CLEVELAND: Anderson Varejao spoke softly, probably because his worst fear — his only fear — had come true.
For the third consecutive year, the Cavs’ 30-year-old veteran center has had his season interrupted by injury before the trade deadline.
The Cavs announced Wednesday that Varejao will undergo surgery today at the Cleveland Clinic to repair a split quadriceps muscle near his ailing right knee and will be sidelined another six to eight weeks.
Wednesday night’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks was the 11th consecutive game missed by Varejao since he was hurt Dec. 18 against the Toronto Raptors.
His injury was initially described as a bone bruise, with the split discovered during a follow-up MRI when the problem lingered. A Brazilian report two weeks ago said Varejao had a quad tear. He recently sought a second opinion from Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo.
Varejao seemed visibly down when he spoke before the game at Quicken Loans Arena.
“The only thing that I’m scared of is getting hurt. I’m not scared about playing against tougher guys,” Varejao said. “It’s just tough. Three years. Unbelievable.”
The energetic Varejao, whom coach Byron Scott called “the heart and soul of our team,” is leading the league in rebounding with 14.4 per game.
“It’s very frustrating. I tried to come back. I was working every day,” he said. “We did some more tests and they saw some other stuff. I don’t think it’s bad, but I need surgery just to fix it.”
Varejao said he hopes to play again this season, a feeling shared by Scott. Injuries to his ankle, wrist and knee/quadriceps have limited Varejao to 81 games in the past three seasons. He has appeared in 25 games this season — the same number he played in last year until he suffered a fractured wrist.
“I believe all my injuries were accidents,” Varejao said. “One time I get hit on my hand. It was just the right position for him to hit me and break my wrist. This was just a bad hit, he got my knee in the right position. I have to play the same way I’ve been playing and whatever happens happens. I just hope I don’t get hurt any more.”
He won’t change his aggressive style, but the player known as “Wild Thing,” might resort to protective padding.
“I’m maybe going to wear knee pads from now on. I don’t know if it’s going to help me, but just in case,” he said.
Varejao admitted he’s wondered why bad luck has struck again.
“It’s like why again. Why me?” he said. “It’s something I don’t have control of. All I can do is keep working. Right now focus on my rehab to get better as soon as possible.”
He said he “probably” will remain in Cleveland for that.
Varejao was the Cavs’ most valuable trade option, but surgery makes it highly unlikely he will be moved before the league’s Feb. 21 trade deadline. He was making a strong push for his first All-Star appearance.
“We’re losing one of our best guys on and off the floor. This is a big-time blow to us,” Scott said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “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.”
A league source said this is a rare injury team doctors have never seen before because of its location and direction. Most muscle tears are horizontal, but this split is vertical, which compounds the treatment and healing time.
“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.’ ”
Scott said if Varejao played football, he might be able to continue this season.
“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.”
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.’ ”
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