CLEVELAND (AP) - Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao needs surgery to repair a torn leg muscle and could miss two more months, a major blow to a young Cleveland team struggling through another miserable season.
The NBA's leading rebounder, Varejao got hurt in a Dec. 18 game against Toronto. The injury was initially diagnosed by team doctors as only a bruised right knee, but as his symptoms persisted, more tests were performed and revealed a "longitudinal split" between Varejao's quadriceps and knee. Also, ultrasound imaging revealed tissue underneath the muscle tear was herniating.
Varejao will have surgery on Thursday, and the team said he will be sidelined a minimum of six to eight weeks. The team said Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo., provided a second opinion on the injury.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott is hoping Varejao can return this season. Scott said he has not spoken to Varejao.
"I may just go up to him and give him a big hug and tell him it's going to be OK," Scott said at the team's morning shootaround.
This is the third straight season that Varejao has been sidelined for significant time with a serious injury. He missed 51 games in 2011 with a torn ligament in his foot and 41 games last season after breaking his wrist. One of the NBA's scrappiest players, Varejao was playing at an All-Star level when he banged his knee last month and went down with what appeared to be a routine injury.
However, it's much worse and the Cavs are again without an important piece as they try to rebuild.
Cleveland has had more than its share of injuries in the past few seasons. Point guard Kyrie Irving, last season's rookie of the year, missed 11 games earlier this season with a broken finger and he's one of three Cavaliers who have had to wear protective face masks to protect broken facial bones.
Scott has only had his full complement of players for seven games this season. The Cavs are 8-28 heading into Wednesday night's home game against Atlanta.
"It's real tough," Scott said. "You're disappointed, frustrated and (ticked) off. You have so many different emotions going through your head, but what can you do? Everybody in this league has to deal with injuries and we've had to deal with them for three straight years. You just got to keep playing hard with the guys that you have."
Varejao's injury may also change other plans for Cleveland. The Cavs were likely to explore trade possibilities for the 6-foot-11 Varejao to acquire more future draft picks. But now that he's hurt, the Cavs are stuck and have to hope youngsters like Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller improve with more playing time.
"When you have a big blow like this, you're going to have guys get a golden opportunity," Scott said. "When you have an injury like this there is always a silver lining."