Basketball / Sports

Cavaliers fortify roster with free agent Shawn Marion

It wasn't long after LeBron James announced he was returning to the Cavaliers that team officials began looking at ways to reduce the load James is forced to carry. The answer delivered himself to Cleveland over the weekend.

Free agent forward Shawn Marion informed the Cavaliers he will join them next season, a league source confirmed to the Beacon Journal, fortifying a roster that is quickly becoming one of the league's best. ESPN first reported Marion's commitment to the Cavs.

Marion will sign for the league minimum because the Cavs are out of cap space. He could've played elsewhere for more money, but the lure of playing with James and competing for another championship was too great to pass up.

Marion, 36, spent the last five seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and is also familiar with Cavs General Manager David Griffin from their time together in Phoenix. He is versatile enough to defend four positions on the floor and becomes yet another veteran with championship experience.

He also becomes an ideal backup to James, who has averaged 39.5 minutes per game throughout his 11 seasons and consistently ranks among the league leaders in minutes played. The Cavs certainly aren't trying to drastically reduce James' time on the floor, but a few extra minutes of rest every night in January, February and March could make a big difference in April, May and June.

And make no mistake: The Cavaliers are now playing for June, particularly if and when the Kevin Love trade is made official. The Cavs' vastly improved roster was clearly appealing to Marion, who has primarily been a starter throughout his 15-year career. Now he's expected to be a valuable backup and spot starter in case of injuries.

Marion had other suitors, including the Indiana Pacers, who are seeking a replacement for Paul George. The Pacers received an injured player exception north of $5 million to spend, but Pacers President Larry Bird made it clear in recent days the Pacers won't cross into luxury tax territory. That left them with little more to offer financially than the Cavs.

Marion was part of the Mavericks team that beat James' Heat four years ago for the championship. He averaged 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals last season in Dallas and has averaged 15.8 points and nine rebounds throughout his career. He is a four-time All-Star and has been to the postseason nine times.

The Cavs are hopeful the addition of Marion and the eventual acquisition of Love will be enough to persuade Ray Allen to join them. Allen is contemplating retirement, but could join the Cavs on another league minimum deal.

By the time the Cavs' roster overhaul is complete, there could be just five players left who spent last season in Cleveland: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Matthew Dellavedova.

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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