CLEVELAND (AP) - After being away for five years, Anderson Varejão is returning to the Cavaliers.
The curly-haired center, who endeared Cleveland fans with his hustle and his work on the boards, is expected to sign with the Cavaliers for the remainder of the season after the NBA granted the team a roster hardship exception, a person familiar with the decisions told the Associated Press on Monday.
Varejão spent 12 seasons with Cleveland (2004-2016) before he was traded months before the team won the NBA title. He could join the Cavaliers as early as Tuesday, said the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are ongoing.
Varejão hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2017 with Golden State.
The 38-year-old’s return is little more than a ceremonial move by the Cavs, who want to honor and celebrate Varejão for his time with the team and give fans something to cheer in the final days of another dreadful season.
Cleveland is 21-43 and has lost six consecutive games. It has five homes games left.
One of the league’s youngest teams, the Cavaliers have been ravaged by injuries this season and will be missing seven players, including starting point guard Darius Garland (sprained ankle) when they host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Cleveland qualified for the hardship exception because it has four players who have missed at least three games due to injury and will continue to be out at least two weeks.
Varejão developed into a relentless rebounder during his time with the Cavaliers, but they needed shooters and traded him at the deadline in 2016 - in a three-team deal for Channing Frye.
Varejão spent two seasons with the Warriors, facing the Cavs in the 2017 Finals, and then played two years in his native Brazil.
Varejão, with his long, unruly hair, was one of Cleveland’s most popular players during his years here. Fans loved the gangly big man’s passion, and it was bittersweet for many to see him leave and then wind up with the Warriors, who faced the Cavaliers in four straight Finals from 2015-2018.
Varejão averaged 7.3 points and 7.2 rebounds over 14 seasons. He had his best season in 2012-13, averaging 14.4 rebounds and 14.1 points.
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