Gooden signs three-year, $23M deal with Cavaliers

Almost one month after he agreed to terms, Drew Gooden signed a three-year, $23 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

The signing of Gooden's deal was delayed so he could get a
physical, and so his agents could finalize details on the package.

"We are excited to move forward with Drew as an integral part
of our team," Cavs general manager Danny Ferry said Monday. "Re-signing
him was a priority for us in the offseason and we certainly will be
a better team with him."

Re-signing Gooden was the Cavs' other main priority this offseason, after securing LeBron James' signature on a contract extension last month. The lack of further free-agent activity in Cleveland isn't surprising after its spending spree last summer to re-sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas and bring in Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones.

Gooden, who averaged 10.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in his fourth pro season, also could have elected to sign a one-year deal worth $5.3 million, enabling him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But Gooden opted for the added security of a three-year deal, setting up Cleveland to bring back the group that surged in the second half of last season to finish 50-32 and stretch Detroit to seven games in the second round of the East playoffs.

From here, with a payroll fast approaching luxury-tax territory, Cleveland will likely have to construct trades to make major personnel alterations, as the Cavs rush to establish themselves as unquestioned championship contenders before James has the right to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2010.

In the short term, though, Ferry is counting on the continuity of a largely unchanged roster, improved health for Hughes and the natural progression of James and the emerging Anderson Varejao to build on the successes of the spring. James turns just 22 in December.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.