The Art of ... Rebounding

November 8, 2012
Anderson Varejao

Anderson Varejao doesn’t do a lot of talking. He lets his game do that for him.

But if we’re going to figure out the Art of … Rebounding, there’s no better Cavalier to explain the basics of the boards than the Wild Thing.

Already this year, the nine-year veteran has had games of 15, 17 and 23 rebounds. He’s fifth on the Cavaliers all-time list for offensive rebounds with 1,094, eighth in defensive boards with 2,149 and – with 3,243 – needs just 65 boards to surpass for seventh in total rebounds. At 15.0 rpg this season, he’s the league’s second-best on the boards (behind Zach Randolph).

Varejao isn’t the greatest athlete in the NBA. He doesn’t have the highest vertical, isn’t a beast in the weight room and doesn’t possess cat-like quickness. His second-best skill might be finding a way to get thoroughly under the skin of his opponent. Anderson’s offensive game is light years from where it was during his first few years -- (he's shooting .658, 25-of-38 from the floor this season) -- but relative to everything else he brings to the team, scoring is almost gravy.

While Andy nurses a right knee contusion back to health, sat down with Varejao to learn about his specialized skill …

Coaches at every level tell their players to ‘find a body’ when the ball goes up. Is that the biggest key to being a good rebounder?
Anderson Varejao: It’s the first thing, for a defensive rebound – offensive rebound too: You find a body to move the guy around to give yourself the best position to try to get the rebound.

But I think the key to rebounding is just to go after every rebound. Treat every shot as a miss. Once you do that, you’re ahead of everybody. And that’s what I do.

How much do you play the trajectory of the ball?
Varejao: When they shoot the ball, I try to see if it’s going to be a long shot or short shot. I try to see if it’s going to hit the front of the rim, try to anticipate and get there before the defender or my guy.

You’ll sometimes tip the ball out if you can’t get the rebound clean. Is that a lost art?
Varejao: I don’t know. I feel like I want to go after the ball and get as many extra possessions as I can. I try to find somebody and get them the ball, but sometimes you just tap the ball out because there’s more chance that one of your guys is back there. I just tip it out to try to get it to somebody.

And sometimes there’s a lot of guys around. If you come down with the ball, there’s a chance to steal it. If you tip it out, you keep it up top.

How do you handle an opponent on the boards that’s taller than you? How about a guy that’s smaller?
Varejao: If he’s bigger, I try to get low, by his knees. If he’s smaller than me, I try to get as low as he gets so he can’t get to my knee. Or maybe I’ll just maybe hold him off, like this. (*Pressing forearm into my chest.*)

Who’s the toughest guy you face and how do you handle him?
Varejao: (Chicago’s Joakim) Noah is pretty good. But when I play against Noah, I know what I have to do – to just focus on boxing him out and not care about getting the rebound. That’s what you have to do against guys like that.

Once you try to box out and get the ball, it’s hard. Somebody can come and get it or he can come around you and get the rebound because you’re worried about getting the ball.

What’s your mindset on the offensive glass?
Varejao: The defense is going to break down – whether it’s Kyrie or whoever drives to the basket – the big is going to have to help. He’s going to help and I’m going to go after the offensive rebound. I don’t even think about, because (a teammate) is going to shoot the ball and I’m already there to try to get it.

If a young player asks you what’s the key to being a good rebounder, what do you tell him?
Varejao: Effort.

It’s all about effort. It’s about going after the rebound and treating every shot as a miss and trying to get in the best position that you can to get yourself a chance to get the rebound.