BY SPENCER DAVIES
For more than a decade, Anderson Varejao has defined the scratching-and-clawing, never-say-die attitude of the city stitched onto the front of his jersey.
He turned a fictional nickname from the Cleveland sports cult movie-classic “Major League” into reality when fans dubbed him “The Wild Thing,” because of his tenacity and hustle on both ends of the court, as well as his stylish, curly flopping hair.
He’s overcome obstacle after obstacle, season-in and season-out. Whether it be the unexpected loss of a mega-superstar or a season-ending injury, the 6-foot-11, 267-pound big man has left it all out on the floor for the Wine-N-Gold — and that may be exactly why it might be time to close the chapter on his storied career with the Cavaliers.
Since the 2009-2010 campaign, Varejao has been hampered by injuries, and these setbacks haven’t been minor. In the past four years alone, he has suffered a torn a tendon in his ankle, a broken wrist, a blood clot in his lung, a bad back and most recently, a torn Achilles’ tendon. In summation, that’s 171 missed games out of 312 total. That’s more than half, or 54.8 percent, of the games.
Now, this is not saying Varejao’s career is over at all. In fact — with the recent report of David West signing with the Spurs and seeing how Varejao’s come back from all of these unfortunate circumstances before — I’m convinced he has a lot left in the tank. There is no doubt he could still be a dominant force off of the bench for the Cavaliers next season.
But in the same breath, the constant inability to stay healthy has to be a concern eventually. If Varejao gets hurt again at some point, it becomes a liability for the team and another hole to fill in the frontcourt.
A report by ESPN about a potential Brendan Haywood–Jamal Crawford swap, means Varejao could potentially be a part of the deal due to the Clippers’ huge void at the center position with the departure of DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks. If this has a shot of happening and the Clippers were to ask for Varejao in return, it’s an offer Cleveland can’t refuse — especially if J.R. Smith doesn’t return and decides to go elsewhere.
As of now, the Cavaliers have Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson (allegedly), LeBron James, Kevin Love and eventually Rakeem Christmas along with Haywood and Varejao in the front court. Depth is always good, but I’d bet the fight for playing time wouldn’t go well for the oft-injured 32-year-old Brazilian.
A potential move to Los Angeles (or Brooklyn) would allow Varejao to get a fresh start with a new team. On the other hand, it would allow the Cavaliers to acquire another quality veteran — be it Crawford or the Nets’ Joe Johnson — that could push the team closer to an NBA championship run for a second straight year.
Injuries are the worst part of sports, and it’s a shame if this is the way it ends for Anderson Varejao in his beloved city of Cleveland. But if the rumors going around are of true merit, it may be necessary.