CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers repeatedly refused to allow former center Zydrunas Ilgauskas to play for his national team.
They may soon do the same for current power forward Anderson Varejao.
Varejao suffered a sprained right ankle Wednesday while playing for his native Brazil in an exhibition game against Spain.
A postgame MRI revealed no significant damage, the Brazilian national team reported, but the incident was cause for concern for the Cavs since Varejao has five years and $42 million left on his contract.
The 6-foot-11 “Wild Thing” was injured when Spanish power forward Fran Vazquez landed on his right foot while they were battling under the basket in Lograno, Spain.
Varejao left the game, underwent medical tests, then contacted Cleveland’s front office to report his condition. He will continue to represent his homeland for several more weeks, through the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey that begins Aug. 28.
Following his rookie season in the NBA, Varejao dislocated his right shoulder in international play and missed the Cavaliers’ first 32 games in 2005-2006. That injury required major surgery and prompted him to turn down Brazil’s invitation to play for it twice over the next three summers.
Varejao rejoined the national team last year and helped Brazil win the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship over host Puerto Rico.
The Quicken Loans Arena fan favorite is entering his seventh NBA season — all with Cleveland — and ranks sixth in franchise history in field goal percentage (.518), and 10th in rebounds (2,595) and blocked shots (268).
He shares the Cavaliers record for all-time playoff games with 71, joining ex-teammates Ilgauskas and LeBron James, who both joined the Miami Heat this offseason.
Varejao is coming off his best year as a pro, averaging 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds off the bench while shooting a career-high .572 from the field. He also had the third-best plus-minus rating in the entire league at +514, only trailing James (+650) and Orlando center Dwight Howard (+618).
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.