By Tom Withers
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking a chance on Andrew Bynum and his creaky knees.
The free agent center, who never played one second with Philadelphia last season because of knee injuries, has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Cavs, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Bynum accepted the deal on Wednesday night, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the agreement. Earlier in the day, Bynum visited the Dallas Mavericks.
The 7-footer was traded to the 76ers last summer as part of a four-team blockbuster. Bynum, a former All-Star with the Lakers, was expected to help Philadelphia contend, but the 25-year-old never stepped on the court and underwent surgery on both knees in March.
The Cavs, who beat out Atlanta and Dallas for Bynum, are only guaranteeing $6 million and one year to him, the person said. The team has an option on the second year, and the contract could reach $24 million if Bynum reaches certain performance bonuses.
In Cleveland, Bynum will be reunited with Cavs coach Mike Brown. The two spent one season together in Los Angeles and Bynum had his best season as a pro, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 60 games and earning an All-Star spot.
Bynum, if healthy, should move the Cavs from one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams to a playoff contender. Cleveland won just 24 games last season and has won 66 in the three years since LeBron James left.
Bynum has plenty of playoff experience and he would give the Cavs another proven star to go along with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
In guaranteeing Bynum only one year, the Cavs have an out if he doesn’t perform up to expectations. But if he does play well, the Cavs will have a roster that could attract another high-profile free agent next summer, when James could be available.
The landing of Bynum caps a successful offseason for the Cavs and especially general manager Chris Grant, who had more pressure placed on him when owner Dan Gilbert vowed the team would make the playoffs after winning the NBA draft lottery.
After re-hiring Brown, who was fired three years ago, Grant selected UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s draft. Cleveland then reached agreements with free agent forward Earl Clark and guard Jarrett Jack, two players who will fit nicely into the Cavs’ rotation.
Bynum has the potential to get Cleveland back among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. A force on the floor, the 280-pounder will give Brown a defensive presence to protect the rim and he can do enough on offense to keep teams honest inside.
The Cavs sold Bynum on their future, and their association with the Cleveland Clinic and its doctors were a comfort to a player who has had knee problems for years. Bynum did not work out for the Cavs, but the team was able to examine his knees and came away knowing there are risks but convinced he’s worth their investment.