People always preach the need in the NBA for that otherworldly second fiddle on a team. You know, the alpha male’s right hand man. Let’s face it; every defining team in the history of our league has had one, haven’t they? Go back to Oscar and Kareem; remember the merrier days of Shaq and Kobe? Everybody had one. Google it and you’ll find somewhere around 320,000 results for it. It’s a topic discussed nationwide on a regular occurrence. Every NBA fan over the last three decades has witnessed at least one dynamic duo in tandem. The eighties alone had Magic/Kareem, Bird/McHale, Erving/Malone and Thomas/Dumars. Those four duos accounted for every single NBA Championship from 1980 to 1990. Point I’m getting at is you needed help back then to achieve immortality. The nineties were Jordan/Pippen orientated, and would have been even more so if MJ didn’t think he was Babe Ruth. You had the irrepressible duo of Stockton/Malone ripping it up in Salt Lake also at the time. Tim Duncan and mentor David Robinson guided us gracefully into the, erm, noughties (Editors note here, what are we calling the 2000’s? the zero’s? the ‘ousands? Please, email me, I’m still annoyed). We then had the mother of all duos in Shaq and Kobe. Drama, theatrics, rap songs, a whole lotta money, entertainment, championships and MVP’s galore. They really were something.
Nowadays we still have dominant duos, just not to the level we were previously accustomed to. Most of our tandems are only in the process of becoming dominant, for example the two 12 year olds in Oklahoma who are annihilating the West. Durant and Westbrook or something, I dunno. Deron Williams and the guy who shall not be named (you know who I’m on about) should be dominant, but they have grown rather attached to the treatment table. Howard and Nelson look good at times. Kobe and Gasol are there, Boston were there. Atlanta has nice pieces, but dominant? Jason Kidd won’t be around long enough or win enough for the Mavs to have one. But what about us? Who’s our second fiddle? Who backs up the undeniable alpha male that is LeBron James? Our streaky point guard Mo Williams? Dynamite in the regular season last year, on the back of a milk carton time the Magic rolled into town. Shaq and Jamison are new, pretty unproven as to what they can do for us just yet, but we still have June to come. Ladies and Gentlemen, the right hand man in LeBron’s tear through the NBA is none other than Anderson Varejao. You simply can’t deny it.
The Wild Thing may have the world’s worst hair and most oversized contract, but god dammit he’s worth ever drop of head and shoulders and every dollar. Not many teams can lay claim to have the NBA’s most annoying player on their roster. We can, but for all the right reasons. When Varejao enters the game, watch the opposing teams faces. Especially the frontcourt guys, they now know that for however long Andy’s on the floor they get no rest. Zilch. He harries and hassles every time down the court. His defensive energy is unrivalled in our league. He draws charges at a phenomenal rate; he has a nose for it. He led the league with 99 a few years back. He gets criticised for flopping, but come on, if Dwight Howard sticks his freakishly big body (and really small head) into your chest, your going down. Period.
Acquired from the Magic in 2004, Varejao was an instant hit. Since his rookie season, his progress is clearly evident. His scoring is gone up four points, his rebounds up three. He has improved his free throw percentage, lowered his turnovers, improved his blocks and gone up in steals. What more can you say? This season his numbers go as follows – 9 points, 8 boards, 1 block and 1 swipe a game in 29 minutes. May not be the most eye dropping stat line but understand this, Varejao plays in a frontcourt where he is way down the pecking order for shot distribution. Shaq, ‘Tawn, JJ, Powe and Z when he returns are all preferred options. The great thing about Andy is he doesn’t need shots to be effective. He gets his points off our missed shots or the superb two man game he has developed with LeBron. You’re never going to hear him complain about not getting plays called from him because he makes his own. Don’t get me wrong though, when given the chance Varejao will punish you. His season high 22 points came against Portland when he was handed out 17 shots. He tore apart Boston’s aging frontline with 17 and 10. Doc Rivers wanted to adopt him after that game he was so good.
Anderson Varejao understands his role better than any other in our league. He gives us energy and effort. He feeds off scraps on the offensive end. He is the unsung hero of every win. We need him to be our new lease of life off the bench, and he is, 82 nights a year. His role may never change as a Cavalier, but do you think he wants it any other way?
When LeBron signs his new deal in July, look for him and the Wild Thing to be the defining duo of this decade. Starting this June.
Til next time…