Rookie Tales: Anderson Varejao
It’s still hard to believe that Anderson Varejao is the oldest and longest-tenured Cavalier. Besides the facial hair, he still looks like the same fresh-faced forward who captured Cavs’ fans hearts as a 22-year-old unknown who arrived in Cleveland in the summer of 2004.
Back then, Varejao was publicly seen as a mere throw-in to the Drew Gooden-for-Tony Battie trade with Orlando. Now, the Brazilian big man is now in the Cavaliers’ all-time Top 10 in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total boards, steals, blocks and games played.
It’s been a long, strange trip for Varejao, now a seasoned 31-year-old. He’s seen the highs and lows of the league – from the NBA Finals to a 26-game losing streak – and has lived to tell about it. But before all that, Andy had to endure a rookie season – having to learn the game and the language.
As the Cavaliers prepare to take on the Bucks this Friday – on Anderson Varejao Bobblehead Night – the Wild Thing looks back on his freshman season in Cleveland in this week’s installment of Rookie Tales…
As a rookie, which players took you under their wing?
Anderson Varejao: Well, of course, Z did. Scott Williams was good to me, too. I hung out a little bit with Lucious Harris. I hung out with Drew Gooden, Tractor Traylor for a little bit. Jeff McInnis. They all were good to me. But they were all cool to me; they all helped me a lot.
And were there any vets who were kind of tough on you?
Varejao: Not really. Eric Snow was really the only guy who tried to intimidate us, telling me about tickets on the road, about using mine if I wasn’t using them. But I was cool with that. He wanted newspapers; I don’t remember getting him any newspapers. But he wanted us to get him his newspapers every day, stuff like that. But overall it was easy. All I had to do was buy the donuts, like the rookies do now. Nothing tough.
Do the rookies now have it easier or tougher than you did?
Varejao: I think it’s easy now. But I don’t really like to make the rookies do stuff. I don’t see the point. I mean, if you need something, just ask them and they’ll do it. But to make them do stuff, I’m not a big fan of that. But (what we make them do) t’s easy and it’s not much. All they have to do is bring donuts on gamedays. That’s nothing!
Paul Silas was known to be tough on rookies. How was he as your first NBA head coach?
Varejao: He was good; he was good to me. The first couple games, I didn’t play. Then I played a little bit. And then I started playing regular minutes and it was good. He gave me confidence, told me to shoot the ball and stuff. Overall, it was good. It was a very short time because he got fired. But I liked him as a coach.
When you first arrived, it was already a veteran team that was in the center of the media spotlight. What was that team like to be around?
Varejao: It was crazy but it was fun. The media was around everywhere we went. And we had a lot of fun, too. Dinners, hanging out together, doing stuff together. It was a fun team to be around. We had something special going on.
How difficult was it to be so far from home, playing in a different country?
Varejao: Well, I was kind of used to it – to live by myself in a different country. Because I left home when I was 16 when I went to San Paolo, and I lived in San Paolo for three years, something like that.
It was tough when I left for Barcelona from Brazil, my first time leaving the country. Because, just like when I got to Cleveland. I didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t know their culture, I was 19 years old. So I really didn’t know what was going on. My dad went with me and he helped me a lot. He lived with me for three months in Barcelona. He waited until I was fine with everything – teammates, city. Then he went back to Brazil.
Then, coming here, it was tough too. I didn’t speak any English – zero. And I thought I was never going to learn English. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know the difference between ‘What’s up?’ ‘How are you?’ ‘What’s going on?’ Simple expressions. You would ask me ‘How are you?’ and I would be like ‘What?!’ and just give them thumbs-up. That part was tough, not knowing English.
The other stuff, the basketball stuff, I kind of knew what was going on.