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International intrigue

Cavs players' Europe threat an ironic twist for Ferry

Posted: Friday October 12, 2007 2:19PM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 2:19PM
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Anderson Varejao and the Cavs are said to be far apart in contract negotiations.
Anderson Varejao and the Cavs are said to be far apart in contract negotiations.
Bob Rosato/SI
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One of the interesting sidebars to the Anderson Varejao/Sasha Pavlovic saga in Cleveland revolves around those players' threats to take their game to Europe if they don't get what they want from the Cavs.

Cavs general manager Danny Ferry was himself one of the most high-profile defectors in NBA history. As the No. 2 overall pick out of Duke in 1989, he opted not to sign with the Clippers and instead took a lucrative offer from a team in Rome.

Now Ferry finds himself on the other side of the table, so to speak, though he insists he wouldn't hold it against either player if they were to take that option.

"I went to Europe. I can't fault someone else for doing that," Ferry said. "But we're not going to compete with that. If they get an offer and that's what they want to do ...

"We're going to be fair with our guys. But if that's what they feel is better for them, I'm fine with it."

Varejao, a 6-foot-10 forward-center, and Pavlovic, a 6-7 swingman, are both restricted free agents who have seen the market dry up. The Cavs have made offers to both, but neither player so far has seen fit to accept. As a result they are not in camp, leaving LeBron James & Co. without two key players who helped them make their run to the NBA Finals last season.

While parties on all sides are staying mostly mum, there doesn't seem to be a lot of optimism for deals right now. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing unnamed sources, has reported that Varejao is seeking $60-$65 million for five years, while Pavlovic wants $25-$30 million over the same span. The Cavs, meanwhile, have luxury-tax concerns and probably are unwilling to tie up their flexibility for years to come by paying more than the market dictates.

Ferry could do a sign-and-trade with either or both, but it's unlikely the Cavs would get back anything they want that also fits their long-term financial plans. He wouldn't comment on any specifics of negotiations, other than to say they were ongoing.

"Sasha and Andy are both good players who we certainly respect, and we feel we've shown that in our contract offers to them," Ferry said. "Beyond that, our focus has to be on the players who are here and making the most of this preseason."

As for the possibility either Varejao or Pavlovic might opt to play in Europe, it can't be totally discounted. The biggest problem for the players is that the money might not be there right now, and the Cavs would still hold their right to match any offer were they to return. But if they were mad enough, they just might do it.

Varejao, for example, knows that the Grizzlies were thinking about making him a reported $45 million offer before changing course and pursuing Darko Milicic instead. One of the reasons Memphis reportedly backed off was because it feared the Cavs would match the offer. But to Varejao's way of thinking, he's worth that kind of money.

Varejao's agent, Dan Fegan, declined to comment on current negotiations. Pavlovic's agent, Marc Cornstein, didn't return calls.

Many around the NBA are watching the Cleveland saga with more than a passing interest. The consensus among GMs seems to be that both players will eventually sign with the Cavs. However, some have noted that Fegan is a tough negotiator. During the summer one of his clients, No. 6 pick Yi Jianlian, had a protracted holdout in Milwaukee.

"Fegan's a take-no-prisoners type of guy," one Eastern Conference executive said. "He's not afraid to torch a bridge."

Some might say Varejao leaving the NBA would be as extreme as setting fire to the Ponte Vecchio. Ferry, the former Italian Leaguer, probably wouldn't disagree.