July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Cavs: Hairy times, road struggles are a concern

INDEPENDENCE — It’s hard to determine which is a bigger work in progress: Anderson Varejao’s beard or the Cavaliers learning how to win on the road.

The 6-foot-11, 267-pound Varejao is making another attempt at growing facial hair, but he’s having about as much success with that as the Cavs are winning away from Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland has won four of its last five games overall — all the victories came at The Q — to improve to 8-13 overall, but will take a 1-10 road record into games Friday in Orlando and Saturday in Miami.

“I still don’t know the deal with my beard, but I keep growing it,” Varejao said with a laugh Wednesday afternoon following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I don’t know why. It’s terrible right now.”

The Cavs have been equally bad on the road, where their 10 losses have come by an average of 15.5 points. That includes a 29-point defeat in Minnesota and a 30-point thumping in San Antonio.

Cleveland’s only road victory came in overtime in Washington, and it took 41 points from Kyrie Irving and the Wizards giving the game away at the end of regulation to get that one.

“Good question,” Varejao said when asked about the team’s road woes. “I think it’s because we are having a lot of ups and downs on offense and defense, especially on offense. We’re not moving the ball the right way. If you do that on the road, teams are going to make you pay for that.”

On the positive side, the Cavs have been playing much better at home lately and will be facing an Orlando team that entered Wednesday with a 6-15 record overall and 5-5 mark at home.

LeBron James and the two-time defending NBA champion Heat are 16-6 overall, including 9-2 at home, but the Cavs have actually played pretty well in Miami over the past three seasons.

“We know we have to get better on the road,” Varejao said. “We know we have to take care of the ball. Hopefully, the next couple of games, we’ll do that.”

Varejao, who started nine games while Andrew Bynum was making his way back, is now coming off the bench full time.

After playing 81 games over the three previous seasons combined, the 10th-year pro had some nights early this season where he didn’t appear to have the usual pep in his step, but he’s picked things up in recent weeks.

“Whatever (coach) Mike (Brown) wants me to do, I’m here to help the team,” the Brazil native said. “I’m here to play the way he wants me to play.

“It is what it is,” he said of coming off the bench. “I’m going to keep playing hard.”

For the season, Varejao is averaging 8.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He’s shooting .507 from the field and .714 at the line.

Most importantly, he’s played in every game and hasn’t suffered an injury.

“What Andy is doing does not surprise me at all,” said Brown, who also coached Varejao in Cleveland from 2005-10.

Due to a lot of hard work, Varejao has developed into a very reliable shooter from 15 feet. For that, he credits Byron Scott, who coached the Cavs from 2010-13.

“All I’m doing is working on my jump shot,” the 31-year-old said. “When I’m open, I’m shooting it.”

For the Cavs, the next step is to increase their road winning percentage from its current .091.

As for the beard, it remains as bad as the one Varejao attempted to grow early in his career.

“It’s still terrible,” Varejao said. “I thought it was because I was younger that I didn’t have a lot of (facial) hair, but it’s still the same.

“I don’t know what the deal is, but my wife likes it.”

On the move

The Cavs sent swingmen Carrick Felix and Sergey Karasev and center Henry Sims to the Canton Charge, their NBA Developmental League affiliate.

Felix has appeared in three games for the Cavs and is averaging 1.3 points. Karasev has played in 12 games and is averaging 2.4 points, while Sims has appears in six games and is averaging 1.7 points.

All three players were slated to play Wednesday night when the Charge hosted the Tulsa 66ers.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.