December 04, 2007
And, for that, even the Cavaliers' rivals should be thankful.
By staring down Varejao's stubborn agent, Dan Fegan, Cavs GM Danny Ferry struck a blow for front office officials everywhere. Ferry didn't just beat one of the league's toughest negotiators -- "Danny Ferry cleaned (Fegan's) clock," said one giddy rival agent -- he prevented Fegan from setting a precedent for other prospective holdout candidates.
Had Ferry caved to Fegan's contract demands, which, at one time, were said to average $10 million a season, future restricted free agents would have had considerably greater incentive to stage their own sit-and-wait campaigns.
"To an agent, this could have become the NFL," said a general manager of another NBA team, alluding to the NFL's propensity for enduring training-camp holdouts. "We could have lost all decorum to team building."
Cleveland officials were "pleasantly surprised" when they were notified Varejao had signed the Charlotte Bobcats' three-year offer sheet worth slightly more than $17 million. The Bobcats' offer contains an opt-out clause allowing Varejao to become a free agent after two seasons, one season earlier than the Cavs would have liked, but also one season later than Fegan initially sought in his negotiations with the team. More importantly, the offer is for less money annually than what the Cavs had offered. Charlotte didn't bother to structure the contract to include a large lump payment, further evidence even the Bobcats knew the Cavs planned to keep Varejao.
The Cavaliers intend to match the offer sheet not long after it hits their desk. They want Varejao in uniform as quickly as possible. He isn't going to fix all of their problems, but he'll certainly help.
The Cavs also aren't worried about the comments Varejao made last week when he claimed he no longer wanted to play for Cleveland, dismissing them as the type of rhetoric that sometimes surfaces during difficult negotiations. Even if Varejao is disgruntled, he still needs to play hard -- and continue to be a good teammate -- if he wants to eventually land the type of payday he feels he deserves.
For now, Varejao will take his $17 million and the Cavaliers will celebrate. So should nearly every other team.