play with Anderson, honestly, because he brings a kind of energy and passion for the game that I haven’t been around before,” he said.

“Obviously, I played with Kobe (Bryant), but Anderson is a guy who is willing to sacrifice everything for the team, and I think that (helps) leaps and bounds inside the locker room.”

Though the Cavaliers are now at the NBA’s salary cap of $58.679 million for this season, Grant has managed to ensure they will have between $20-25 million to spend in the summer of 2014.

Before that time arrives, though, Bynum plans on doing all he can to accelerate Grant’s rebuilding process.

“We have an opportunity to all rise together and do something special this year,” he said. “I want to get this team back into the playoffs and make some noise. The Cleveland fans deserve that.”

Coming, going

In order to fit Bynum’s $12 million “contract hold” under their salary cap, the Cavaliers waived power forward Kevin Jones and point guard Chris Quinn. Both were members of Cleveland’s 24-58 squad last season, but had non-guaranteed contracts.

* The Cavaliers renounced the rights to shooting guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and power forward Luke Walton, but could re-sign them at much lower salaries. Gibson has spent his entire career in Cleveland since being picked in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

* The inaugural Las Vegas Summer League championship tournament continues today with the quarterfinals. The Cavaliers (3-1) face the Heat (3-2) at 4 p.m.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.