When Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao used to shoot the ball, coach Mike Brown would cringe.
“The feeling wasn't quite as comforting,” he joked.
Brown now encourages the 6-foot-11, 267-pounder to take the elbow jumper, and for good reason. Varejao is shooting 65 percent from that spot on the floor.
“He's worked very hard at it,” the coach said.
Not only can he excel on pick-and-rolls, he has become deadly on pick-and-pops.
“He's an intelligent basketball player,” Brown said. “He brings a lot more to the table for us as a team.”
Varejao is averaging 8.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He's shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the foul line.
Varejao credits former coach Byron Scott for having the confidence to hoist up shots from the perimeter. There was a time not that long ago he wasn't capable of making that shot.
“The last three years, he was telling me every time to shoot the ball,” he said. “I was getting comfortable shooting from the elbows. All I'm doing is working on my jump shot, and when I'm open, I'm shooting.”
He has gotten the green light from Brown.
“If you're open, he wants us to shoot the ball,” Varejao said. “But I know my role on the team is to set screens and roll, but if I'm open, I'll shoot it.”
Varejao said he heard some of the comments Brown made about his shooting during the latter's first stint with the Cavs.
“I think he's said that a couple times as a joke,” Varejao said. “He wants me to shoot it. I'm shooting it.”
Varejao said he has no qualms coming off the bench for the Cavs (8-13), who travel to Florida for road games vs. Orlando and Miami on Friday and Saturday.
“It's whatever Mike wants me to do,” he said. “I'm here to help the team. I'm here to play the way he wants me to play. It's tough sometimes coming off the bench.”
Brown said he decided that Varejao was better-suited to come off the bench. Also, if the Cavs were going to start Andrew Bynum at center, Tristan Thompson was probably a better fit to play alongside him.
“(Varejao) might come off the bench at the end of the day, but there's a good chance he'll be on the floor at the end of the game,” Brown said. “What Andy is doing, it doesn't surprise me at all.
“To have the right balance for our group, it would be best if he played with the second unit. He brings so much to the table as a veteran for us. In terms of starting the game or being a mainstay with the second unit, Andy was the best big for that.”