CLEVELAND — Anderson Varejao won’t play in every game this season.
The Cavaliers center missed his first game of 2013-14 Tuesday when Cleveland hosted New Orleans at Quicken Loans Arena.
Varejao suffered a hyperextended and bruised left knee Sunday when the Cavs blew a 20-point lead in a 99-90 loss to Phoenix.
“You get input from everybody — from myself, the guy that’s injured, team doctors and the medical staff,” coach Mike Brown said. “Obviously, if the doctors say he can’t play, he won’t.”
Second-year center Tyler Zeller made his first start of the season in Varejao’s absence. The 7-foot, 253-pound Zeller entered Tuesday averaging 4.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 12 minutes a game, while the oft-injured Varejao, who played in 81 games over the three previous seasons combined, was at 8.8, 10.3 and 2.6 in 30 minutes a night.
“Just like our team, he’s had moments when he’s been good and moments when he could be better,” Brown said of Zeller.
The 6-11, 267-pound Varejao was fitted with a brace and worked out on an upper-level court prior to the game, then entered the training room about an hour before tipoff. Not long after that, the Cavs announced he would not play.
“We need to always make sure we have Plan A, B and C,” Brown said.
Varejao got hurt while trying to get an offensive rebound — he was called for a loose ball foul — with 4:25 left in the Suns game. He fell to the floor on the baseline near the visiting team’s bench and immediately clutched his left knee, but eventually walked to the bench under his own power and stayed in the game after a timeout.
“You worry,” Brown said. “You worry when anybody goes down, but especially Andy when he’s been a little banged up already.”
The Cavs’ next game is Thursday in New York. Varejao was listed as “questionable” on the team’s injury report Tuesday.
He’s No. 1
Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, entered Tuesday averaging 20.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.14 blocks in 35 games. As a rookie, the 6-10, 220-pounder averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
“I tried to put myself in his shoes and take as much pressure off him as I could and not put him in situations where he might fail,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said of Davis’ rookie year. “That was my way of shielding him.”
Davis has blossomed into a player that Williams thinks deserves to be an All-Star when the reserves are announced Thursday.
“I’ve just turned him loose,” the coach said.
As a means of comparison, Cavs forward Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, entered Tuesday averaging 2.4 points on .239 shooting and 2.3 rebounds in 20 games.
Cavs backup guard Jarrett Jack spent an injury-prone 2011-12 season with New Orleans, but Williams became a big fan.
“He doesn’t have any fakeness in him,” the coach said. “He’s a guy who can perform in any situation.”
Cavs rookie swingman Carrick Felix is expected to be out six to eight weeks with a stress fracture in his left knee. Felix, who is averaging 1.5 points in six games for the Cavs, suffered the injury Saturday while playing for the Canton Charge of the NBA Developmental League. The second-round pick has played 26 minutes for Cleveland this season.
New Orleans, which entered Tuesday with an 18-25 record, was without point guard Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in leg), power forward Ryan Anderson (herniated disc) and center Jason Smith (right knee cartilage).
Holiday is averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 assists in 34 games, Anderson is averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 22 games and Smith is averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 31 games. They represent three of New Orleans’ top six scorers.
Tristan Thompson (13), Luol Deng (10) and Varejao (10) all reached double figures in rebounding against the Suns. The last time three Cavs did that in a game was Feb. 2, 2008, when Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13), Drew Gooden (12) and LeBron James (11) accomplished the feat against the Los Angeles Clippers.
** Varejao has 3,990 points and 3,999 rebounds with the Cavs. The only Cleveland players to reach 4,000 in both categories are Ilgauskas, Brad Daugherty and John “Hot Rod” Williams.