Last week I asked the question, "Who is bidding in the Bynum auction?" With former All Star Andrew Bynum now in his fourth day of free agency, the answer would appear to be "No one." That doesn't mean that he won't be signed of course: but in an auction there's a starting bid and it goes up from there. The starting bid for Bynum (as it is for any veteran) is the veteran's minimum: and as of now, it's certainly not evident that any team is interested in going above that.
At least one report late last week indicated that Bynum could land somewhere pretty quickly and that teams were lining up to make offers. But Mark Stein of ESPN.com has a different story at this point, frankly one that fits better with my gut feeling concerning the troubled center.
According the Stein, "The race to sign Andrew Bynum appears to be unfolding at a slower pace than Bynum hoped." Let's revisit the table I put together last week of potential Bynum suitors, which still appears to be the superset of possible destinations.
Various reports have indicated, and Stein reiterates, that New Jersey, Atlanta and Oklahoma City have taken themselves out of the Bynum sweepstakes. As I stated last week, Charlotte, New Orleans and New York aren't real contenders and therefore aren't preferred destinations. Interestingly, Stein attributes an interest to the Pacers as a defensive move to keep Bynum away from Miami, a strategy I hypothesized about last week, but had not yet seen linked directly to the team's thinking.
Stein also indicates that the Clippers are "leaning against the prospect of signing" him -- but that may all be a bit a gamesmanship on the part of Doc Rivers.
Doc on his interest in Bynum: "I’m playing poker right now. I can’t say. We do talk about everyone but I do like our team."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 11, 2014
There is at least some indication that the Clippers have gone back and forth on the question.
Clippers have gone back and forth on Andrew Bynum, but word is Clippers have had more internal discussions about Bynum and are interested— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) January 10, 2014
Bruce Bowen of ESPN told me last week that he "wouldn't touch [Bynum] with a 10 foot pole" if he were the Clippers. Clearly there are issues with him, but I have to disagree with Bowen.
Any business decision boils down essentially to risk versus reward. When Philadelphia traded for Andrew Bynum, their risk was high -- they gave up an All Star, they gave up several young prospects, they gave up $17M in guaranteed money. They risked losing all of that -- which they did.
When Cleveland signed Bynum, they risked less. They guaranteed him a bit over $6M -- and they lost that money.
If Bynum is reduced to accepting a veteran's minimum deal (which is all the Clippers have to offer at any rate) then that is the extent of the risk to the Clippers: less than half a million dollars by my math when you consider the proration for the remainder of the season.
Do they also risk hurting team chemistry? Not if they're smart, because if it doesn't work out, you waive him. Philadelphia had $17M invested in him and kept him around for a season before letting him walk away. Cleveland had $6M invested in him, and they shelved him after 28 games and cut their losses before they would owe him another $6M. Do the math: with a prorated vet min salary investment, how long do the Clippers let him stay around if he becomes an issue? What's his margin or error? One dirty look? Two "didn't get back on defenses"?
Risk and reward, citizens. The potential reward -- this guy was second team All NBA 20 months ago -- is huge. The risk is some money. The Clippers don't have a lot to spend as the inch ever closer to the hard cap with each 10 day contract they sign. But by my math they can take a risk on Bynum and still have enough to sign one last vet min contract before the playoffs if need be.
The strategy of making Bynum and his people sweat, if indeed that is the strategy, is not a bad one. If Bynum's priority is money, the Clippers were out of the race before it began, and they know that. So there's no point in looking interested, and potentially driving up the price. If he's going to eventually sign for the vet's min, then it's going to take some time -- and the Clippers will almost certainly be the most attractive destination at that price point, offering a combination of playing time and potential postseason success, provided the center toes the line.
So for now it's a waiting game.