Anderson Varejao will have surgery Thursday to repair a split quadriceps muscle near his ailing right knee and will miss another six to eight weeks, the Cavaliers announced Wednesday.
He is not expected to miss the rest of the regular season, a league source said, but this makes it highly unlikely Varejao will be moved prior to the league’s Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“Obviously very disappointed, moreso for Andy than anything else,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said after Wednesday morning's shootaround. “We’re losing one of our best guys on and off the floor. He’s the heart and soul of our basketball team, so this is a big-time blow to us. Just trying to keep him in the best of spirits because 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.”
Tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks will be the 11th consecutive game Varejao has missed since suffering the injury Dec. 18 against the Toronto Raptors. Originally diagnosed as a right knee contusion and listed as day-to-day, the split is similar to a Brazilian report from two weeks ago that Varejao had a torn quadriceps muscle. A split isn't as severe as a tear.
It’s a rare injury team doctors have never really seen before, a league source said, because of its location and direction. Most muscle splits are horizontal, but this one is vertical, which compounds the treatment and healing time. He had more tests in Cleveland as the problem persisted and then received a second opinion in Colorado from Dr. Richard Steadman, who confirmed the need for surgery. It will be performed at the Cleveland Clinic.
“I don’t know if you can stop anybody from getting hurt,” Scott said. “The thing with Andy, especially the last two years, it’s been freaky injuries. Injuries that doctors say, ‘I haven’t seen this before.’ It’s been things that have been so freaky that you say, ‘It’s got to turn the other way the next year.’ That’s what I was thinking this year. The past two years he’s gotten hurt. This year I was like, ‘Andy, this is your year. You’re going to be able to play all the games and you’re going to have a great year.’ Then this happens again.
“Do I worry about him being injury prone? Not really. I just think he’s had some bad luck the last couple of years.”
Scott said he hadn’t yet heard from team doctor Richard Parker whether this injury falls into that rare category, but Scott said, “I’m going to find out. It will be interesting to hear their answer.”
Scott doesn’t believe Varejao suffered the injury during rehab after he was initially hurt, saying the the quad split was discovered on another MRI when the problem lingered.
This marks the third consecutive season in which Varejao has suffered a serious injury. Injuries to his ankle, wrist and now knee/quadriceps have limited him to 81 games over the last three seasons. He has appeared in 25 games this season – the same number he played in last year until a fractured wrist ended his season prematurely.
Varejao’s 14.4 rebounds lead the league and he was making a strong push for his first All-Star appearance, but that has vanished. Varejao’s name has been associated with multiple trade rumors dating back to draft night, but it’s hard to envision the team being able to move him now. He has failed to make it to the trade deadline healthy in each of the last three seasons.
“If he were playing football, if he were a lineman, he could probably play,” Scott said. “He could put a brace on it. 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.”
The Cavs have had their projected starting lineup together for only seven games this season, which frustrates the front office.
“It’s real tough. You’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, (ticked) off. You have so many emotions going on in your head, but what can you do? Everybody in this league deals with injuries,” Scott said. “Unfortunately for us 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.”
Varejao is under team control for two more years, although the team holds a $9.8 million option for the 2014-15 season.
Asked what he will say to Varejao when he sees him, Scott said, “I don’t know if I’ll even talk to him. I’ll probably go up to him and give him a big hug and tell him, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK.’”