November 06, 2007

So much for Anderson Varejao's latest effort to end his contract holdout with the Cavs.

Cleveland has no intention of taking up the 6-foot-10 free agent forward on his offer to play for a one-year $5 million deal, according to a source.

"The team told the player's agent if the qualifying offer passed, they would not entertain a one-year deal," the source said Tuesday. "They were told at the time, if we can't get a deal done by the [time the qualifying offer expired], the team would not do a one-year deal."

And so it goes for the NBA's biggest soap opera outside of Kobe Bryant.

After months of haggling, Varejao and the Cavs appear no closer to resolving their impasse.

Varejao appeared to offer a glimmer of hope for a compromise late Monday when a source close to him told the free agent forward would agree to play on a one-year, $5 million deal. Considering that Varejao had reportedly been seeking a contract in the five-year, $60 million range, it seemed like a significant concession.

"Andy wants to play," the source said. "If that's what it takes to get it done, he'll do it."

But the Cavs apparently have no interest. By signing Varejao to a one-year deal now, he would have the right to walk away as an unrestricted free agent next summer and leave Cleveland with nothing to show for it. The Cavs were burned by Carlos Boozer a few years ago, and might be fearful of a repeat of that situation.

In addition, if the Cavs sign Varejao to a one-year deal, they would lose the ability to trade him this season.

In Cleveland's view, there is simply no reason to go the one-year route. The Cavs hold the leverage. Varejao could go to Europe, but he would still be a restricted free agent upon his return. If he sits out, the Cavs keep open the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

Thus the Cavs appear poised, at least for now, to stick to their offer of a multi-year deal only.

Cavs GM Danny Ferry has not commented on negotiations, other than to say the club had made "a fair and respectful" offer.

Varejao played a key role off the bench for the Cavs last season with his hustle and energy. Cleveland is 1-2 heading into Tuesday night's game in Golden State, and the team looked somewhat dispirited all preseason. It has made for a tense situation in Cleveland, which is trying to hang on in what looks to be a wide-open Eastern Conference race.

Given the stakes, it seems hard to believe the Cavs wouldn't at least consider taking Varejao up on his offer. Cleveland would get the immediate help it needs, without taking too big a hit on the luxury tax this season. Varejao would get enough to make him feel like he's being treated fairly.

As for the possibility of Varejao walking away next season and leaving Cleveland with nothing, the likelihood of that happening is open to debate. The Cavs would still hold his Bird Rights, meaning they would be able to go over the salary cap to re-sign him, or work a sign-and-trade. Next year's free agent market doesn't appear to be a good one for players, with few teams expected to have any significant salary cap room.

The Cavs, however, apparently are not willing to take that gamble.

At least not yet.

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