During the Cavs' 105-94 loss to the Celtics in Boston last Friday night, Glen "Big Baby" Davis was ejected for a flagrant foul on Anderson Varejao. Wild Thing was heading to the basket for a lay-up when Davis hooked his arms around Andy's neck and threw him to the ground.
This, of course, led the ESPN announcers to utter the obligatory phrase everyone must use when talking about Varejao: "He's a guy who, if he's on your team, you love him, and if he's on the other team, you hate him."
Yep, that's Andy. Chippy little annoying son of a bitch. Floppy McFlopperson. A sharp needle jabbed repeatedly into your arm until you lose all control and give in to your instinct to corral him around the neck - as if retaliating will make it all stop. It won't. After drawing the ref's attention and straightening the headband, the 6-foot-11 mess of Brazilian flowing locks will bounce right back up - Gumby with a backbone.
With Big Ben on the shelf until the playoffs with a broken fibula, Varejao has held down the starting role admirably, continuing what has been the best season of his young career. He's raised his field-goal percentage to 52.3, including a 15-18-foot jumper, which, while not close to Z's deadly accuracy from that range, clears space in the lane for cutters and opens up the paint for LeBron. He's consistently tenacious on the boards and, per usual, is among the league leaders in drawing offensive fouls.
And he's going to have to keep playing at this level or higher if the Cavs are going to beat the deep and tall benches of Boston, Orlando or both in the playoffs.
The Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst noted in his blog from the last Celtics game that Mike Brown ran out some funky rotations in the loss while trying to work Joe Smith onto the floor.
Windhorst wrote: "It is pretty clear to me that Mike Brown wasn't exactly ready for this game. He is [sic] deployed some strange lineups trying to work in Joe Smith. He started the second quarter with a lineup of Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, J.J. Hickson, Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak. In this game, Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Anderson Varejao need to be on the floor. Not sure why he felt he needed to put Hickson out there. Anyway, that group was a -7. Last time the Cavs were here, Mike left Mo and LeBron on the bench for stretches and it killed the offense. That was the first game of the year."
He also mentioned that Smith played 11 straight minutes in the first half, while Andy and Z were on the bench, which just seems absolutely silly in retrospect.
That can't and won't happen come playoff time. Nor will rookie J.J. Hickson see much of the court during crunch time. Hickson still struggles with blocking defenders out on rebounds, and while he's developed a decent offensive game, his defensive lapses have to be troubling to defense-obsessed Mike Brown. Joe Smith should take those minutes. In that vein, the only five-man unit to log heavy minutes for the Cavs this year and have a negative +/- is Gibson, Szczerbiak, Williams, Varejao and Hickson.
The rivalry with the Celts is full-blown now. It's got all the physical intensity of past t�te-ˆ-t�tes with the Wizards, without all the rap disses and extraneous shenanigans. The catalyst for that may be LeBron vs. Paul Pierce, but as the last game showed, the trench war will be just as important as the air assault. Big Ben and Z and Varejao and Smith vs. Garnett and Perkins and Powe and Davis and Moore. Just glad that guy with the crazy hair's on our side.