Source: Bynum Among Mavs' 'Imperfect' Plan Bs
"Once you've got degenerative knees,'' one Dallas Mavericks source says, "you really don't ever get better. You can get functional. But not better.''
A fully healthy Andrew Bynum would be more than functional. He'd be a max player, a terrific consolation prize for the team that finished second in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes. Yes, even with Bynum's flakiness (which in a sense is not unlike Howard's flakiness), he's just 25 and has experienced moments of All-Star awesomeness.
The Lakers were prepared to build a franchise around him. Then the Sixers were prepared to do the same.
What's in play for the Mavs to tiptoe towards doing the same?
There are arguments to be made for any number of Plan B options. Mavs people we talk to broach the names of everyone from Monta Ellis to Andre Iguodala to Al Jefferson to restricted players Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Nikola Pekovic. (The Mavs believe Minny will be matching there.)
"There are no ‘grade-A' guys in there, in terms of giving them the money they go into this process wanting,'' a source says.
And none of those players are bigger and better than the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum. The last time he was right, in 2011-12, he was a major NBA force, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
A mentally and physically healthy Andrew Bynum can compete with Dwight. Can be better than Pekovic. Can make Mavs fans forget Tyson Chandler.
Dallas' discussions with Bynum will only get serious, of course, if the courting of Dwight fails. (The Mavs are scheduled to meet Howard in LA on Tuesday.) At that time, two wings of the Dallas front office will be deeply involved. Casey Smith and Dallas' medical team will have its hands full (and maybe will qualify as a selling point to Bynum). And owner Mark Cuban and company will have to be creative in protecting the Mavs from risk by constructing a contract that one source says might be a one- or two-year deal heavy with stay-healthy incentives.
We get indications Dallas would be willing to consider using half of its theoretical available $18 mil on Bynum -- giving him an annual salary that may be a slight bump over the $8-mil, one-year deal given Chris Kaman last summer.
But for the Mavs, an even bigger factor in what they will offer will be the ability to protect against the possibility that Bynum's knees are permanently gone. Not only would it be a huge financial blow to sign him to a big contract only to lose him to injury, but it would also cripple the team's cap for years. Our understanding is that, to this end, the Mavs' negotiations with Bynum and his agent will focus on his willingness to include protection for the team from his knee problems via a little-used section of the NBA Uniform Player Contract, Exhibit 3.
Exhibit 3 is a "Prior Injury Exclusion" and it states: "The Player's right to receive his Compensation... is limited or eliminated with respect to the following re-injury of the injury or aggravation of the condition set forth below" and is followed by a description of the excluded injury and financial limitation. Exhibit 3 is fully negotiable as to its terms and extent, but it is very rarely used, because it gives broad powers to the team to escape from paying some or all of the contract if the player's prior injury reoccurs. For a recent example, it was used when Brandon Roy signed last summer with Minnesota. (And when he was waived at season's end, as well.)
In essence, Exhibit 3 makes the player, not the team, take the financial risk of his prior injury happening again. With Bynum, it would be applied to his knees, and if his knees kept him off the court to the extent that the Mavs wanted out of the deal, they would be able to waive him and avoid any further payment and cap hit of any amount in Exhibit 3.
As an example, let's say the Mavs agreed to pay Bynum $10 million fully guaranteed each year for 4 seasons, but Exhibit 3 says that the contract is only 20% guaranteed in the event of a knee injury. If Bynum never suffered a knee injury, the Mavs would have to pay him the full contract.
(And of course, if he's healthy, will be happy to do so.)
But let's say in the summer after the first season, he somehow hurts his knees and comes to training camp hobbling with no healthy end in sight. At that point, the Mavs - if they felt they would be better off walking away - could waive him under Exhibit 3's protection and would only owe him $6 million ($2 million for each of the remaining 3 seasons). And under the stretch rule, the payout and cap hit on that would be spread over 7 seasons, at about $835,000 per season.
The Mavs, if Dwight goes elsewhere, will pitch themselves to Bynum as a "start-over'' opportunity. A new city with stable ownership and coaching with an on-court role that was tailored to Dwight ... but can be easy re-tailored to him.
But the contract will be specially tailored, too. "Exhibit 3'' is part of why Andrew Bynum is an imperfect Plan B.
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