TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — The risk the Cavaliers took on Andrew Bynum paid off after all. Luol Deng is coming to Cleveland.
The Cavs acquired Deng, a two-time All-Star small forward, from the Chicago Bulls early Tuesday for Bynum, the enigmatic center who was signed during the summer and recently dismissed from the team for detrimental conduct.
The Bulls are expected to release Bynum, who has chronically bad knees and has played just 24 games the past two seasons. Bynum is due another $6 million on the unique two-year, $24 million contract he signed with Cleveland in July, but the Bulls won’t have to pay him if he’s released by Tuesday afternoon. With their season uprooted by Derrick Rose’s injury, the Bulls can save salary-cap space by cutting Bynum.
Cleveland also gave Chicago a first-round pick from Sacramento, two second-round selections and gave Chicago the right to swap first-round choices in 2015 if the Cavs are not in the lottery.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert vowed the team would never be in the lottery again after it picked first last year. But at just 11-23, the Cavs are on their way to missing the postseason again.
Deng, though, could prevent that. The 10-year veteran brings scoring, defense and leadership to a young Cavs team that never adjusted to Bynum and has been beset by other personality issues in their locker room.
General manager Chris Grant was reportedly close to sending Bynum to the Los Angeles Lakers, who need to cut cap space to avoid paying the luxury tax. Unable to strike a deal with the Lakers, Grant turned to the Bulls and wound up with Deng, who is averaging 19 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Deng did not receive a contract extension during the offseason and is an unrestricted free agent after this season. But the Cavs hold his Bird Rights and can offer him more money than anyone else.
Bynum’s exit ends a strange sage in Cleveland for the former All-Star, who played seven seasons with the Lakers before he was traded to Philadelphia in 2020. He never played one second for the Sixers and the Cavs were the only team willing to take him on as a free agent. Bynum worked himself back into shape and was on the floor opening night, months earlier than most expected.
He showed flashes of being a dominant post player again, but Bynum, who earlier this season said he had lost the joy to play, became increasingly difficult and the Cavs banned him from all team activities on Dec. 28.
Although he was not around the team, Bynum’s peculiar situation hovered over the Cavs, who didn’t need any more distractions as they try to re-establish themselves as a relevant team under Mike Brown.
The deal for Deng can help them get back on track.
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