Kyrie Irving may have dominated Team USA headlines for a quick minute as an emerging star on the select team, but the real Cleveland Cavalier Olympian is representing his country down south. Power forward Anderson Varejao has been making his native country of Brazil very proud in London so far, acting as an anchor on a Brazilian defense that has averaged 66.5 points allowed.
In Olympic preliminary Group B play, Varejao has averaged 10 points, 6.5 rebounds, two steals and 22 minutes while shooting 75 percent from the field. He has bounced back tremendously from a wrist injury early in the 2011-12 season. Through 25 games last season, Varejao averaged a career-best 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. Varejao is playing at a peak level in his career, and what better time than now when he can help bring home a medal for Brazil.
With all the trade rumors surrounding Varejao this summer, some of them not confirmed, he has not let that shake his focus. This is Varejao’s first, and maybe last, chance at competing in the Olympics for a medal. This is also the first time since 1996 that the Brazilians have qualified for Olympic play.
That’s part due to a NBA-heavy roster that includes center Tiago Splitter, forward Nene and guard Leandro Barbosa. Being a starter on this Brazilian squad is something that Varejao should cherish, as there is a plethora of talent on the roster. Guards Marcelinho Huertas and Larry Taylor provide talent from outside of America, making Varejao’s job easier on the floor as he can focus more on the defensive aspect of the game.
He’s very quick on the court for a guy his size, standing 6′ 11″ and often being the most aggressive man on the court.
Going into the 2012-13 NBA season, Varejao is the veteran leader on a young and talented Cavaliers roster. The 29-year-old veteran, after dodging trade rumors, will be the anchoring force on an offense that was lacking an inside presence last season and the pesky shot blocker that increased his steals per game from 0.9 in 2010-11 to 1.4 this past season.
On a team that lost years of veteran leadership in Antawn Jamison (who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers) and Anthony Parker (who decided to retire), Varejao will play the most pivotal role of his career in Cleveland in his eighth season.
He will be a leader in the middle and will finally get to mesh in with Kyrie Irving, who before his injury was playing at a very mature level of basketball. Wild Thing didn’t get to play with Kyrie when he was making NBA headlines last season, but with Irving having complete control of the ball this season the possibilities between him and Kyrie will lead to a spark in production on both sides of the ball.
Hopefully this relationship will reach it’s height once the Cavaliers become playoff contenders again.