If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to wash their hands of center Andrew Bynum sooner rather than later, they have less than a week to make a cost-saving decision.
Just $6 million of Bynum's $12.2 million salary is guaranteed this season, but the deal becomes fully guaranteed if he is not waived by Jan. 7.
While the Cavaliers signed Bynum to a friendly, mostly low-risk deal, they face a predicament. They suspended Bynum for one game without pay Saturday and excused him indefinitely from all team activities. Now what?
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Bynum was not 100% committed to Cleveland's rebuilding process and had turned into a distraction. In the big picture, it's not devastating that Bynum didn't fit with Cavs, but they probably didn't expect the relationship to dissolve two months into the season.
Despite pain, limited mobility and playing time, Bynum is averaging 20.2 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 48 minutes. He still has something to offer that is in demand – size, strength and interior presence.
Now the Cavaliers have three options: Keep Bynum, trade him or waive him. USA TODAY Sports breaks down each choice.
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The Cavs are off the hook the rest of his salary this season if they cut him by the Jan. 7. This option also allows Bynum to pick the team of his choice if he clears waivers, which is expected because it's unlikely another team wants to pay the full amount of his deal by claiming on him on waivers.
USA TODAY Sports reported the Los Angeles Clippers are one team that would have interest in Bynum. The Miami Heat have been mentioned as a potential suitor, and Heat President Pat Riley often has his eyes on available big men.
However, the Heat don't have significant interest in Bynum, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about Bynum.
The Heat have 15 players on their roster and would have to cut a player to make room for Bynum, and the Heat also have one reclamation project at center in Greg Oden. They also spent a significant portion of the preseason season and first month of the season getting Michael Beasley's commitment. At this point in this season, it's doubtful they want to dedicate crucial time to ensuring Bynum buys into their philosophy.
Rival executives believe waiving Bynum is Cleveland's last option.
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Cleveland would love to get something for Bynum, even a short-term solution for the remainder of the season.
The Cavaliers want to take the next step in the growth of a young team. After finishing 24-58 last season, Cleveland thought its group had potential to make a playoff run, and the acquisitions of Bynum and guard Jarrett Jack solidified that belief.
The 10-21 Cavaliers have a better winning percentage (.323) than last season and are three games behind the Boston Celtics for the eighth seed in the East. But the progress has been minimal, if not a disappointment.
ESPN reported the Cavs and Lakers discussed a Bynum-Pau Gasol deal, and Cleveland reached out to the Chicago Bulls for a Bynum-Luol Deng swap. Even though it would save the Bulls money, they aren't interested, a person familiar with talks between the two teams told USA TODAY Sports.
Chicago is committed to re-signing Deng, who is a free agent this summer.
Internal problems sometimes resolve themselves, and it's possible Bynum commits to the Cavs for the remainder of the season.
Retaining Bynum puts the Cavs on the hook for the remainder of his salary, or until they trade him, but it also prevents another team – perhaps a conference rival and/or a team Bynum wants to join – from picking him up at a low cost.
If there's no deal Cleveland likes, keeping him might be better than waiving him, even if it is costly. And if he comes around, Cleveland could still yield production from him.
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