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In Praise of Andy


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Interesting take from Cavs the blog after AV's tough night against Charlotte.


-If that was weird, this is weirder: The problem for the Cavs tonight was Anderson Varejao. I definitely can’t remember the last time I wrote that sentence. I don’t think it’s happened this year, and maybe not in years prior. It’s an anomaly.


Andy went 1-8 from the floor, didn’t finish easy shots, got frustrated, took bad angles around the basket, and finished with a -8 mark the day after he took the league lead in overall plus-minus. Basketball’s a funny game.


If anything, this game made me realize just how good Varejao is. For all the good things Varejao does for the Cavaliers each and every night cleaning up garbage baskets, cutting and finding seams for layups when LeBron has the ball, working the boards on both ends of the floor, playing great defense, drawing fouls, providing energy, and increasingly showing real skill around the basket, the guy almost never has an off-night.


That’s insane. Think about how often Mo Williams, the other guy in the argument for the second-best player on the Cavs, has off nights all the time. Andy has them so seldom that I actually didn’t realize he was having one tonight until I checked the final box, because I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.


And when Andy does have an off night, the Cavs can lose to the Bobcats even with LeBron, Mo, and Delonte all having strong games. With Andy off his game, JJ Hickson had to play the entire third quarter and Shaq had to play the final eight minutes of the game. While both of them played as well as can be expected of them, going a combined 6-7 from the field, none of the frontcourts the Cavs threw out over the course of the second half had the same pop that they normally do. The Varejao/LeBron frontcourt wasn’t used to give the Cavs their usual shot in the arm offensively, Shaq being on the court for so much of the fourth played a role in LeBron being able to do his thing with the floor spaced, and overall the Cavs didn’t look nearly as dynamic on either side of the floor.



He may not put up the gaudy numbers, but he's starting to look like an un-touchable as far as trades go. He's definitely come a long way from his days as a glorified flopper.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Windhorst with more on the evolution of Varejao.


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Anderson Varejao is generally known in the NBA for two things: A curly mop of bouncy hair and taking lots of charges. Some call it flopping.


Now in his sixth year in the league, the multi-colored mane is still very much intact. As for the flopper, er, charge-taking image, that one might have to be altered.


There was no press release on the matter. But quietly (and blatantly, according to the statistics), Varejao is no longer spending significant chunks of games on his back in the lane waiting for a favorable whistle.


By utilizing the NBA's "rule of verticality," Varejao has continued to make life difficult for opposing players, in this case Houston's Carl Landry.It was a decision that was guided by Cavs coach Mike Brown, but has been bought into by Varejao, who has largely given up his trademark move this season. In part he's made the change to become a better player and, in part, as an adaptation to the league.


"They weren't giving [charging calls to opponents] much anymore," said Varejao, referring to referees. "So I've had to adjust and change to something else."


Adjust he has. Heading into Monday's game against the Golden State Warriors, Varejao had unofficially drawn 18 offensive fouls this season. Charges taken isn't an official stat tracked by the league, but is monitored by various Web sites and individuals.


Varejao remains the team leader in that statistic -- Anthony Parker is second with 15, according to Cavs' broadcaster and odd statkeeper Fred McLeod -- but it was way down from Varejao's past rates. Last season he was second in the NBA when he drew 53 charges in 81 games. Over the 2006-07 and 07-08 seasons, Varejao averaged more than one charge a game.


The reason Varejao's numbers started dropping perhaps was because officials started tightening how they called them. The league also warned players they could be fined for exaggerating contact, i.e. flopping. It was clear that Varejao and players like him were being legislated against.


So Brown came to Varejao before this season and they talked about his defensive priorities. The decision was reached that Varejao should look to master another rule. The Cavs call it the "rule of verticality," which means that a player may jump straight up to defend a shot and not be called for a foul. That goes whether the player is inside or outside the no-charge zone.


"His awareness, especially when he's been off the ball, has always been tremendous and now he's using it in a different way," Brown said.


"The way he used to play might have started to work against him because they say he flops. And when he gives up his body to take a charge, he may not get the call. Then he's been taken out of the play. But when he uses the rule of verticality, he's always in the play."


The result is Varejao averaging a block a game, the highest of his career, and the Cavs becoming a better interior defensive team. With the addition of Shaquille O'Neal and Varejao challenging shots by jumping instead of looking to get knocked over, the Cavs lead the lead in fewest points given up in the paint.


"I'm just jumping straight up and that is more part of coach Brown's system," Varejao said. "Positioning is important when you are jumping, too, not just with charges. They tell us that they won't call a foul if you jump straight and I'm trying to take advantage of that now."

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I haven't been able to watch as much of the Cavs this season. But the Portland game the other night, it looked like Andy has worked hard on his low post game. I guess now flopping is illegal he had to do something, jk. He really looks like a different player.

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