The Cleveland Cavaliers today announced that Anderson Varejao has torn a ligament in his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer Varejao will undergo surgery to repair the ligament.
Which begs the question:
Can the fates hate this franchise more? They suffer through all of their history, get LeBron James, suffer playoff exit after playoff exit including a Finals loss and a bizarre upset at the hands of the Magic, then lose the biggest basketball star in state history on national television. And now this.
“How can this possibly be that bad?” you mask ask. After all, Varejao is averaging 9 whole points a game this year, and his rebounding numbers aren’t anything stellar. He’s a fine defender and can finish around the rim, but is this really that bad of an event?
Yeah, it kind of is.
Varejao wasn’t just the heart and soul of the team, nor its most consistent player under 30. He wasn’t just their leading rebounder and leader in blocks. He was also their most attractive trade asset. J.J. Hickson has gone in the tank since Byron Scott came on, Antawn Jamison’s contract remains an albatross, Mo Williams is fraught with “meh”-ness, and Ramon Sessions still doesn’t light anyone’s candle. Varejao, though, is a veteran big you can rely on, with a big contract (which means you can send assets back). He fills a need for every contending team, and can be packaged with the James trade exception. Now that option is out.
Varejao himself has had a bad year, breaking his face (yes, breaking his face) and having to wear a mask during the year, and being generally banged up as the Cavaliers have sunk from decent to bad to outright horrible. Now he’s got pain, surgery, more pain, and an uncertain future in Cleveland to look forward to without the hope of redemption.
And the hits just keep on coming.
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.