Report: Anderson Varejao cleared to return in time for training camp

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Anderson Varejao was having his best season statistically last year, until a knee injury forced him out of action in December, and then the ensuing blood clot that developed ended his season entirely.

Now comes word that he’s been medically cleared in time for the start of training camp in a few weeks, but questions remain as to what his role will be with the team, and whether or not he’ll be traded before the season is through.

From Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

I hear that Anderson Varejao was been cleared for all basketball activities when the Cavs open training camp in a few weeks. Varejao missed 57 games last season because of a leg injury followed by blood clots. In the last three seasons, he has played only 81 games … and missed 149 … due to various injuries. So it’s hard to count on him.

The 6-foot-10 Varejao will turn 31 on September 28. Naturally, he will have some trade value if he can stay healthy. But the Cavs want him to set the defensive tone inside, especially getting back to the excellent team-style defense that he played for [Mike Brown]. While he was a monster on the boards under [Byron Scott], his team defense (switching off his man to defend the hoop) suffered. Of course, that was an issue for the entire team.

Varejao averaged a career-best 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds in 36 minutes per game last season, but only appeared in 25 contests.

This season, there is much more frontcourt help on the roster, so Varejao shouldn’t need to play nearly as many minutes.

The Cavaliers made some splashes in free agency, most notably by picking up Andrew Bynum and Jarrett Jack. They also signed Earl Clark, and selected Anthony Bennett with the number one overall pick in this summer’s draft.

Varejao has two years left on his contract at just over $9 million per season, but the last year is only partially guaranteed. If he shows an ability to contribute at a high level while staying healthy, Cleveland will have options to deal him at the trade deadline.

Although if the influx of free agent talent has the Cavaliers in position to meet this season’s goal of reaching the playoffs, they may decide to hold onto Varejao until next summer.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.