Anderson Varejao went down with a split leg muscle, was said to be tabled for 6-8 weeks while he underwent surgery, but while in surgery he developed a blood clot in his lung which had to be removed and he is now out for the rest of the season.
Shutting Varejao down meant the Cavs were forced to take him off the trade market and whatever reinforcements or future assets the Cavs were hoping to haul in this year by trading their most productive (and oldest) frontcourt player will now have to wait at least until he is deemed healthy enough to play again. Andy has a team option for next season and is an unrestricted free agent after that.
Cavs probable starting lineup:
PG Kyrie Irving
SG Dion Waiters
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Tristan Thompson
C Tyler Zeller
Varejao was having a fantastic season, averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds on 48% shooting in 36 minutes. The hole Andy left officially marked the beginning of the Cavs’ frontcourt youth movement, as 2nd-year man Tristan Thompson and rookie Tyler Zeller have been starting together and logging heavy minutes since December 19th.
Results have been mixed for Zeller. He’s averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds on 37% shooting over 34 minutes in January while Thompson has come into his own, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds on 53% shooting in 34 minutes. A little more seasoning, and the Cavs frontcourt could be set.
Rookie shooting guard Waiters has tried to shake the Syracuse stigma that has plagued so many Orangemen in their NBA transition. Waiters has averaged right around 15 points a game all season, but his 3-point attempts have been declining as the season has wore on. He shot 5.2 in November and 3.6 in December. Then he missed 8 games with a sprained ankle and since then — 2.6 in January and 2 a game so far in February — he’s not exactly ignoring the 3, but he’s not the gunslinger he was earlier. From the field he’s at 39% for the year and 44% over his last 5.
Irving continues to impress and that’s all I’m going to say. He’s at 24 points, 5.5 assists and almost 4 rebounds on 47% shooting from the field while shooting 43% on 5 3s a game. The 2nd-year point guard has few peers. At similar stages in their careers, Chris Paul would seem an inadequate comparison.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Luke Ridnour
SF Mickael Gelabale
PF Derrick Williams
C Nikola Pekovic
At halftime of the Memphis game, assistant Bill Bayno was interviewed by Jim Peterson. And while Jim Pete looked happy to discuss basketball with an adult who had a clue, Bayno looked to be about in tears over the Wolves inability to provide Pek with any semblance of 3-point shooting to deter the Grizz for sitting in Pek’s lap every time he touched the ball. While I don’t doubt the lack of 3-point shooting, it appeared Marc Gasol had Pek more than under control. Add to that terrifyingly physical matchup Williams’ utter hopelessness in his matchup against Zach Randolph and you have Gelabale being thwarted in his clueless attempts at defending simple basket cuts by Tayshaun Prince as your only hope for the Wolves starting frontcourt. If you looked hard enough, you could see Ridnour breaking free for open jumpers here and there, and Ricky desperately looking for passing angles and options — but too often they were basically down a professional grade shooting guard, small forward and power forward against the NBA’s best defense.
Things should be incredibly different against the Cavs. To a man, the change in defensive pressure from Sunday to Monday night should seem like the difference between posting up in a telephone booth and an airline hangar.