By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
SALT LAKE CITY: Anderson Varejao insists he doesn’t feel any different whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, but the numbers indicate otherwise.
He is shooting a higher percentage, averaging more points and more rebounds in relatively the same amount of minutes in either role. His numbers have really escalated in seven starts since Andrew Bynum was excused from the team.
Varejao is averaging 10.6 points and 13.7 rebounds in six starts entering Friday’s game at the Utah Jazz. He averaged 7.2 points and 9.4 rebounds this season as a reserve.
“I keep doing the same thing,” Varejao said. “Sometimes it feels like the ball comes to you when you move around for offensive rebounds and you get a lot. Sometimes you do the same thing and you don’t get them. It’s hard to explain.”
Varejao produced double-doubles in three of his past six games and had double-digit rebounds in each of his past six games before Friday. They are figures reminiscent to last season, when Varejao was averaging 14.1 points and a league-leading 14.4 rebounds before he was injured.
Varejao seems to be moving better than he was early in the season. He isn’t quite the walking floor burn of years past, when he spent more time on the ground diving after loose balls than on his feet, but his numbers have slowly improved as the season has progressed.
“It was always a rhythm thing for me,” he said. “I didn’t play for almost a year and coming back from an injury is always tough. As good as you feel, you still need your rhythm, you still need to get everything back. I think that was the problem.”
Varejao said he’s felt 100 percent for about the last month.
“The more you play, the more you’re on the court and the more consistent minutes you have, the better you’ll play,” he said.
The acquisition of Luol Deng should eliminate the Cavs’ need to constantly play three guards on the floor together, although Cavs coach Mike Brown said he’ll still use it on occasion. He even used it in the first half Friday against the Jazz after saying before the game he probably wouldn’t.
“Those guys are our best ball handlers/shooters/creators, so to try to get them on the court at the same time still can be good for us,” Brown said. “Obviously with the addition of Luol, he needs to be out there late in games. So it’s going to be one of those three small guys sitting.”
Since Brown conceded Kyrie Irving is unlikely to be one of those sitting, the Cavs’ late-game lineup will include either Dion Waiters or Jarrett Jack.
“A lot of it’s going to be riding the hot hand,” Brown said. “There’s a good chance Luol will be out there with those guys.”
Brown knew how good Jazz rookie Trey Burke was before most other NBA coaches.
Brown was in attendance watching his son, Elijah, the night Burke scored 35 as a high school senior when St. Ed’s beat Northland 84-81. Elijah Brown had 17 points that night and now plays at Butler.
Burke remembers seeing Brown in the stands, but never got to know Elijah because they never played on the same AAU team.
“Seeing the [former] Cavs coach in the crowd definitely got my attention,” Burke said. “I knew I had to play well that night because I knew he probably wasn’t the only one watching that game.”
Burke missed six weeks this season with a broken right index finger, but is now starting at point guard as a rookie for the Jazz.
Irving entered Friday 26 points shy of 3,000 for his career. … In four games in 2014, Varejao and Tristan Thompson are averaging a combined 25.8 rebounds. … C.J. Miles has reached double figures in scoring in five consecutive games including Friday.