The Cavaliers had two pretty good reasons to celebrate on Wednesday and neither had to do with the start of a new year.
Kyrie Irving avoided a significant injury to his left knee and Anderson Varejao is beginning 2014 fully healthy. Given the extensive injury history to two of the Cavs’ best players, both are fairly significant.
An MRI revealed no structural damage to Irving’s knee, which he injured during Tuesday’s loss at the Indiana Pacers. He was diagnosed with a contusion, the team said, and is listed as questionable for today’s home game against the Orlando Magic.
As for Varejao, today’s game against the Magic will mark his 32nd this season. It might not sound like much, but it surpasses his games-played totals from any of the past three seasons.
Varejao played 31 games three years ago before he injured his ankle in practice and was forced to miss the rest of the season. He has played in 25 games in each of the last two seasons. He never used to think about injuries during his first six years in the league, but the last three have changed that.
“When you have freak injuries like I did the last three years, sometimes I think about it, especially when I have a bad game,” Varejao said. “I think to myself, ‘The most important thing is just that I’m healthy now.’ You’re going to play good. You’re going to play bad. But as long as I stay healthy, I should be happy. Every player should feel the same way.”
The loss to the Pacers represented his 500th regular-season game. He also took over sole possession of third place on the Cavs’ list of all-time offensive rebounders. Varejao reflected on his career this week and was surprised at how quickly the years have gone by.
“I remember Scott Williams telling me my first year, ‘I’ve been in the league for 16 years. Enjoy it because time goes by fast,’ ” Varejao said while snapping his fingers. “So every time somebody comes to me and says, ‘It’s been 500 games, you’ve got 3,000 rebounds…’ it’s been a long time, but it feels like yesterday. It’s crazy, just crazy, how fast time goes by.”
The Cavs’ internal thinkers believed prior to the season they could be successful this year if the three best players with injury histories — Irving, Varejao and Andrew Bynum — could all stay healthy.
None of the three have been injured — at least until Irving fell to the court Tuesday — yet the Cavs still began Wednesday 10-21 and tied with five other teams for the third-most losses in the league.
Bynum avoided problems with his knees, but it was problems off the court that forced the Cavs to seek a trade for him. Bynum’s presence has allowed Varejao to come off the bench most of the season, but that has recently changed. The time as a reserve has allowed Varejao to play fewer minutes per game this year than any previous year when he was a full-time starter, although Bynum’s absence will likely force an increase in minutes.
Irving’s goal remains to play in all 82 games, but that could be tricky now considering the knee injury. He said Tuesday he felt a pop in the knee, but was relieved by the MRI results after battling a variety of injuries in each of his first two years in the NBA.
“Scary moment but I’ll be good,” Irving wrote on his Twitter account. “Thanks for everyone’s support and concern.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.