Road Dogs

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For all the fantastic amenities, life on the road can be tough at times.

The season can stretch from October to June, you’re away from your family and friends and the schedule is relentless. In baseball, a visiting team is in town for several days. Football teams fly in Friday or Saturday and split after the game. In the NBA, every day is spent in one of two places: the air or the gym.

That’s why any team that travels has to form a brotherhood. During an NBA season, the team is your family.

Though neither will admit that they have a “brotherly” relationship, Cavalier vets Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao can’t help but fess up to becoming inseparable road dogs.

The two Cavalier starters sit near each other on the team bus, team plane and in the locker room. They get dinner after road games. They’re even together on the numerical roster.

One other constant is that they almost never stop breaking one another’s chops.

During one bus trip during the Cavs recent road trip, Varejao and Parker continued an ongoing (raucous) argument over the Euroleague superiority of Barcelona vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv. Cavaliers player development assistant Jordi Fernandez came to Anderson’s aid, while Omri Casspi sided with A.P.

It’s hard to tell who won the argument, other than Andy closed it out with the best line – teasing A.P. about his inflated success in Europe: “He’ll tell you he won three Euroleague Championships and was the MVP four times.”

Parker has any number of Andy’s antics to poke fun at. Varejao’s personality is as fun and lively (and sometimes insane) as he is on the court.

For all the ribbing they give each other, there’s also a strong bond – one that began when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was still manning the middle for the Cavs.

“A good friend of mine from when I played in Europe, Sarunas Jasikevicius, he was friends with Andy in Barcelona – and he and Z were best friends,” explained A.P. “So I kind of already knew that I would hit it off with him. And he’s just a good guy. We clicked.”

On this one, Varejao agreed.

“We have a pretty good relationship,” said the Wild Thing. “It’s been like that since he got in Cleveland. Before, it was me, him and Z. And now it’s more like me and him. We like the same stuff; we’re both big ‘family’ guys.”

Parker explained the genesis of their friendship.

“I think it started with going to dinners after games,” Parker began. “That’s big in Europe. After games, everybody gets together and goes to eat together. And that’s something that I did in Toronto with the guys, and Andy’s big on that. That’s how it started – Andy and me going to dinner after games with Z on the road.

“And now, we’re starting to get a little crew together and we’ll go out to eat.”

Both players understand the international game, having both starred overseas. (All chop-busting aside, Parker did win three Euroleague titles and two straight MVPs.) Parker was with the Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv from 2000 through 2002 and again in 2003 through 2006. He returned to the NBA with the Raptors the next season.

A young Varejao, played for Barcelona FC, where he also won a Euroleague championship. In the 2004 Draft, the Orlando Magic made him the first pick of the second round, and before he ever donned pinstripes, was packaged with Drew Gooden and sent to Cleveland for what amounted to Tony Battie, Martynas Andriuskevicius and Brad Newly.

He’s been a local legend ever since.

Anderson and A.P. agree on another thing, but it’s something most of their teammates would: it’s a long season, and it helps to have a running mate just to mitigate the monotony and, many times, the pressure.

“It’s such a long year and you have to have something to take your mind off just basketball all the time,” said Parker. “We have a lot of jokes; watch a lot of the same shows. So, it’s good. It’s good to go out and get something to eat, laugh and take your mind off things for a bit. “

The show they’re now sharing is the sensational AMC show, “Breaking Bad.” A.P. is through Season 4 and ready for more. Anderson is just getting to know Heisenberg.

“It’s very important (to have a friend on the road) because the season is a long season … and having somebody around that you can talk about other stuff – maybe trying to forget basketball. It’s great because we’re going to practice or play every day and you have to take yourself away from basketball sometimes.”

The 36-year-old Parker is a married father of two boys. The 29-year-old Varejao is still a single man. Parker acknowledges that they’re “at different stages of their life.”

Both are now Wine and Gold fixtures although Anderson is the longest-tenured Cavalier on the roster. By early next season, he’ll enter the top ten of all-time Cavaliers on the games-played list. And he’s been a warrior in any number of playoff series.

But this article is about him, goofily bragging to Anthony Parker about how he’s going to eat at a restaurant that night and show off his locks for the place’s marketing purposes or A.P. chastising him for airing it out on the team bus.

And it’s about two men in a brotherhood, playing ball thousands of miles away from home.