Originally posted on Stepien Rules  |  Last updated 11/26/12
Anderson Varejao is an All-Star. While sharing a court with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on Monday night, he was also the best big man on the floor. The Cavaliers fumbling away a fourth quarter lead doesn't dismiss that simple fact. In some ways, I suppose, it even highlights what Varejao is doing on a nightly basis this season even more. Without Kyrie Irving, especially, this Cavaliers lineup would not be favored against any team in the NBA. Ever. Despite that, Anderson steps onto the court every single night thinking that his team is going to win. Then he goes out and plays like it's the Eastern Conference Finals. If you're not watching the game you wouldn't understand. The 14 points and 14 rebounds he was averaging entering the week only tell half the story. Randolph and Gasol were collecting 20 rebounds per game between them heading into Monday's contest with the Cavaliers. By the time Varejao was done battling that All-Star duo, he had out-rebounded the Grizzlies starting front-court by eight. The Memphis big men finished with eight and six rebounds respectively, as compared to Varejao's 22.  But beyond the rebounds, the double-digit points and his trademarked hustle, Varejao has also demonstrated an evolution to his own offensive game that you do not typically see in today's NBA. There was a time once in Varejao's career when we held our collective breath as he attempted to do anything other than catch and shoot six feet away from the basket. Now he's dribbling like a point-forward, shooting like a stretch four and dropping dimes like he's Pistol Pete Maravich. In the first half, for example, Varejao caught the basketball 19 feet from the rim. As his defender approached, he used a shot fake, put the ball on the floor, beat his man to the basket and then left a pass for Samardo Samuels that Jason Kidd would've dapped him up for. Later, towards the end of the third quarter, he dove for the basketball and saved it from going out of bounds only to land on his right shoulder. He shook off however much it hurts to land a seven foot body directly on your shoulder while diving onto a wood floor and buried a jumper from so far away it almost looked like a three-pointer. Andy finished his night with 15 points, 22 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. That line was good for most points, rebounds and assists on the Cavaliers side of the box score for the game. It wasn't enough for the win, however, because the Cavaliers are not a good team. But don't let this and future losses allow you to miss the totality of what Anderson Varejao is doing in a Cavaliers uniform. He's a special player, playing a special brand of basketball right now. He deserves a trip down to Houston for the All-Star Game this season. But more than that, he deserves your attention, and then a round of applause.
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