Cleveland’s starting center Anderson Varejao tore his Achilles tendon in the third quarter of a Cavaliers win over Minnesota, something first reported by Brian Windhorst of ESPN and since confirmed by multiple other outlets.
This is what the Cavaliers feared after the injury happened. Varejao was averaging 10 points a game on 55 percent shooting, plus he grabbed six rebounds a game. He’s often the big setting the pick for LeBron James out high, those two have a strong chemistry.
Varejao landed awkwardly after going up near the basket Tuesday night and immediately went to the ground, where he stayed for several minutes with his teammates around him. He was eventually carried back to the locker room unable to put any weight on his leg, and was seen leaving the arena on crutches an in a boot.
For the 32-year-old Varejao, this will be a very difficult injury to come back from. It could spell the end of his NBA career.
It’s also going to be rough on Cleveland on the court. In the short term expect the Cavaliers to start Tristan Thompson, who has played well of late, in what is a smaller lineup. The only other option right now is to give Brendan Haywood minutes — he has barely seen the court this season (four total minutes in the last seven games) and is really more contract trade bait than player to the Cavs. There is Louis Amundson on the bench, too.
Which means expect the Cavaliers to really step up their efforts to trade for a big man. They have been working the phones all season going down the ladder of potential trade partners, including guys like Timofey Mozgov in Denver, Kosta Koufos in Memphis, and now Brandan Wright in Boston. All to no avail.
That needs to change soon now. The Cavaliers defense already struggled without rim protection in the paint, and while Varejao’s numbers were not great this season — the team is 5 points per 100 possessions better when he was off the court — he was still by far their best option.