The early-season success of journeyman Jared Cunningham may show how much Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is willing to spend to chase an NBA title, writes Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. Cunningham, who is with his fifth NBA franchise in four seasons, signed in September for the minimum salary of $981,348. However, Cleveland’s luxury tax situation means Cunningham will cost the team nearly $5MM if he remains on the roster through January 10th, when all contracts become guaranteed. If coach David Blatt and GM David Griffin want to keep Cunningham, Lloyd believes Gilbert would approve it. Lloyd notes that Cunningham has passed Joe Harris in the rotation, although Harris’ roster spot seems secure because this season’s contract is guaranteed for $845,059. However, if the roster gets back to full health, it’s unlikely either will see much playing time.
There’s more this morning out of Cleveland:
- Cunningham has found a supporter in NBA veteran Richard Jefferson, according to Spencer Davies of Amicohoops.net. The 35-year-old Jefferson, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent in August, is now with his seventh team. “There’s a mentality that’s involved in the NBA,” Jefferson said. “There’s a mentality of a guy who’s trying to survive. There’s a mentality of a guy who’s comfortable and is just a vet and works consistently.”
- Jefferson, who came close to NBA titles with the Nets and Spurs, tells Davies in the same piece that his decision to join the Cavs offers his best shot at a ring before he retires. Jefferson said the disappointment of losing to the Warriors last season is driving the team to get back to the NBA Finals. “You’ve been to the mountaintop without accomplishing your goal,” he said. “I think the next year that allows everyone to kind of focus a little bit more.”
- If the trend continues, Timofey Mozgov will have to make his contract push three quarters at a time, according to Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group and The Cleveland Plain Dealer. With the Cavaliers employing a smaller lineup late in games, the starting center has gotten playing time in the fourth quarter in just one of the team’s first six contests. Mozgov, who is making $4.95MM in the final season of his three-year deal, is trying to be patient with the situtation. “It’s still hard for you win or lose,” he said of his fourth-quarter absences. “You want to play anyway, but it’s a long season and we have a lot of things to do so you’ve got to be smart about it.”