Varejao's loss blow to Cavs' spirit

Varejao's loss blow to Cavs' spirit

Published Jan. 9, 2013 2:48 p.m. ET

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Anderson Varejao hasn’t played in the previous 10 games, so it’s not like the Cavaliers will be totally lost without him.

But Wednesday’s news was crushing nonetheless.

That’s when it was revealed Varejao’s knee injury is worse than originally thought, that surgery is required and that Varejao will miss another six to eight weeks.

The diagnosis: A split quadriceps muscle near his right knee. That’s worse than the original “knee contusion” verdict, but on the bright side, not as bad a tear.

Either way, it’s hard to make sense of all this, and Cavs coach Byron Scott doesn’t really want to try. And really, can you blame the man?

"He’s the heart and soul of our basketball team, so this is a big-time blow to us,” Scott said. "We’re just trying to keep him in the best of spirits. He’s so disappointed because it’s been three straight years of getting some type of injury that’s derailed him.

"This was the biggest because he was playing so well."

Scott spoke the truth, as Varejao is leading the league in rebounding (14.4 rpg) and averaging 14.1 points. But Varejao is so much more than that. He’s the spiritual leader by example and an underrated passer with soft hands.

More than that, he’s one of the league’s peskiest defenders. Basically, at age 30, he was the most productive veteran on a team littered with pups.

“Smh man, worst news I've heard all day,” Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving posted to his Twitter account.

Then Irving included the following hashtag: “#getwellandy.”

That’s understandable, as Irving is likely to be the one who’s most affected by Varejao’s prolonged absence. No doubt, Varejao’s all-out determination makes Irving even more dynamic.

"If he were playing football, if he were a lineman, he could probably play," Scott said. "He could put a brace on it."

But this ain’t the Browns, and Varejao is a center in basketball only.

"In our sport with the running, the bending, the jumping, the lateral movement and things like that, there’s no way he could play and be effective like we know he could be," Scott said.

So, what’s next for the Cavs?

Well, for starters, a whole lot of rookie center Tyler Zeller.

"No doubt about it," Scott said. "We talked about it when Andy first got hurt. This is a golden opportunity for Tyler to get minutes and to grow even faster. Now he’s in a situation where he’s playing against frontline guys every single night. He’s playing against starters. That can only help him the long run."

Zeller is averaging 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season -- and 10.8 and 6.5, respectively, while starting in place of Varejao during the previous 10 games.

The Cavs may also be in line to obtain another big man, most likely via a call-up from the NBA D-League.

But for now, their focus is continuing to survive without Varejao, their heart and soul. Before, the worst was speculation. Now, it’s reality. That can alter a team’s psyche.

"It’s real tough. You’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, (ticked) off," Scott said. "You have so many emotions going on in your head, but what can you do? Everybody in this league deals with injuries.

"Unfortunately, we’ve had to deal with them on a number of occasions for three straight years. You’ve got to play with the guys you have and try to get them better and keep working every day and see what happens."

Twitter: Sam Amico