CLEVELAND — Andrew Bynum hasn’t played in an NBA game since May 21, 2012, but he remains one of the most coveted centers in the league.
Not surprisingly, the 7-footer with chronic knee problems also sits atop the Cavaliers’ offseason wish list.
On Monday, Bynum reciprocated their interest by meeting with general manager Chris Grant and coach Mike Brown at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
The Cavaliers and Mavericks are considered the frontrunners to land Bynum, who — if healthy — would turn either team into an immediate playoff qualifier.
The 25-year-old post player was offered a two-year, $24 million contract by Cleveland, according to Yahoo! sports. The second season is a team option as the Cavaliers are adamant on maintaining their salary cap flexibility heading into 2014.
Bynum was paid $16.89 million last season, despite not appearing in a game for the Philadelphia 76ers and undergoing surgery on both knees. Philadelphia acquired the New Jersey native in a four-team blockbuster — tri-headlined by Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala — on Aug. 10, 2012.
With Brown coaching the Lakers in 2011-2012, Bynum had the best season of his eight-year career and played in the NBA All-Star Game. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, while shooting .558 from the field in 60 games.
Grant made a modest effort to get involved in the aforementioned four-team deal, hoping to swoop in and grab Bynum, but was quickly dismissed by Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia and Orlando.
Cleveland has already made a minor splash in free agency, agreeing to terms with Warriors point guard Jarrett Jack (four years, $25 million) and Lakers power forward Earl Clark (two years, $9 million) last week. The final seasons of both contracts are not guaranteed.
Free agents can officially sign their deals on Wednesday, when the NBA’s nine-day moratorium on contracts ends.
Bynum is not being permitted to work out for any team, but his agent, David Lee, insists he will be ready to play by the end of September.
Further complicating the process (and increasing the gamble), Bynum’s long history of knee problems makes insuring his contract virtually impossible.
If the Cavaliers win his services, Bynum would become their starting center, likely meaning the end of Anderson “Wild Thing” Varejao with the franchise. Varejao has one year and a team-high $9.1 million left on his contract, along with a team option valued at $9.8 million for 2014-2015.
Cleveland already has power forwards Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Clark in the fold, along with second-year center Tyler Zeller and Varejao. Bennett was the No. 1 overall selection in last month’s NBA Draft.
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