CLEVELAND (AP) — The NBA trading deadline came and went. Andre Drummond didn’t move.
Unable to find a trade partner Thursday for the benched center, the Cavaliers will try to structure a contract buyout for the two-time All-Star, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.
Drummond hasn’t played since Feb. 12 and could wind up on a contending team after being pushed aside in Cleveland. The sides can agree to any financial figure for the buyout, and Drummond will likely get a prorated portion of the $28.7 million he’s due this season.
When it happens, the buyout will conclude an awkward situation for Drummond and the Cavs, who took him out of the lineup so they could give Jarrett Allen more playing time after acquiring the young center from Brooklyn in January.
Although he wasn’t playing, Drummond remained engaged with his teammates. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff lauded the way Drummond handled things.
“It’s good for both of us to be honest with you. It’s good for the organization. It’s good for Dre, too,” Bickerstaff said on a Zoom call from Los Angeles. “I couldn’t say enough good things about how he’s handled all this because it wasn’t easy. He’s a competitor. He wants to play. He loves his teammates. His teammates love him.
“And he could have been a jerk and had an attitude and not been good with his teammates and said negative things. But he never did. He handled it professionally. But more so, Dre’s a great dude. He can never stoop to that level and that’s one of the things that we need to make sure that we focus on and remember, how gracefully he handled an extremely difficult situation.”
The Cavs were expected to be busy Thursday but only made one deal, agreeing to send veteran center JaVale McGeee to the Denver Nuggets for 22-year-old center Isaiah Hartenstein and two future second-round draft picks, a person familiar with the deal told AP.
The picks are in 2023 and 2027, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade must be approved by the league.
Cleveland reportedly shopped forwards Cedi Osman and Taurean Prince but only made the deal involving McGee, who was kept out of Wednesday’s win at Chicago as trade talks began to heat up.
McGee was invaluable for the Cavs, providing quality minutes and serving as mentor to their young players. But while the three-time NBA champion will be missed in Cleveland, he’s joining a Denver team with a legitimate shot at dethroning the Los Angeles Lakers out West.
Bickerstaff said losing McGee is a blow.
“He’s the consummate pro and not just with the stuff he does on the court,” he said. “The way he embraced the fan base. The way he embraced his teammates. For a guy coming from championship runs to our situation, it was unique that he was able to take that type of role and we appreciate it for sure.”
The Cavs have had an uneven season. They’re 17-27, but only 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in spot. Cleveland continues its road trip at the Lakers on Friday night.
Drummond, who has not spoken to the media since early February, can now leave Cleveland with a buyout and join a contender. He’s been linked to several teams, including the champion Lakers, who could be in the market for some help with LeBron James and Anthony Davis currently sidelined with injuries.
Bickerstaff is excited for Drummond, who came to the Cavs last season after eight seasons with the Detroit Pistons.
“There’s no reason not to root for him,” Bickerstaff said. “He deserves it as a person. He deserves all the success he has that is coming his way. He puts the time in. He works his tail off.
“Early in the season when we got to 10 wins, we wouldn’t have had those 10 wins without him. We were ranked at the top of the league defensively. We wouldn’t have been ranked if it wasn’t for him. I got nothing but great things to say about my experience with Dre and I wish him the best moving forward.”