INDEPENDENCE: Anderson Varejao’s recent surgery might have prompted the Cavaliers to explore the possibility of adding another center.
It’s hard to tell if the latest unexpected turn in Varejao’s star-crossed past three years, this one ending his All-Star-caliber season, will add urgency to that search.
The Cavs announced that Varejao, a nine-year veteran, has been hospitalized since Thursday with a blood clot in his right lung. He will remain at the Cleveland Clinic for several days and must continue taking blood thinners for three months, which will keep him out the remaining 40 games. Because of the medication, General Manager Chris Grant said even a bruise could cause problems if Varejao tried to play.
The team with the most losses in the league has no legitimate big man coming off the bench behind rookie Tyler Zeller.
Varejao underwent surgery on Jan. 10 to repair a split quadriceps muscle near his ailing right knee that was expected to sideline him another six to eight weeks. He was initially hurt Dec. 18 against the Toronto Raptors and later sought a second opinion from Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo.
Grant said doctors don’t know whether the clot was a result of his latest operation.
“We did a lot of work trying to figure out where did it come from and how did it happen,” Grant said after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “We’re fairly confident it’s not a reaction to the surgery, but you don’t know with 100 percent certainty. It is uncommon.”
Cavs coach Byron Scott said top assistant Paul Pressey had a blood clot last season.
This is the third consecutive season that Varejao was sidelined before the All-Star break. Injuries to his ankle, wrist and knee/quadriceps have limited Varejao to a total of 81 games in that span. Last year he played in 25 games — the same number as in 2012-13 — before suffering a fractured wrist. This season Varejao’s averages for rebounds (14.4), points (14.1) and assists (3.4) are career-highs.
He was leading the league in rebounding at the time of the surgery.
Grant said he had visited Varejao in the hospital and that he remained upbeat.
“He’s frustrated; he wants to play, he wants to be with his teammates on the court,” Grant said. “But he’s such a good guy. Every time you see him he’s still got that big smile.
“We would love to have him out there, particularly the type of year he was having. He’s really come into his own as a leader and on the court, so it’s difficult. But at the same time we believe in him, we know what he can do. He’s played in a lot of big games for us. We’ll continue to support him and try to put him in the best position to succeed.”
Varejao is under the Cavs’ control for two more years, although they hold a $9.8 million option for the 2014-15 season.
“I think the world of Andy, especially with the way he plays. My heart just goes out to him,” Scott said. “He’s had some bad luck in the last three years. I’m sure it’s devastating to him.”
Scott planned to talk to Varejao Monday, as did star point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving said at least two players have visited Varejao.
“Losing him already was bad enough for us. The news got worse today,” Irving said. “We’re all going to be there for him morale-wise. That’s all we can do right now.”
As for the chances of acquiring another center, Grant was evasive. He might be content to let Zeller’s trial by fire continue as the struggling Cavs improve their odds in the draft lottery.
“We’re constantly looking at those opportunities,” Grant said. “There’s always a positive to these type of situations and for this it’s our other guys get a chance to play. We’ll look at different options, at the D-League and approaching the trade deadline, we’ll keep our eyes open.”
Grant was asked if the Cavs had interest in ex-Ohio State star Greg Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick of the Portland Trail Blazers who is sitting out this season as a free agent after undergoing three microfracture knee surgeries in five years. He hasn’t played since December, 2009.
“All players that are out there we’re going to do our updates and understand and know what their current status is,” Grant said. “But we’re not going to get into internal discussions we’re having with anybody along those lines.”
Scott said the coaches’ voting for the All-Star Game reserves concludes Wednesday; the results will be announced Thursday. Irving hopes to end the Cavs’ drought, with LeBron James their last representative in 2010.
“I let my game speak for itself, and whatever the coaches decide, I’ll be fine with,” Irving said. “If I’m an All-Star, I’d feel really blessed. If not, I’ll [be] truly understanding. I feel like my play speaks for itself.
“There hasn’t been an All-Star here in a while, so it’d be good. And it’d be good for our team, after the All-Star break, it’ll be a different mood. I’ll bring a lot back to the team.”
Guard Daniel Gibson was sent home from practice with an illness. … Forward Kevin Jones was assigned to the Canton Charge. … Scott thought Zeller’s double-double Saturday against the Utah Jazz could be a big step, “especially with the physical front line Utah has. That’s the kind of experience that will make him a better basketball player.” … The Cavs host the Boston Celtics tonight. Rookie forward Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is averaging 6.1 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Celtics.
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