CLEVELAND: Cavs coach Byron Scott officially began Anderson Varejao’s All-Star campaign on Tuesday. Based on the numbers, it shouldn’t take much convincing.
Varejao leads the NBA in rebounding with 14.7 per game; he’s also scoring 14.1 points a night and he entered Tuesday’s game with a streak of five consecutive double-doubles. He has already set career highs this season in scoring (35 points) and rebounds (23) and he demolished Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday in a meeting between the league’s top two rebounders.
Varejao grabbed seven rebounds before Randolph had his first and outrebounded him 22-8 in the game.
“To me he’s the best center in the NBA,” Scott said. “By far the best center in the Eastern Conference. I think coaches and players are starting to recognize how well he’s playing.”
Since the start of the 2003-04 season, only one player has finished a season averaging more rebounds than Varejao is currently — Kevin Love averaged 15.2 during the 2010-11 season.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, Varejao grabbed at least 15 rebounds in nine of the Cavs’ first 13 games.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in the league at the center position who is even close to that right now,” Scott said.
Varejao’s All-Star status could be complicated by the league’s decision this year to stop designating positions. Instead of simply competing against the rest of the centers in the East, Varejao now is lumped in with all the NBA’s front court players. Playing on a team with one of the worst records in the East will hurt his chances, but it’s hard to dismiss Varejao’s staggering numbers.
“His numbers are so impressive, it’s hard to overlook how well he has played throughout the first 12 to 15 games this season,” Scott said.
The Cavs dropped all three games on their recent road trip by a combined 12 points and they played all three without Kyrie Irving. Scott would like to see the ball move a little more offensively during key moments late in games, but ultimately he’s pleased with the way the Cavs performed in big games against the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’re getting there,” Scott said. “As much as it hurts after a game because you’re a competitor, I still think about the good things we’re doing. We’re making some real good strides, we just have to keep moving forward.”
Daniel Gibson, who moved into fourth place on the Cavs’ all-time 3-point shooting list, said the youth of the roster has prevented guys from taking on a “here we go again” mentality when teams start rallying in the fourth quarter.
“The beauty of being a young team is guys not knowing any better,” Gibson said. “On this team, the fourth quarter is an opportunity to learn. It’s happened to us a few times, but we’ll grow from it. It’s just going to take time.”
A couple of the Grizzlies players after the game were impressed with the Cavs and thought they resembled where they were a couple of years ago. Now the Grizzlies have the best record in the Western Conference.
“Our record doesn’t show it, but I’m extremely excited about our direction,” Gibson said. “We haven’t been able to finish games, but the competitiveness, the fight, the growth game by game, it’s coming. I’m extremely excited about where we’re headed.”
Dion Waiters set a career high with four steals in Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies and ranks second among rookies in steals at 1.3 per game. He’s third in points at 14.9. He is fifth among rookies in 3-point percentage and his 29 3-pointers rank second behind Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers (34).
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.