CLEVELAND – Swingman Christian Eyenga is staying with the Cavaliers, but assistant coach Chris Jent is not.
Cleveland exercised its option on Eyenga’s contract for the 2012-13 season Wednesday, keeping the native of the Congo in the wine and gold for at least the next two years.
The 6-foot-7 Eyenga showed athleticism and solid fundamentals last winter during his rookie season, averaging 6.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games with the Cavaliers.
He was expected to spend much of the season with Cleveland’s NBA Development League affiliate in Erie (Pa.), but wound up averaging 21.5 minutes for the Cavaliers – and started 18 games – once their focus switched to rebuilding mode.
Eyenga was the 30th overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, but the team opted against signing him that summer because it was in full championship-or-bust mode with free-agent-to-be LeBron James.
At just 22 years old, Eyenga was the youngest player on Cleveland’s roster last season, even though he had three years of professional experience in the Spanish League.
While Eyenga is one of the building blocks on the Cavaliers, Jent will not be part of the construction process as he is returning to his alma mater.
The former Ohio State standout has accepted an assistant coaching spot on Thad Matta’s staff with the Buckeyes. Jent previously served as a volunteer under Matta in the 2005-06 season when he went back to school to earn his bachelor’s degree.
Jent had been with Cleveland for five years after previously working in the NBA with Orlando and Philadelphia. He also spent parts of two seasons playing in the league with the Rockets and Knicks.
The 41-year-old shooting instructor was the lone holdover from Mike Brown’s coaching staff to remain with the Cavaliers under Byron Scott. Jent’s contract with the franchise expired at the end of last season.
Both transactions came on the eve of the final scheduled negotiating session between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Their collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. tonight and could lead to a lockout once the calendar turns to July.
The two biggest questions facing Cleveland are the fate of its $14.5 million trade exception and the contractual statuses of its two first-round draft picks.
The former – acquired from Miami in exchange for James – is set to expire on July 9, which is eight days after the CBA runs out.
The latter refers to guard Kyrie Irving and forward Tristan Thompson – the first and fourth overall selections, respectively – who are unable to sign with the Cavaliers at this time because no rookie contract structure is in place.
Cleveland owns their rights going forward, but does not know if they will include the current four-year package of team options (as Eyenga’s does).
NBA senior vice president Tim Frank told the Chronicle-Telegram that both “are questions that will be answered during collective bargaining,” which could lead to many sleepless nights for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.