The Cavaliers announced Saturday that center Andrew Bynum has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. Pursuant to that suspension, GM Chris Grant said in a statement that Bynum did not travel with the team to Boston for its game against the Celtics, and he has been "excused from all team activities" for the duration of the suspension.
Yahoo Sports reports that the suspension will likely mark the end of Bynum's brief stint in Cleveland, which began back in July when he signed a two-year, $24.8 million contract that included a partial guarantee this season and a non-guaranteed salary for the 2014-15 season. The Cavaliers will reportedly seek to trade Bynum before the remainder of his 2013-14 salary is guaranteed on January 7.
"He doesn't want to play basketball anymore," a league source told Yahoo Sports.
The Cavaliers believe Bynum has been a "disruptive" presence within the team and have lost hope the partnership can be salvaged, sources said. Bynum often expressed a lack of desire to play and practice and was convinced by the Cavaliers not to quit previously, sources said.
ESPN.com also reports that the Cavaliers will "begin aggressively looking to trade" Bynum in the wake of the suspension.
Prior to Cleveland's game against Boston, coach Mike Brown called the suspension an "internal matter" and offered little in the way of explanation.
''He's on an indefinite suspension and I'm not trying to be funny, but you know what indefinite means,'' Brown said, according to the Associated Press. ''We've got 14 guys in that locker room who are very focused and determined and ready to take on any challenge that's in front of them. They're great guys, they're focused guys and they know how to play the game the right way and that's what I'm focused on, just helping those guys win.''
Bynum's $12.3 million salary for 2013-14 was split more or less in half. The first $6 million was guaranteed, and the balance is set to be guaranteed on Jan. 7. The contract was structured this way to offer the Cavaliers a level of protection in case Bynum's knee injuries continued. The 26-year-old center missed the entire 2012-13 season with knee problems and was still rehabilitating when the deal was consummated over the summer.
If the Cavaliers are able to trade Bynum over the next week, it would almost certainly be in a cost-cutting move for another team. Trading for Bynum would allow another team to offload a contract of their own and then immediately waive Bynum before Jan. 7, thereby trimming the non-guaranteed portion of his salary from their books.
If there are no takers in a trade, the Cavaliers will surely exercise the protection they built in for themselves by releasing Bynum prior to Jan. 7, as that would save them the remaining $6.3 million owed to Bynum this season and the non-guaranteed $12.6 million for next season. At that point, he would become an unrestricted free agent capable of being signed by a contender for the stretch run toward the 2014 playoffs on a veteran's minimum salary.
Bynum's situation in Cleveland clearly did not develop as team or player had hoped. The vision in adding Bynum, it seemed, was that he would be the piece to put the franchise over the top and back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Instead of recovering the full complement of his All-Star skills, though, Bynum has averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per night, offering inconsistent production. His net rating of minus-11.8 is the worst among Cavaliers who have played at least 200 minutes this season.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers entered Saturday with a 10-19 record and have had a turbulent early season, with reports of a locker room disagreement leading to a brief Dion Waiters disappearance and Brown ripping his team's effort after one November loss.
''I'm worried about the guys in the locker room,'' Brown said Saturday, according to the AP. ''It's as simple as that. In our business there are a lot of ups and a lot of downs throughout the season. I think you all understand that. So what you do as a head coach is you keep moving forward. Any time you look back on anything or dwell on anything is wasted energy from the guys in the locker room, which is obviously very important.''
Bynum's ability to cope with the injuries and the mental transition to becoming a lesser player have been looming. Back in November, Bynum told reporters that he had given "serious thought" to retirement because of his ongoing knee issues, which he also called "career threatening."
Indeed, The Point Forward noted in early-November that the Cavaliers might need to consider pulling the plug on Bynum if things didn't seriously improve (which they didn't).
Cleveland could make this decision for him. It’s happened before to the likes of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Contractually, Bynum is guaranteed $6 million this year and $12.3 million if he makes it through the guarantee date in January. The Cavaliers have a $12.6 million team option for the 2014-15 season, but it will take significant, unexpected progress over the next six months for Bynum to be worth such an investment. If Bynum isn’t capable of providing difference-making play in a real rotation role, the Cavaliers can save themselves $6 million by pulling the plug in January, thereby throwing his career into even murkier waters.