Rookie center Tyler Zeller missed the Cavaliers’ game at Golden State on Wednesday night due to a non-displaced fracture in his left cheekbone and a concussion.
Compounding matters immensely, starting center Anderson Varejao was a late scratch due to a sore right knee, forcing Cleveland to move Tristan Thompson from power forward to center and start Samardo Samuels at Thompson’s spot.
No timetable has been established for the return of the 7-foot, 250-pound Zeller, who flew back to Cleveland for further evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health.
Zeller suffered his injury Monday when he was inadvertently elbowed with 5:38 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 108-101 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. He was helped from the court and did not return to action.
X-rays taken at the Staples Center were negative and Zeller traveled with the team to San Francisco following the game.
The North Carolina product was then examined at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, where a CT scan revealed a fracture of his left orbital bone (cheek). He was also diagnosed with a concussion and has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol process, which he must complete before returning to action.
Nothing is certain, but when Zeller receives medical clearance for the concussion, he will probably be fitted with a mask that will allow him to play.
Varejao never left the game against the Clippers due to his injury, but bruised his knee in the first quarter and was unavailable against the Warriors. That left Jon Leuer, Luke Walton and Luke Harangody as Cleveland’s lone available big men off the bench.
Zeller had his best performance in four pro games against the Clippers, setting a career high with 15 points and matching one with seven rebounds.
Chosen by Dallas with the No. 17 pick and traded to the Cavs on draft night, the 22-year-old is averaging 7.5 points on .600 shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists.
The oft-injured Varejao, who appeared in just 25 games last season, was off to a sensational start, averaging 14.0 points on .658 shooting, 15.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.