Cavaliers match offer by Bobcats, Varejao to stay with Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Anderson Varejao will play for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, after all.
The Cavaliers matched the Charlotte Bobcats' $17 million, three-year offer sheet for the restricted free agent Wednesday, ending a contract dispute and giving injury-depleted Cleveland some much-needed help.
"His size, his athleticism, his strength, his knowledge, all that stuff -- yes, it's an added bonus," coach Mike Brown said before Cleveland's game at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers had a week to match the offer sheet or lose the 6-foot-10 Varejao to the Bobcats.
They didn't take nearly that long. Cleveland's decision came only a day after Charlotte and Varejao agreed to terms -- and a day after the Cavaliers' fourth straight loss. That included going 0-3 without LeBron James, who sprained his left index finger a week ago and was missing his fourth game in a row Wednesday.
Brown criticized his team's lack of effort Tuesday in a 100-79 loss to New Jersey, something Varejao should be able to help improve.
"We're looking forward to getting him in Cleveland and getting him back on the basketball court," Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said. "He's a player we respect and admire and he'll help us become a better basketball team."
Varejao isn't much of a scorer, but the 25-year-old, mop-haired Brazilian known for his energetic defense should help the Cavaliers regain their intensity on the court.
"I'm happy to have him back, especially now, when we are down guys," forward Drew Gooden said. "He will be helpful for us."
A fan favorite, Varejao averaged a career-best 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds last season as the Cavaliers reached the NBA finals for the first time.
Brown said Wednesday he hadn't spoken to Varejao and wasn't sure when the player would join the Cavaliers.
It's possible Varejao could be with Cleveland as soon as Saturday's game at Charlotte, but he still needs to have visa issues worked out, travel from Brazil and pass a physical, making Tuesday's home game against Indiana more likely for his return.
"Whether it's practice or whatever, he's just got to get out there and start banging heads right away," Brown said. "You've got to find minutes for him on the floor, because there's not a ton of practice time."
Varejao could opt out of the deal after the second season and become an unrestricted free agent. He said last week he would prefer to play for another team.
The Bobcats were hoping they would be that team. Tied for last in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game, the Bobcats have been searching for a big man since Sean May's season-ending knee surgery during training camp.
"I don't think it's a major, major surprise that Cleveland matched the offer," Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said. "We've got to continue to look. I don't think at any point you exhaust that search until you finalize that you can't improve."
Before training camp opened, Varejao turned down Cleveland's one-year, $1.2 million qualifying offer. If he had signed, the former second-round draft pick could have become an unrestricted free agent after this season. In late October, the Cavaliers rejected a six-year, $52 million package presented by Varejao's agent, Dan Fegan.
The Cavaliers waived guard/forward Demetris Nichols to make room for Varejao on the roster.
Before joining the Cavaliers for the 2004-05 season, Varejao spent three seasons in Spain playing for F.C. Barcelona. He's also a member of the Brazilian national team.
"Anderson would have been a real nice addition to the team," Vincent said. "He's a veteran. He knows how to play and he plays hard."
James has been sidelined by a sprained left index finger. ... G Larry Hughes, who hasn't played in nearly three weeks because of a deep bone bruise in his left leg, hopes to practice Friday and play in a game as soon as next week. "I'm feeling good and I want to test it," he said. "I've been cleared to start doing more and more."
AP Sports Writers Mike Cranston in Charlotte, N.C., and Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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