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Stretching the Field: Varejao can double your pleasure
By Shawn Clarke, NBA Contributing Editor
(Sports Network) - They say behind every successful man is a woman. And that may be true to some extent.
Behind a successful athlete is a man who doesn't get the credit he truly deserves. An offensive line, a bullpen and even bench players are all examples of those who stand in the shadows of a superstar.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a few of those, but none more significant than center Anderson Varejao. Varejao has earned his place in Cleveland's starting lineup, but fans aren't purchasing tickets or partial season passes to see the frizzy-haired Brazilian run up and down the court.
LeBron James stole the spotlight, and deservedly so, when he donned a Cavaliers uniform. James helped the Cavs to the NBA Finals, but didn't do it alone. An unknown Varejao was on the team then and contributed sparingly. Players such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic were dubbed as infantry men on James' mission for greatness.
Fast forward about five years and Kyrie Irving is the focus of the franchise. Irving, though, is currently sidelined with a broken finger and rookie Dion Waiters is nursing a sprained ankle. Waiters is making a case for Rookie of the Year with 15.2 points per game.
So guess who's taking over the headlines for the lowly Cavs?
That's right, Varejao.
Varejao has been in the NBA since 2004, when he was drafted by Orlando and traded to the Forest City, and started to emerge a season ago when he posted averages of 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. It was the first time in Varejao's career that he averaged double figures in both points and rebounds. However, he played just 25 games in a lockout-shortened campaign that lasted 66 games.
Varejao has appeared in 18 of the Cavs' 19 games this season and is posting career-high averages of 15.0 points and 15.4 rebounds. With an inability to create his own shot, Varejao muscles his way to the hoop with a 6-foot-11 frame and is one of the league leaders in double-doubles with 14.
Games are usually won and lost on the defense end, where Varejao makes his presence felt the most. He currently leads the NBA in rebounding and has a league-leading and eye-popping 9.3 rebounds per game on defense. For how poorly the Cavaliers are playing right now, Varejao's improved game softens the blow somewhat.
"I think he's making a pretty good name for himself right now," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said of Varejao.
Take a look at some of Varejao's statistics this season:
* He has a league-best 14 games of 15 rebounds or more and two games of at least 20-plus boards.
* Varejao is riding a streak of 10 straight double-doubles.
* Varejao has pulled down at least 15 rebounds in 14 of his 18 games played this season, including each of the last 10. No other Cavs player has grabbed 15 or more boards in 10 games in a row.
* The 6-foot-11 Brazilian joins Kenny Carr and Elmore Smith as the only players in team lore to post streaks of 10 straight double-doubles or more in a single season.
Varejao has faced some tough big men lately and has shined in most of the matchups. He has taken on Chicago's Joakim Noah, Detroit's Greg Monroe, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Trail Blazers, Al Horford of the Hawks, the Suns' Marcin Gortat and Grizzlies duo Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to name a few.
He will have his mettle tested over the next few games with Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, David West, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett on the horizon.
But so far Varejao's passed the test.
It's just unfortunate the rest of the team hasn't followed suit.
12/07 15:16:11 ET