INDEPENDENCE — Sasha Pavlovic is flying high right now.
Having reached an agreement with the Cavaliers on Tuesday on a three-year contract that will pay him between $12-15 million, the swingman is slated to fly from his native Montenegro to Cleveland today.
The Cavaliers open the season tonight at Quicken Loans Arena against the Dallas Mavericks. Pavlovic, who missed the entire preseason, will not be in uniform.
Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry, who still has an unsigned restricted free agent in power forward Anderson Varejao, declined to comment on the agreement with Pavlovic because the deal has not officially been signed.
“In the last 48 hours, we both made some compromises,” said Pavlovic’s agent, Marc Cornstein. “We both really tried to finalize this thing.
“Sasha’s extremely happy to be playing again. That’s the biggest thing. He always liked the Cleveland fans. They always embraced him. He was a big part of helping (the Cavaliers) get to the NBA Finals last year.”
The 6-foot-7, 239-pound Pavlovic, the team’s starting shooting guard down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs, set career highs in scoring (9.0), rebounds (2.4) and assists (1.6) while playing 22.9 minutes a night last season. In 28 games as a starter, the 23-year-old averaged 12.7 points. The Cavaliers posted a 20-8 record in those games.
In 20 postseason starts, Pavlovic averaged 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists as Cleveland reached the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
A restricted free agent following his fourth NBA season, Pavlovic elected not to accept the Cavaliers’ one-year, $2.8 million qualifying offer by the team’s Oct. 1 deadline. Had Pavlovic accepted that deal, he could have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2007-08 season.
As his holdout progressed, it looked like he should have taken that route. Even had Pavlovic sat out the entire season, the Cavaliers would have maintained his rights simply by making a qualifying offer at the end of the year. That policy would have been in place each offseason until Pavlovic played another NBA season.
It looked as though the Cavaliers were preparing to play without Pavlovic. The team signed combo guard Devin Brown in the offseason and added rookie swingman Demetris Nichols on Monday.
Second-year man Daniel Gibson, who has taken over Pavlovic’s starting spot, is likely to stay in that role even when Pavlovic is ready to go. Cleveland’s season outlook, however, looks a bit more promising now that it has signed one of its two restricted free agents.
“We always remained optimistic,” Cornstein said. “We kept the lines of communication open. I’m just happy we were able to complete it.”
When Pavlovic officially signs his deal, which should take place today or Thursday, the Cavaliers will have to release a player. Anthony Tolliver is almost certain to go.
Noland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-721-4061.