Cleveland's starting center tore his left Achilles tendon on Tuesday night in a win over Minnesota, an injury that will cost him the rest of this season and will force the Cavaliers to look for immediate help up front. The Cavaliers said an MRI exam confirmed the feared tear and that Varejao will undergo surgery “in the near future.” A timetable for his return and rehab will not be established until after the operation.
The 6-foot-11 Varejao, one of the team's most popular players, was positioning under the basket for a rebound in the third quarter when he crumpled to the floor in pain. All of Cleveland's players and coaches came over to check on him before he was assisted off the floor without putting any weight on his leg. He left Quicken Loans Arena following the game on crutches with his leg in an immobilizing air cast.
The Cavaliers traveled to Miami on Wednesday for a Christmas Day game against the Heat, the first regular-season matchup between LeBron James and the superstar's former team.
Varejao's injury has stolen some of the buzz from that game as the Cavaliers are dealing with an injury that could alter their season.
With Varejao out, Tristan Thompson will probably move into a starting role and the Cavs will sharpen their pursuit of another big man. Cleveland had been looking for a rim-protecting center and have had trade discussions with several teams.
Favored to win the Eastern Conference, the Cavs have made inquiries about Denver's Timofey Mozgov and Memphis center Kosta Koufos. Cleveland has a protected first-round pick from a previous deal with the Grizzlies they could use to land front-line help.
Varejao, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract extension in October, averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26 starts.
McHale, 57, is in his fourth season in Houston, where he has compiled a 153-104 record. He led the Rockets to the playoffs in the last two seasons before they were eliminated in the first round.
The Suns are expected to release Mitchell to create an additional $2.2-million in salary cap space, giving the team a total of $6.2 million available and an open roster spot.