After completing the required medical tests and hammering out the details of a two-year contract worth up to $24 million with Andrew Bynum on Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers formally introduced the big man as a member of the team in a press conference on Friday. Bynum addressed a variety of issues during the presser, including his relationship with head coach Mike Brown, the medical plan the team has constructed to keep him healthy and his goal to be ready for training camp and play a full season in 2013-14.
The concerns about Bynum's health and his general desire to be great are real. Those are the main reasons why his new deal with the Cavaliers only includes $6 million in guaranteed money and provides Cleveland with a team option for 2014-15. Bynum was a principal piece in a four-team blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers in August of 2012, but the 25-year-old never played a single minute for the 76ers before becoming a free agent this summer. Despite the red flags, Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant expressed his excitement and optimism that things will be different for Bynum in Cleveland:
"We're very excited today to add someone like Andrew Bynum to the organization. He's had an enormous amount of success in this league. I know he's very hungry right now, which we're excited. He's already moved to Cleveland. He's already working with our training staff. The doctors at the Cleveland clinic have done an amazing pulling together many parts of their organization to put Andrew in a position to succeed. Andrew is well aware of that and has taken ownership of the process. And we're going to do everything we possibly can to put him in a position to succeed."
Bynum cited the support from doctors and the training staff as an important factor in the next phase of his recovery. The buzz phrase for the presser appeared to be "the opportunity to succeed":
"The Cavs so far have given me every opportunity to succeed. The medical staff here is great. We put together a plan going forward. I pretty much show up and work hard, and I really believe in the doctors here and in the training staff. I'm in a different place because after the surgery I feel a lot better than I did last year. With the time off, I've been able to get the swelling out and I'm just ready to work."
There is still definitely some work to do for the talented young center. After so much time away from the floor and the focus on recovery, Bynum admitted he is roughly 25 pounds over his optimal playing weight heading into the summer. He hasn't engaged in weight-bearing exercises, but he said he still expects to be ready for training camp. He also declared that his goal is play a full season for the Cavaliers:
"My weight right now is about 305 [pounds]. My playing weight I want to be down in the 280s. I have been doing a bunch of non-weight bearing exercises just to protect my knees. Going forward, we're going to do some functional screening and really strengthen my body so that I'm able to play. That's something that's going to be new for me this year coming here. I haven't really had that in the past, and this organization has really laid it out for me to succeed."
"I want to play a full season. There is no doubt in my mind that I couldn't do that. Yes, I'm going to be ready [for training camp]. That is the plan. As long as I stick to it, I really believe that I have a great chance with this organization."
He added that he wants to "get back to the All-Star level," and that he believes the Cavaliers are a playoff-caliber team in the Eastern Conference next season. The opportunity to play with a point guard is something Bynum says he's never had in the NBA, so he is also looking forward to forming a potent 1-5 combination with Kyrie Irving. And for anyone who's interested, he says his relationship with head coach Mike Brown is great:
"Coach Brown and myself, we definitely have had a great relationship in the past in L.A., contrary to what people believe. I had my best year under him as a coach, most productive year. And he really wants to get the ball inside and he sets it up for me, myself, and the team to be successful. So I'm looking forward to working with him again. Another reason it makes it comfortable to be here is having worked with him already and I know what to expect."
"Mike is really encouraging as far as players staying together, players going out together, having team dinners. They're really, really big on chemistry. He is fully aware that a team with no chemistry, no matter how talented, won't go as far as it should, and that's a really big preaching point for him. Me being here now, I believe we've already talked. We've talked more about my role as a leader in the locker room, being more vocal, and really just maturing as a player and training together. So we have a great relationship."
It all sounds good now, but we will have to wait a few more months (at least) to see how the new Andrew Bynum experiment unfolds. For his sake, let's hope it goes better than his time in Philadelphia.