Varejao Gets His Dinheiro (Money), Wants More

Depending on whom you ask, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry either beat the stuffing out of Anderson Varejao and his agent Dan Fegan, or Varejao and Fegan suckered the Cavaliers into going way over the salary cap.

No matter which side you choose, Varejao is a member of the Cavaliers today after the team wasted little time matching the three-year, $17.4 million offer sheet the floppy-haired, Brazilian Carrot Top signed with the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.

They love me. I'm ri-ich!(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The contract contains an opt out clause, which allows Varejao to become a free agent after two years. Varejao expects to leave Cleveland after two years and get the money he believes he is owed as he enters his prime at 27.

This deal will have no impact on tonight's game at the Verizon Center, since Varejao reportedly celebrated the end of one of the more lengthy contract holdouts in recent memory last night in Los Angeles, and he isn't expected to join the team until later this week.

For months, all that you heard about was how Varejao reportedly wanted around $9-$10 million a year. Ferry blundered trying to negotiate a deal without Fegan, traveling to Brazil unannounced in hopes of signing him, a few weeks ago. Then came the posturing. Varejao threatened to play in Europe, threatened to never play for the Cavaliers again and bashed his teammates in an ESPN article in which he claimed, "I don't think I'll be happy in Cleveland knowing that I was [almost] the lowest-paid player there for three years and am still paid much less than players on the team that I outperform. Life's too short to be unhappy."

I totally understand Varejao's frustration when the Cavaliers have about $32 million committed to Larry Hughes, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and Ira Newble. But I also understand why Ferry has no desires to keep overpaying for players.

I guess Varejeo is supposed to be a big deal because he was on a team that went to the NBA Finals. But has a player with less skill and talent been given so much attention? Some have tried to make him more valuable than he really is. I still don't know what all of the fuss is about.

The last image I have of Varejao was in the final seconds of Game 3, when LeBron James threw him the ball inside, expecting to get it back. Varejao had other plans, as he decided to take Tim Duncan one-on-one and attempted one of the ugliest shots I've ever witnessed at an NBA game. Three feet from the basket, he tossed it five feet.

That may have been the first hint that he had an inflated opinion of his game. He thought a shot against Duncan was better than another look for LeBron?

I know the arguments defending Varejao's worth involve his great plus-minus ratio and production per 40 minutes or whatever. In six games as a starter, Varejao averaged 12 points and 11.3 rebounds. But if he was meant to be a starter for the Cavs, he would be. If he earns it, he will be.

I remember having a conversation with an NBA coach once and I started rattling off all of these stats to explain how bad they were on the defensive end of the floor. He nodded, smiled, and told me, "You can make numbers work anyway you want."

His point? Stats are often interesting but sometimes insignificant. My point? No doubt, Varejao will help the Cavaliers, but let's be serious and look at the only numbers that really matter: Varejao still averaged just 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. That sort of production does not warrant $8 million (or better) per year deals - at least they shouldn't - no matter how you try to spin it.

It's not like he had a bunch of lucrative offers to ponder last summer. Varejao will regret passing on the offers Ferry and the Cavs reportedly made him (five-years, $32-million and three-years, $20). This is less than what they were prepared to pay, so I can only imagine that they are elated to have him back.

It won't really matter until LeBron James comes back from a sprained left index finger, though.

Mais dinheiro! Mais dinheiro! (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

I'm in the camp that energy players/role players need to snatch up as much money as possible, whenever possible. Unless you have the potential to become a 20-point scorer in this league, you don't gamble with big money, leave tons on the table, and expect somebody to pay you in the future.

I know Fegan has used this strategy before with clients such as Stephen Jackson, but Jackson is primarily an offensive player - and a starter. Backup hustle guys usually don't get big money. Heck, backup offensive players don't usually get big money.

Remember Bonzi Wells? He turned down a five-year, $36-million offer from the Sacramento Kings in 2006 and he will never see that kind of money again. Yes, he has a lot of personal baggage that hurt him in the long run, but let me know when Varejao can be like Bonzi and average 23.2 points and 12 rebounds in a playoff series against the Spurs.

I know scoring doesn't always explain a player's value; how well he works in the pick and roll, if he sets hard picks, or if he gets you extra possessions on offense with rebound tips. Varejao provides some immeasurable intangibles, but how much are those really worth?

My big question is: Does Varejao really have an upside? Is he really going to be much better than he already is? I mean, the man draws charges, chases down loose balls, fights hard for rebounds and he really got into Rasheed Wallace's head during the Eastern Conference Finals last year (but who doesn't get into Wallace's head?).

But will he magically develop Drew Gooden's jump shot? Will he turn it into a rebounding machine like Dennis Rodman or a Detroit Pistons-era Ben Wallace? I'd love to see it, but I don't see it.

By Michael Lee |  December 5, 2007; 1:42 PM ET
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Well I sort of wish Varejao had taken Cleveland to the cleaners so it would hurt them.
My question is, why wouldn't Cleveland do a deal with Charlotte since they interested and Varejao maybe a locker room problem because of some of his comments?

Posted by: George Templeton | December 5, 2007 2:22 PM

Mike, I don't necessarily disagree, but I think this paragraph is kind of hypocritical.

"I remember having a conversation with an NBA coach once and I started rattling off all of these stats to explain how bad they were on the defensive end of the floor. He nodded, smiled, and told me, "You can make numbers work anyway you want." His point? Stats are often interesting but sometimes insignifant. My point? No doubt, Varejao will help the Cavaliers, but let's be serious. Varejao still averaged just 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds."

So to prove the point that you can manipulate stats to back anything up, you....cite different stats? Really? I mean, I think I get what you were trying to say (though I don't really agree with it), but it sounds awfully hypocritical the way you said it.

Numbers are just that, numbers. It's not their fault that someone will make an argument saying they distort the facts, only to refer to different numbers to prove that point.

Posted by: Pradamaster | December 5, 2007 2:43 PM

Mike Lee,

I thoroughly enjoy your articles! Thank you so much for writing these very thought provoking articles. We need them.

Knowing you're such an excellent sports reporter, I have a question. re: Sean Taylor's mother. What is the deal?
I understood she was the individual that called in the first burlary, made a statement from her home she "had an idea who killed her son" then silence. Not heard of again.
Didn't appear she attended the funeral or perhaps was not allowed. Most "Moms/Dads" good, bad or indifferent, usually "show-up" under these circumstances. Articles stated she had some chemical probs & Taylor's father took him to live with him but Sean spent some time in homestead w/her. What is the deal with the "mother" factor in the investigation?

I'm still puzzled why these guys would drive over 150 miles to re-burglarize a place they already robbed a week earlier?

Posted by: Rob | December 5, 2007 2:48 PM

In the end if Varejao comes in and realizes that he's got to improve in the next two years to get that big payday this probably worked out for the Cavaliers.

Partying in LA and he'll join them later this week, wonder if he's going to come in, in shape, and ready to go?

Rook wondered about this last night, what was Jordan's motive in breaking this impasse? Was he thinking down thr road two years? Did he think he could lure Ferry into some kind of deal? Was he really trying to accomplish something, or was this move for show?

Since Ferry matched so quickly it doesn't appear that he's got anything else going but trying to get Varejao in as quickly as possible.

If Etan would have went this route instead of accepting the 6 yr deal, think he'd be making 8m+ today? Great point Micheal, Varejao is the kind of player that the more you see him, the uglier he gets.

His agent should have taken the longer deal, his client's game has alot of warts. Go back a few years when people were fawning over Pollard when he was a backup with the Kings. Same player bad hair and all.

Posted by: GM | December 5, 2007 2:54 PM

Two reasons I can see, George.

One, looking at the Bobcats roster, there's not much they have and would be willing to give up that the Cavs would probably want need. If they give up Varajao, they need a big man in return. The Bobcatts aren't going to trade Okafor and May has never managed to stay healthy for a season (he's out right now, again). Beyond those two they don't have a lot to offer up front.

Two, keeping Varajao gives them more flexibility down the road. His problem is with management, not the coach or his teammates, so they're likely banking on him putting out once he's on the floor, no matter how much he dislikes Ferry. If that pans out, they've got two years to hope that one of two things happen: (A) The Cavs get good and return to the Finals/win a title, which might help soothe some of the bad feelings and make it possible that they can sign him to an extension or (B) Varajao raises his game and plays up to (or beyond) his new contract, and if it looks like he's not going to resign, they can move him at the deadline to another team for more than they'd likely get from dealing with the shorthanded Bobcats now.

Bottom line is that the Cavs are already short on pieces and they can't afford to lose any more, even if it means taking a risk on a key player holding a grudge against the boss.

Posted by: kalorama | December 5, 2007 2:57 PM

If stats are so meaningless, why do you use AV's low scoring and rebounds as proof of his mediocrity?

Posted by: Gus | December 5, 2007 3:15 PM

All they do is tie down cap space in non contributors (Snow and Varajeo off the bench getting starter money combined with the complete under- achievement and injury prone nature of Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall). Heads need to roll in the Cleveland front office. Hahaha, I hope Lebron has an exit strategy!

Posted by: Jason | December 5, 2007 3:38 PM

It's an open question whether Varejao is, or ever will be, legit full-time starter material, but he's hardly a non-contributor. They really need what he brings. The question is, how much is it worth? A 3-year deal averaging about $5.5 mill for a young, productive big man who still has some upside isn't a terrible deal by any means. If he develops into a guy capable of putting up a double-double consistently in about 30 mpg (last season he was 7 and 7 in about 24 mpg) then he's a steal. If he doesn't improve any, then the Cavs can milk him for a couple of years at a reasonable price then move him.

Posted by: kaloram | December 5, 2007 4:17 PM

That's cool.

Posted by: Carlito | December 5, 2007 4:22 PM

The only thing about having Varejao playing to opt out in two years to get a big payday is that he might become a very unhappy role player.

As long as there's strong enough leadership from the coach or veteran players to keep the guy in step with the team, that may not be a problem.

Ferry could be brewing up a wicked mixture in that lockerroom without a coach with a strong enough presence to keep it in check.
Varejao already spouted about some of the underacheiving players with bigger contracts that Jason brought up.

As long as Lebron carries the whole thing on his back they might be ok, but it could be a house of cards he's carrying...

Posted by: GM | December 5, 2007 4:35 PM

Granted, no matter how well things go for Cleveland over then next couple of years, there's likely going to be some lingering resentment from Varajao and the odds of him bolting at first chance will be good. That could be bad for the Cavs. But what's good for the Cavs is that Varajao, if he entertains any hope of ever being offered the kind of deal he was asking for from Ferry, is going to have to play though his hurt feeling s and step up his game, to the point of challenging either Gooden or Ilgauskas for the starting job. In order for him to get what he wants (a big deal from another team) he really has no choice but to give the Cavs what they want (two years with of solid consistent play). Going into the tank to spite Ferry just serves to cut off his own nose. There's really no way he can screw the Cavs without screwing himself in the process, something I would assume Ferry was well aware of when he matched Charlotte's offer.

Posted by: kalorama | December 5, 2007 4:48 PM

News to Abe's lawyers,the Cavs are another team that have now gone over the cap. Tell Abe,during one of his strolls,that a larger check is now on the way in the revenue sharing column. As long as the Wizard's sign noone to help the team or fill out the roster for practice,he gets that check and we know that he really needs it. Irene,don't worry,it's in safe hands.

Posted by: Beeb | December 5, 2007 4:54 PM

Poor guy is only going to make 5.8 mill a year

Posted by: mombo | December 5, 2007 4:56 PM

He wouldn't end up being the first guy to cut off his nose to spite his own face. It's not just "Sideshow Bob", Ferry has an interesting mix in that lockerroom with the potential to really blow.

I'd agree logic says that all of these guys should keep pulling together and with luck LeBron can carry them where they'd all like to go. But haven't seen too many of these guys that are the best in the world at the logic thing.

It's really going to be interesting watching them the next couple of years. If they don't continue their ascendancy I tend to beleive the whole thing will sour fast.
LeBron's going to realize he's carrying a team on his shoulders and I don't see him being a loyal soldier like Garnett did for years.

They either win the title in the next couple of seasons, or the whole thing might get blown up. So Ferry's got Varejao locked up for as long as that window's open anyway.

Posted by: GM | December 5, 2007 5:10 PM

All AV gives you is some hustle. No talent whatsoever. $5.8 mill per year right down the commode.

Posted by: Mitch | December 5, 2007 5:11 PM

Aside from Varejao I don't really see much in the way of potential problem children on the Cavs. Their roster is filled with guys making 2 or 3 or more times what they're actually worth, and many of them spend the majority of every season on IR. Not much to be angry about when you're getting paid a small fortune for essentially no real work.

Besides, at the end of the day there's really only one guy in the locker room whose feelings much matter, and that's LeBron. If he's happy, then no one else has cause to complain. If he's not (and there's plenty of potential for him not to be) then nobody else gets to be happy either.

Posted by: kalorama | December 5, 2007 5:39 PM

But I understood from that post that he kind of took a shot at his teammates. Maybe it won't be a problem. As for LeBron's exit strategy, well he can opt out in the summer of 2010 if I am not mistaken, so he already has that.

Posted by: George Templeton | December 5, 2007 6:28 PM

A roster that consists of often injuried guys on bloated contracts, when LaBron figures out that he can manuver his way to a contender and spend more of the regular season on cruise control he'll get real unhappy in a hurry.

When he starts to have to play nicked up because he can't take a game off without them losing it will take a toll after awhile.

And you're right when he's unhappy they'll all be hating life in Cleveland. But the guy's got enough individual talent to possibly carry that crew to a title on his back.

Posted by: GM | December 5, 2007 6:29 PM

"News to Abe's lawyers,the Cavs are another team that have now gone over the cap. Tell Abe,during one of his strolls,that a larger check is now on the way in the revenue sharing column. As long as the Wizard's sign noone to help the team or fill out the roster for practice,he gets that check and we know that he really needs it. Irene,don't worry,it's in safe hands.

Posted by: Beeb | December 5, 2007 04:54 PM "

Why win a championship when the checks keep coming in every year. Abe can treat this lux tax penalty like a dividend payment. It's a business, so as long as he stays in the black, why win a championship and then have to sell and why risk spending more money when you can lose that dividend payment?

Too bad Teddy Big Bucks got suckered into buying the worthless commodity instead (ie. caps). First Teddy couldn't dig AOL out of the gutter, and now Teddy can't dig the Caps out of the gutter. Making movies may be a better hobby for Teddy.

Posted by: DC Man88 | December 5, 2007 6:53 PM

They offered 20 million over 3 years, he's getting 15.5 million over 3, for 4.5 million he can now opt out in 2 years rather than 3, I think it worked out well for Varejao.

Posted by: juandixonformvp | December 6, 2007 1:44 AM

Excellent, Mike. I've always thought little of Varejao and never understood why so many people thought so highly of him. His offensive skills are unpolished, which is being kind, and his sense of self is too high, hence your reference to the AV-TD show down in Game 3 last year. There are some Wizards fans who wanted desperately for Washington to sign him to an offer sheet last year. I thought would have been a ridiculous move, and I'm glad to see EG had more sense than that. But right on, Mike. Right on.

Posted by: Colin | December 6, 2007 9:29 AM

$17.4 million over 3 yrs, that's about 5.8 mil for a player who averaged 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

I said that's a bargain, considering we are paying Etan about a million more for his 6 points, 5 rebounds per game average. In addition, Etan is not available 40% of his career due to various injuries. (Injury is certainly not a player's fault, I merely point out that he is not available during those time.)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2007 10:36 AM

My question is....what is LeBron going to do now?

Is there going to be tension in the locker room because AV thinks so highly of himself?

Will LBJ have to manage icy relationships? It will no doubt be on his shoulders to do so.

He seemed to have fun sitting at the end of the bench last night, biting his nails, and giggling with Damon Jones while Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall, also in their street suits, we sitting near the coaches, concentrating on the game.

Posted by: TruthAboutIt.Net | December 6, 2007 1:17 PM

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