Coach on Varejao: 'Will miss him'

MIAMI -- Cleveland coach David Blatt can relate to what Anderson Varejao is going through, because he also once went through the process of rehabilitating a torn Achilles.

"A tough injury," Blatt said.

Tough would also describe the process that awaits the Cavaliers, who will be without their starting center and one of LeBron James' closest confidants for the remainder of the season. Varejao was injured in Cleveland's win over Minnesota on Tuesday night, falling to the court in obvious pain after positioning himself for a rebound in the third quarter.

And on Wednesday, the Cavs' worst fears were officially confirmed.

"It's a little tough talk about the impact of not having him, because this is the first game that we don't," Blatt said. "But I will say that obviously, we're going to miss Andy. He's a big part of our team as a player, as a personality. That's part of sport and part of basketball, certainly. You have to deal with injuries and with guys going down."

Kevin Love was listed as the starter in Varejao's spot Thursday for the Cavaliers' 101-91 loss to the Miami Heat in James' return to the arena he called home for the past four seasons. Varejao's departure will also mean more minutes for Tristan Thompson -- who made 189 consecutive starts for Cleveland before this season began -- and probably down low for James as well.

Regardless, it will challenge Cleveland's depth, and the expectation is that the Cavaliers will seek to add another big man before long.

The Cavs aren't inclined to make an immediate move to shore up their front court, however, according to a league source. There's a variety of reasons behind the thinking. For starters, the Cavs do not have much interest in the veteran big men that are currently free agents in Jermaine O'Neal, Kenyon Martin and Emeka Okafor. Beyond that, the team believes that in the short term, it can give more minutes to Thompson and get a real look at Brendan Haywood, the veteran center that's spent much of the season collecting DNPs on the bench.

Also, Cleveland could try to play small in the interim. Cavs general manager David Griffin's background is with the "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns, a team that played the likes of Boris Diaw and Tim Thomas in the front court to try to spread the floor.

"We will approach it initially on a game-to-game basis, maybe more matchup-oriented," Blatt said. "We'll look down the line to see what we can do on a more permanent basis and guys will step up."

Behind Love, the Cavs started Shawn Marion in the front court to match up with Miami, who start with a stretch 4 in Shawne Williams.

Varejao averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds this season. He also shot just under 56 percent, his best since the 2009-10 season.

Not coincidentally, that was the most recent season where he and James were Cleveland teammates.

James has long raved about what Varejao means to the Cavaliers on the court and off, and the four-time MVP knows losing the wild-haired Brazilian is a blow to Cleveland's championship hopes.

"It's tough," James said. "It hurts our team. More than anything it's just tough on him. ... He's a great friend of mine and I hate the fact that his season is taken away like that."

James called for the Cavs to rally in Varejao's absence.

"We need guys to step up. That's what this league is all about -- opportunity," James said. "So everyone has got to do their job even more."

This is the fourth time in the last five years that Varejao will miss more than half the Cavaliers' games. He played in 76 out of a possible 230 games in a three-season stretch between 2010-11 and 2012-13 because of an array of injuries, then missed 17 more games last season.

Varejao will have surgery in the coming days, after which his rehabilitation schedule and potential timetable for a return will be determined. Typically, the return time from such an injury is around nine months, which means Varejao -- who signed an extension earlier this year that could keep him in Cleveland through 2017-18 -- should be ready for the start of next season.

"He's a big part, a huge part, of our success," James said. "It's going to be hard to replace him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.