The only two members of the Cleveland Cavaliers who wore Wine and Gold during the 2007 NBA Finals could realistically spend the last month of the 2011-12 NBA season in street clothes. The veterans, both who would be labeled as “cagey,” are nursing two completely different injuries — Varejao, a wrist fracture; Gibson, a torn tendon — but both have the chance to cause additional pain to the team’s season-end win total. In lockstep, both players also provide the Cavaliers with some questions that only themselves will be able to answer.
Having blown through the four-to-six-week timetable for return from a wrist fracture sustained on February 10, Anderson Varejao is hoping that the next month will provide considerably improved health. The Brazilian big man won’t even see the practice court until the first or second week of April with an updated timetable being provided subsequent to his progress. Many Cavalier fans have been clamoring for the fan favorite to stick to the designer suits for the remainder of the season, helping not only guarantee full recover for the 2012-13 slate, but also the potential for a better draft pick come this June.
The Cavaliers, however, will have multiple plates to spin with regard to Varejao’s future. Not only does the Colatina native want to suit up for his home country in the upcoming summer Olympic games, but he continues to be Chris Grant’s largest human asset this side of the rookie river. Even when injured, multiple teams inquired about Varejao’s availability as the power forward-center was in the midst of his finest season as a professional. Requiring a king’s ransom in counterparty compensation, opposing general managers were kindly told “thanks, but no thanks.”
Varejao will turn 30-years old this September. A player of his skill set is undoubtedly fun to watch. His off-box score effect cannot be overstated. But 30 years is 30 years and back-to-back seasons with extensive injuries, albeit both of the “freak” nature,” will not serve to bolster any trade value going forward. Simple time-value of money calculations would tell us that Varejao’s value to another franchise declines with each additional day he is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This value, however, may not even come close to rivaling that of his effect on the younger members of the team — after all, his energy is “contagious.”
Gibson, conversely, provides the Cavaliers front office with a bit of a different dilemma. Like Varejao, the fiery guard has had his run-in with the injury bug over the course of the last few seasons. In 2010-11, Gibson missed time with injuries to his ankle, shoulder and thigh, while missing considerable time due to “personal reasons.” This season, Boobie has already missed several weeks with a mysterious infection of his neck tissue, one that had multiple setbacks and essentially left the team relatively high and dry for several games after a release of swingman Mychel Thomspon. But unlike his Brazilian teammate, Gibson’s $4.8 million contract for next season is not only a team option, but it is not fully guaranteed.
With only $32 million on the books for next season — including Gibson’s contract — and four draft selections at their disposal this summer, the front office could conceivably opt to reallocate Boobie’s unguaranteed allotment elsewhere. Chris Grant has already said that the team plans to extend surprising swingman Alonzo Gee beyond this season; the Cavs are also expected to be relative players in the free agent market.
In Vail to receive a second opinion on his left ankle, Gibson could require surgery which would put an end to his season as there is just one month of regular season basketball remaining. While his defense has improved mightily since the arrival of Byron Scott, one has to wonder how his relative drop-off in shooting (Gibson’s biggest strength, by far) this season will play in to any decision that the team makes about his future.
There is no question that Byron Scott’s defense has taken a hit given the injuries with which this team has been forced to deal. Earlier this week, Scott said that his team is not communicating, and those that are able to communicate quickly and effectively for an entire are the veterans. It’s safe to say that a couple of those veterans are currently taking up a couple of the spots on the team’s current inactive list.
But the spots Varejao and Gibson take up come this time next season, these will be the bigger questions.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)