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Looming contract deadline could prompt Cleveland Cavaliers to do a little roster shuffling


By Brian Windhorst


January 04, 2010, 11:30PM


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It seems rather certain the Cavaliers roster is going to change in the next couple of days. Just how radical the changes will be, however, is still up in the air.

Sunday is Jan. 10, which is the NBA contract guarantee date. All nonguaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season after that date, which leaves teams making judgment calls on numerous players every year.





This year, because Jan. 10 is a Sunday, players will have to clear waivers by Friday. With a 48-hour waiver period, most teams will make decisions on players by Wednesday. The Cavs are in a unique position. They have four players with non-guaranteed contracts among the 25 still on league rosters. Forwards Darnell Jackson and Jawad Williams and guards Coby Karl and Danny Green having been keeping a watch on that deadline.


But it is deeper than just deciding which players they should keep or let go. With the economic realities of the league, non-guaranteed contracts can act like free money for teams with financial problems.


By trading a player with a guaranteed contract for a player with a non-guaranteed deal, a team looking to save money could just cut the non-guaranteed player and save the salary. Considering almost half of the league is headed for the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, plenty of teams could save double by trading for a player they can cut.


That is why, league sources say, the Cavs have been on the phones taking a look at their options with some or all of their non-guaranteed contracts. There are a handful of teams looking to reduce their payroll. Two franchises -- the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns -- have already made minor trades to dump salary.


The New Orleans Hornets have been attempting to clear off salary for the last few weeks and had a trade to do so last week fall apart. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Wizards are also teams believed to be considering making changes to save money.





Lisa DeJong / The Plain DealerJawad Williams (31) has local ties, but understands the reality of NBA life. “We’ve been though this before and if something happens, I’ll just move on and try to prove myself somewhere else,” he said.

It might not be a major move, as the players likely involved don't make enough money in NBA terms to qualify as big trades. But the Cavs might be in a position to pluck a role player by helping another team save money. Owner Dan Gilbert has given General Manager Danny Ferry clearance to spend if it can help the team. If a trade doesn't work out, there is a good chance the Cavs will let at least one player go to create space on their 15-man roster. That would allow them to make a lopsided trade, where they take on more players than they trade, between now and the trade deadline in late February.


Jackson, who is in the second year of a three-year contract, appears to be the safest of the players. A 2008 second-round draft pick, he's played in 17 games this season and is the team's fifth big man at the moment. He is a favorite of coach Mike Brown for his work ethic and Brown uses him when there are injuries or foul trouble.


The Cavs have also been impressed in practice with rookie Green, whose contract is for two years with neither fully guaranteed. He's played in just six games, but the team has indicated they think he has a future and it would be unlike them to release him at this point.


That seems to leave the call between Williams and Karl. There's a chance the Cavs could release both, but with Leon Powe still not ready to play, lowering the roster to just 12 healthy bodies probably isn't an option. Williams has played in 11 games and has gotten brief time in close games. He's a good practice player and has the respect of his teammates.




Karl has played in just three games and serves as an emergency point guard. He won over the coaches during workouts in September and got a late invite to training camp, where he beat out some other favorites to win a spot on the roster. Then the team decided not to sign a free agent guard after working several out in November, preferring to keep Karl. The unfortunate timing is the Cavs are scheduled to play the Denver Nuggets, coached by Karl's father George, on Friday. The decision will probably have been made before then.


There is a chance the Cavs could cut a player and bring him back on a 10-day contract and retain flexibility. That is what happened with Williams last year.


"None of us has been talking to each other about it, we've just been trying to work hard every day and let it take care of itself," said Williams, a Cleveland native. "We've been though this before and if something happens, I'll just move on and try to prove myself somewhere else."



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