The Man Behind the Mop
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
CLEVELAND, June 9, 2007 -- His mop and his flops. That's all the casual fan knows about Anderson Varejao.

The casual fan recognizes the Cavaliers' second-year forward's curly mane that looks like God used Varejao's head as a notebook and kept drawing squiggly lines and circles to get the ink flowing from His pen.

And the casual fan has become accustomed to seeing his signature move, drawing an offensive foul from opposing players, and selling the contact aborbed by flailing his 6-10, 240 pound body around with reckless abandon.

The problem is that Varejao's combination of fluff and falls makes the casual fan look at him as more of like a cartoon character rather than an intense competitor on a championship caliber team.

The reputation isn't fair. When Kobe Bryant leads the NBA in scoring, he is applauded. So too is Steve Nash, when he leads the league in assists. So, then why doesn't Varejao get the credit he deserves for leading the association in offensive fouls drawn?

According to 82games.com, Varejao drew 99 offensive fouls in the 2006-07 season, putting him light years ahead of the competition (the Mavericks' Devin Harris came in second with 77). So, I ask the question again, if Kevin Garnett's rebounding success and Marcus Camby's shot-blocking acumen are celebrated, where is the love for Andy?

Drawing 99 charges is like getting 99 steals, only better because these steals put the opponents in foul trouble. Varejao officially averaged 0.9 steals per game, but if you add in the 1.22 turnovers per game he forced through sacrificing his body, that number jumps to 2.12.

Which is just a hair off Golden State's Baron Davis league-leading 2.14 steals per game average.

For a stat that is so revered by coaching staffs -- walk around a college or NBA home locker room and more times than not you'll see a charge chart -- casual fans seem to look at it derisively.

Asked about his best skill on the court, Varejao didn't mention the charges, but rather the mentality that always puts him in the position to take one.

"I think it’s like the way I play: energy, never give up, try to fight for every position. It’s the attitude. Attitude is everything for my game.”

To solely focus on the charges that Varejao draws would be doing him a disservice. He has, after all, already achieved the "Global Icon" status that his teammate, LeBron James, says that he is looking to obtain.

“It’s getting better every year because every year more and more players -- not just from Brazil, but from South America – coming to the NBA so that’s making basketball bigger and bigger in Brazil," Varejao said at Saturday’s media availability.

Even though he was lounged out in the stands about a dozen rows up Section 10 in the AT&T Center, he was certainly holding court with a small group of reporters.

For a guy that entered the league not being able to speak a lick of English, he sure did alright for himself with the scribes as he cracked dead pan jokes and got the group laughing with ease.

"Now with me in The Finals it’s like they’re all talking about that everywhere," he continued. "Sometimes I call my friends and they’re like ‘Man, you don’t know how big The NBA Finals are. Everybody here is talking about you,’ and I’m like, ‘Come on, man, it’s a soccer country,’ and they say, ‘No, no, we’re serious, it’s getting bigger and bigger.’”

It's an amazing impact for a player who averages just 5.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in the playoffs and plays about 22.4 minutes off the bench.

He talked about how proud he was to represent his country and hopes to play on the Brazilian National Team this summer in the Tournament of Americas in Las Vegas.

He also revealed his basketball beginning. Like many players, his idol growing up was Michael Jordan and like Michael Jordan, his older brother was the impetus instilling the competitive fire he would need to make it as a pro.

Michael had Larry and Andy has Sandro.

“My brother played in Idaho for a junior college and he played in West Virginia, so that’s kind of like my mentor. He’s why I started playing basketball.”

He is an interesting person, calmly answering questions in three languages on his off days and then huddling in the corner of the locker room keeping to himself and whispering with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Sasha Pavlovic, his best friends on the team, on game days.

At the end of the media session, he conversed in Spanish with NBA.com's Mauricio Mendoza and said that Saturday was the most English he has ever spoken in one day in his life and at this point, with all the different languages he was answering questions in, he didn't know what morphed form of Spanglish was coming out of his mouth.

Well, he actually said:

"Oh Dios mío a este punto ya no se ni que idioma estoy hablando, ¿Ingles, Español o Portugués?"

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