I was watching Saturday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers thinking to myself: if this is what Cavaliers basketball is like without Anderson Varjeao, I hope he’s never traded. This after starting the season convinced that the Cavaliers would be overwhelmed with trade offers for their talented big man, and forced to do specifically that.
I know Kyrie Irving spent Saturday’s game hanging with Gody as well, it wasn’t just Varejao who sat sidelined with that broken wrist, and it most definitely would’ve been a more enjoyable game with Kyrie to be sure. But there is no replacement for Anderson Varejao. Maybe there is an 11-year old Brazilian kid who is patterning his game, life, and hair off of Anderson right now, and in ten years maybe he will come into the NBA and do the same things Varejao does currently, but nobody else is doing it now.
After breaking his wrist, Anderson Varejao himself won’t be doing it now for a while though either. I’ve heard he may be sidelined for 3-4 weeks, as well as whispers of 4-6, although I don’t think the official time-frame has been announced yet. At least I haven’t seen that email. Surgery – and whether or not he needs it – will probably be the deciding factor. Once that’s determined, they’ll announce how long Anderson’s expected to be out. If I’m GUESSING, I say he’s out at least a month; returning sometime during the week of March 12th at the soonest. Maybe longer though.
If it’s the week of March 12th, Varejao would miss about 12 or 13 more games at least, and the Cavaliers will probably lose most of those. But while they played like a team worthy of a long look at that last playoff spot out East while Andy was healthy, I’d kinda feel like a hypocrite if I didn’t think back to what I thought heading into this season. Now nobody wants to see anybody get injured, and nobody really wants to lose. At least I don’t feel the need to lose as much as some rebuilding Cavaliers fans do. But, if there ever was a Cavaliers season where you can’t actually lose, either way, it is still this season.
If the Cavs overachieved, and I guess they still could, made the playoffs, and wound up with a Draft pick outside the top-16 come June I would’ve been and still am totally all good with that. That would mean Kyrie Irving developed an on-court relationship with Anderson Varejao and the rest of his teammates that helped he and his team earn the opportunity to gain some playoff experience. That would help everyone grow as players and as a team down the road, and I see only positives there. If the Cavaliers ended up playing awful, something bad happened like their starting center misses half the season, the Cavaliers would then be making a mad dash towards Anthony Davis or whoever else you may want to pilfer from atop the college ranks. Big picture, kinda all good there too.
With Anderson out now though, the Cavaliers will not win at the clip that they did when he was healthy. Their margin for error was already razor thin, and they really didn’t win as many games as some people in Cleveland try to make it sound like they did either. They were playing below .500 basketball, that just happened to be good enough to contend for the 8th playoff spot in a lousy Eastern Conference. Without Anderson, it’s going to be an uphill climb every single night no matter who’s on deck.
What all this will also give way too though is an extended opportunity for Tristan Thompson to start getting major minutes here. The rookie who hauled in 13 boards on Friday leads all NBA rookies with 5.3 rebounds per game, which is part of the reason he’s going to that rookie-sophomore challenge. I tweeted before the Cavs tipped off with the Sixers that I thought Tristan would start that night after grabbing that career high in rebounds, but he didn’t. It sounds like he won’t on Wednesday either, but the day he finally matches Mychel Thompson in the number of starts for his NBA career is coming soon.
So for me, it’ll be the welcomed distractions of watching Tristan Thompson develop that will get me through these next dozen games. However they turn out. It’ll also be watching Samardo Samuels continue to get his chances on the floor to show what he can do as a bruising enforcer off the bench. It’ll be watching what Skyenga can do with his opportunity also, while Anthony Parker continues to sit injured with an injury nobody is really talking about at all. Kyrie practiced a little bit on Monday too, so hopefully he’s back on Wednesday. His continued assault on the Rookie of the Year Award will also obviously be must-see TV for me as well.
And whether Anderson can play or he can’t for a while, I’m just hoping he stays here. I know he’s been injured a lot, but there’s simply no replacing the guy. If you didn’t think so when he was playing, just watch what happens when he doesn’t.