The Cavaliers and Anderson Varejao have officially signed a contract extension, the team announced. The extension is believed to be for three years, and approximately $30MM, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Thursday (Twitter link). Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group added that the plan was for the sides to sign the extension today, though the October 31st deadline that applies for rookie-scale extensions didn’t matter with Varejao. The 32-year-old becomes just the fifth player to sign a veteran extension under the current collective bargaining agreement, joining Andrew Bogut, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Zach Randolph.
“Anderson represents how this franchise wants to approach the game of basketball, both on the court and off,” Cavs GM David Griffin said in the team’s statement. “He has been a key part of our foundation for years and we are very happy that he will continue to be part of our Cavs family as we work towards our goals at the highest level. Andy is, and has been, a tireless worker, an incredible teammate and a great competitor that plays with a rare combination of energy and intensity that makes him truly special.”
This news doesn’t come as a surprise since it was reported earlier that both sides had a mutual interest in keeping Varejao in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. The Brazilian-born center said recently that he wants to finish his career with the Cavs, and he has a close relationship with LeBron James, with whom he’d been teammates for six years before James took his talents to South Beach.
Varejao nonetheless had some incentive to wait until he became a free agent to sign a new deal with the Cavs. The starting salary in a veteran extension can be no more than 107.5% of the salary in the final season of the existing deal, and in Varejao’s case the extension could only have run through the 2017/18 season. If Varejao were to have waited to become a free agent, he could sign up to a five-year contract for nearly 35% of the salary cap, though he wasn’t a candidate for max money, nor a deal of that length. With his history of injuries and advancing age, signing an extension to stay in Cleveland and gaining some level of financial security was clearly appealing for Varejao, and it comes with the benefit of allowing him to continue to play for a team that’s shaping up to be an annual title contender.
This news also casts some doubt as to the future of Tristan Thompson in wine-and-gold. A report earlier today indicated that there was pessimism surrounding Cleveland’s extension talks with Thompson, who is subject to today’s 11:00pm Central deadline for rookie scale extensions. Thompson is seeking a new deal in the $12MM per year range, which is a bit pricey for a backup center.
The Cavs had only about $21.5MM in commitments for 2015/16 before signing the Varejao deal, but that doesn’t include James’ player option for $21,573,398 or Kevin Love‘s for $16,744,218. Varejao’s extension doesn’t leave the Cavs front office much flexibility to ink Thompson and continue to surround the core of James, Love, and Kyrie Irving with the role players needed to contend.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.