Found December 20, 2012 on
Waiting For Next Year:
He lost the mask. He joined the starting five. He put up a career-best 20 points, providing a flurry mid-range jump shots, right-handed hooks, and the occasional slash to the rim. Tyler Zeller, at least for one night, looked like an NBA-caliber center in what was just his 23rd professional contest — his first as a starter.
Most importantly: He was comfortable.
After having missed several games earlier this season with a concussion and a broken orbital bone, Zeller returned to action with a plastic mask — one which he would never grow accustomed to. He would joke about making it a part of his uniform, similar to veteran guard Rip Hamilton, but the truth was in his actions: every time Zeller had a second to remove the mask from his person, he would. One of the two straps which were supposed to keep the mask affixed was always loose, bouncing around his neck like a mid-90s Croakie.
Entering the game immediately following warm-ups rather than coming of the bench allowed for a different Zeller than Cavalier fans have grown accustomed to over the early portion of the season. The rookie big man has accrued his minutes, but coming off of the bench and often falling victim to match-up-based moves has often provided for an up-and-down output. Playing with the starting unit, running alongside Kyrie Irving and getting to be an integral part of the team rather than a substitute allowed Zeller to show glimpses of what he can do if put in the right position.
Many variables were in play for Zeller’s big night. The end result was yet another Cavalier loss as Boston’s Paul Pierce partied like it was 2002, but for the rookie big man, milestones were undoubtedly met. The scoring total was undoubtedly a function of playing time as Zeller netted a career-high 36 minutes in the wake of an Anderson Varejao knee injury. Slotted alongside Tristan Thompson for a good portion of the game, if the Cavaliers were to have any offense from its starting frontcourt, it was coming from the long-time Tarheel; he attempted 15 field goals on the night, also a career high mark. He got to the line. He moved without the ball — seven of his nine converted shots were assisted. And he proved to be a weapon from various spots on the floor, hitting four of his eight shots beyond 16 feet.
And, of course, the mask. That lightweight piece of plastic that had been a heavyweight burden; the protective shield that only served to cut off peripheral vision, forcing Zeller to completely turn his head before unfurling a touch shot. It was gone.
Not exactly the most intimidating look, eh?
Like a child who can’t stop licking his or her teeth after having braces removed, there were moments in Wednesday night’s loss where Zeller found himself looking for his mask when coming out of timeouts. He would sustain a blow to the face prior to a timeout, a sequence that he claims allowed him to build confidence that he can begin playinghisgame once again, not having to worry about wayward elbows. And, per Zeller, the feeling was “incredible,” as if he had finally been freed from a ball and chain that merely masqueraded as clear polymer.
“Im very thankful to be done with it, and hopefully I don’t have to go back to it,” Zeller said.
Naturally, Zeller’s ability to stretch the floor led to a few downsides, specifically a mere three rebounds — a tough task for a seven-footer who netted 36 minutes on the floor. He also failed to block a shot, though the Celtics’ center on the evening, Hall of Fame-bound Kevin Garnett, was held to a workman-like 12 points and six rebounds after hitting several of his token mid-range jumpshots. Replacing Anderson Varejao will always be a tough task, but the possessions created by the Brazilian big man were obviously not replicated by the rookie.
There is little doubt that Tyler Zeller is the best true center on this Cavaliers basketball team. He’s great at running the floor, he can hit shots from multiple spots. Given additional time alongside Irving, it is easy to see that a former Blue Devil and a Tarheel could mesh to become a fairly lethal pick-and-roll combination. But as small as the sample size has been on Zeller thus far, the number of games like Tuesday night are far outweighed by the ho-hum nights that have littered the residual.
But the glimpses are there. The mask has been removed — hopefully for good. And if given additional opportunities, Tyler Zeller has the chance to become one of the more feel-good stories of this otherwise depressing 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers campaign.
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
BEST OF MAXIM
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao will miss at least two more games with a bruised right knee.
Varejao has missed four games since hurting his knee on Dec. 18 against Toronto. The Cavs had hoped extra rest would get the NBA's leading rebounder back on the floor, but he's not ready to play. Varejao will sit out Friday's home game against Atlanta and will not travel with...
Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao missed Wednesday night's game against the Boston Celtics because of a bruised right knee.
Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder at 14.4 per game, was injured Tuesday night against Toronto when he landed awkwardly on his right leg and crumpled to the floor in pain after being fouled late in the first quarter. He limped to the locker...
The Cavaliers welcomed Dion Waiters back to the lineup in this one, but it would make little difference as Cleveland once again lost to Cavalier Kryptonite, the Toronto Raptors.
This one was close through 3 quarters, but the Raptors pulled away in the 4th quarter to snap their 11 game road losing streak. The Cavaliers were lead by Kyrie Irving’s 23 points and Anderson Varejao chipped...
The Cleveland Cavaliers have recalled forward Jon Leuer from the Canton Charge, the team's NBA Development League team, Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant announced Thursday. Leuer has started six games Canton, averaging 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in 35.8 minutes per game. He has also played in five games this season for the Cavs, averaging 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds...
Ever since Lebron James left Cleveland the press and the attention has kind of simmered down over there. And now that Kyrie Irving got hurt (he should be back pretty shortly) there isn’t much buzz on this team other than Anderson Verajo which is a little boring (except for his hair).
So what is there to buzz about with the Cavaliers? Little did I know they had a cheerleading...
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who have been dealing with numerous injuries this season, are glad to have first round pick Dion Waiters back from an ankle injury.
At one point, this game was actually close. the Cavs went into halftime with the slimmest of leads, 45-44. After halftime, the bottom fell out of defense. Indiana dropped 33 points in the third period and Cleveland could never recover. Roy Hibbert (18 points) and David West (15 points) killed the Cavs inside (Anderson Varejao was sorely missed). On the other end, Cleveland shot a dismal...
On July 23, 2004, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Drew Gooden and Anderson Varjeao in a trade with the Orlando Magic for Tony Battie and two second round draft picks.
For the next three seasons, Gooden and Varejao were teammates in Cleveland. Not only did they share time at the power forward position specifically, they also practiced against each other on a daily basis.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Roy Hibbert scored 18 points and Lance Stephenson added a season-high 16 to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 99-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost their sixth straight game Friday night.
Hibbert didn't have to deal with injured Cavs center Anderson Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder. Varejao missed his second game in a row with a bruised right...
The Cavaliers selected Tristan Thompson with the No. 4 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft instead of Jonas Valanciunas.
Kyrie Irving claims the Cleveland Cavaliers are more assertive versus the NBA's so-called elite teams than against lesser competition.
The Boston Celtics will need to start playing considerably better in order to be known as the former.
Boston looks to avoid a fourth straight loss while Cleveland tries to end a four-game skid Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Cavaliers (5...
Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images
Everyone loves to see a match-up for the ages and tonight is one of them as arguably two of the best point guards in the NBA go toe-to-toe for the first time in the 2012-13 season in a Wednesday night showdown.
After missing a month due a broken left index finger, Kyrie Irving is back. His return has been incredible. In the past five games...
This isnt getting any easier to type, but the Cavaliers just keep losing. Theyve now dropped five straight following Wednesdays loss in Boston -- and 10 of their last 11. Worse, Anderson Varejao is expected to miss Fridays home game against Indiana with a sore knee. Meanwhile, the gritty Pacers are finding a way to stay relevant without injured forward Danny Granger...
Cleveland Cavaliers (5-21, 2-13 Road) @ Boston Celtics (12-12, 8-4 Home) TD Garden, 7:30 pm on CSNNE/WEEI Officials: Zach Zarba, Scott Bolnick, John Goble Line: Boston by 7.5 The Cavaliers visit Boston losers of 4 in a row and 9 of their last 10. Meanwhile the Celtics head back home after an 0-3 road trip, ending with last [...]