Varejao matters again, for Cavs and Brazil

VIDEO: FIBA: Round of 16, Day 2 Wrap

MADRID — It’s easy to forget how much of an impact Anderson Varejao can make on a game. The little things he does don’t mean much when his team is losing more than twice as many games as it’s winning, like the Cleveland Cavaliers have done over the last four years.

Come Oct. 30, when the Cavs tip off the 2014-15 season with LeBron James back and Kevin Love on board, Varejao is going to matter again.

In fact, Varejao matters right now, with Brazil having a chance to earn a medal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The Brazilians advanced to the quarterfinals with an 85-65 victory over Argentina on Sunday, avenging losses to their South American rivals in the 2010 World Championship round of 16, 2011 FIBA Americas final and 2012 Olympics quarterfinals.

Down three at the half on Sunday, Brazil just blitzed Argentina with 52 points on its final 29 possessions (1.79 points per possession) after scoring just 33 on its first 38 (0.87). Point guard Raul Neto, whose rights are held by the Utah Jazz, came off the bench and gave his team a huge lift, scoring 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting.

“In the second half,” Tiago Splitter said afterward, “that was our team — the way we played good D, running fast breaks, finding the open man and going for offensive rebounds.”

Brazil is now 5-1 at the World Cup, looking like the tournament’s third best team behind Spain and the United States. They haven’t hidden that they want to go home with a medal.

“We came here for that,” Varejao said. “We know that it’s not going to be easy. But we prepared ourselves.”

Their NBA frontline of Nene, Splitter and Varejao is obviously seen as a strength, but it had its ups and downs in group play. On Sunday though, the trio stepped up and played is best collective game of the tournament.

The three bigs combined for just 25 of Brazil’s 85 points. But Nene and Splitter shut down Argentina’s Luis Scola, holding him to just nine points on 2-for-10 shooting. (He dropped 37 on Brazil when these two teams met in the same round four years ago.)

Varejao, meanwhile, attacked the offensive glass. He picked up five offensive rebounds, including three in a critical stretch late in the third quarter. With Brazil up five, he saved a Marquinhos Vieira miss and, as he was falling out of bounds, got the ball to Splitter under the basket for a layup. A few possessions later, he grabbed two offensive rebounds that eventually led to a Neto layup.

“I had to be aggressive, going for offensive rebounds,” Varejao said, “because they had Scola and [Andres] Nocioni [as their bigs]. We had size on them. We spoke about it. We said if we shoot the ball, crash the glass, because we have a chance to get a second-chance shot. That’s what I did.”

Varejao finished the game eight points, nine rebounds and four assists. He was doing the dirty work that we can expect him to do in Cleveland. When you have James, Love, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, you need that fifth guy to defend, rebound, set screens, and just give his team extra opportunities.

Varejao’s activity and playing time (more than 32 minutes) on Sunday are clear indications that, after playing just 146 games over the last four seasons, he’s healthy.

That’s good news for the Cavs, and good news for Brazil, who will play Serbia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. A win there would put them in position to play for that medal they seek.

It’s also good news for Varejao, who’s happy to be playing big games again.


  1. I have to say that I personally Cavs do not like them as a team, but this year with Lebrons and those who came, and those who are, is for varejao, I think one of the best defenders in the league for not say the best, surely they can fight for everything.

  2. nomorethabeet says:

    Hey Chuck, I couldn’t have said it any better. Go Thunder!

  3. Chris says:

    Are there any other NBA teams out there other than the Cavs? Please what about the Bulls, the Wizards and OKC with MVP KD? Please its getting ridiculous!

  4. ko0kiE says:

    oh boy the cavs will need him on the defensive end…

  5. Kirby Record says:

    Chuck, the reason this article featured Cavs is that the game being reviewed had a Cavs player. If Varejão were playing for the Thunder, it likely would have written about the Thunder. Not too complicate here and definitely no conspiracy.

  6. Paulo Jr says:

    Varejão does a lot of things that doesn’t appear in box score. When healthy, he’s a solid contributor with his energy, drawing fouls, rebounds, etc. But Brazil have also frontcourt players Nene and Splitter, and Leandro Barbosa, Marquinhos (the same ex-Hornets Marcus Vinicius), Alex (ex-Spurs) and Marcelinho Huertas. Now, Raul Neto is showing that he is a capable back up.
    The problem for Cavs fans is that while Brazil have that frontcourt trio (Nene, Splitter and Varejao), Cavs have only Varejão as Center. Love and Lebron can play at PF, but who will back up Varejão at center? Right now, there is no quality big available for Cavs.
    Go Cavs! Go Brazil!!! Go Flamengo!!!

    P.S. Flamengo, the Brazilian and FIBA America’s Champion, have four players today: Marquinhos (Marcus Vinicius) and Marcelinho Machado for Brazil and Laprovittola and Walter Hermann for Argentina. Flamengo will face Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns, right after the world championship battle against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

    • asqd says:

      They have Brendan Haywood aswell, the cavs will probaly go small and play at the 5, when verejao is resting wich will be alot, he cant play 30 mins a night anymore.

    • DFresh says:

      varejao, love, haywood, and kirk are the current players on the cavs roster that can play the 5 spot

      • asdf says:

        I think the chances of kirk making the roster is kinda slim, im not sure if the cavs will have a roster spot open for him, but I kinda liked him in summer league, so it will be interesting to see who makes the roster.

  7. Chuck says:

    John, why don’t the writers ever feature OKC, with their kids coming into maturity, their center developing and signing one of the best shooters in the league? Instead, one would think that the Cavaliers have the whole package to win the ring even though the Heat got creamed last year with the Big Three.

  8. krespino says:

    Serbia is my favorite. Brazil has the bigs but overall Serbia has the more talented players. Milos Teodosic is the best guard in Europe (Carlos Navarro of Spain is a comparison). Raduljica, Bogdanovic, Nenad Krstic are all producing at high level.

    • M4D0G says:

      I dont know. Hard to tell, but Serbia already lost to France, Spain AND BRAZIL on this tournament. Brazil only lost to Spain.

      • Aleksandar California says:

        True but maybe that was just part of calculation to avoid Spain all the way till semis because Spain plays at home, a bit of help from the refs, team you don’t want to play in the first elimination game…you see where I’m goin with this? This way, we destroyed Greece, most likely will beat Brazil and then vs Spain in the last WC we beat them in QF…I wouldn’t mind repeat of that at all and then finals between 2 true superpowers of basketball game – Serbia vs USA.