BOSTON -- Anderson Varejao is one of the most coveted big men in the NBA this season.Averaging a league-high 14.4 rebounds per game with 14.1 points to accompany them, the Cleveland Cavaliers center is drawing major buzz in the first two months of the season.This isn't the first time he has heard his name mentioned in trade talks -- he averaged a double-double last season and nearly 10 and 10 the previous year -- so he isn't letting himself get sidetracked by an area of the game he cannot impact."I can't control it," he said prior to the Cavaliers loss against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. "All I've got to do is keep playing hard, keep playing my game, keep helping this team. If I get traded, I get traded. It's nothing I can do. I'm happy in Cleveland. I'm happy with the organization. Whatever happens, happens. I have no control."The Cavs acquired Varejao from the Orlando Magic after they selected him with the 30th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He has been through the excitement of championship contention and the struggles of rebuilding. Even at 5-22, he is still dedicated to the Cavaliers. Varejao, 30, was upset he was sidelined by a knee injury and could not help his younger teammates take on the veteran Celtics."I hate when I'm hurt and I'm not playing and I'm not out there to help my teammates," he said. "It hurts. It hurts more than anything else to me, not being able to be out there."Varejao's commitment to his team does not go unnoticed. The Boston Celtics rank 29th overall in rebounding, and head coach Doc Rivers praised Varejao not only for his individual skills but his overall impact in the Cavs locker room."He's just a joy to watch," said Rivers. "You can see that in their play. You can see that in (Tristan) Thompson's play now and (rookie Tyler) Zeller that playing with that guy every day, it makes you take notice. I think he's been a great teacher for their bigs."Rivers continued, "He's the most active (rebounder). I'm sure there's somebody that has a better gift at it, but he's just an amazing player to watch. Not only the best rebounder, he may be the best passing big. He is skilled and his energy is part of his skill, but I don't think people realize how good he is."If Varejao continues his performance this season, it will be difficult to find those who don't realize his talents.
BOSTON -- On the list of Red Sox problems, finding a platoon partner for Mitch Moreland at first base isn't high on the list. But the others -- third base, fifth starter -- aren't solvable at the moment, so the Sox turned to one they think they can solve.
Today they recalled Sam Travis from Pawtucket, most likely to provide relief for Moreland against left-handed pitching. Travis' path to the majors was delayed by a knee injury that cost him a good chunk of the 2016 season -- otherwise, odds are good he'd have been here by now -- but he signaled his readiness by recovering from a 5-for-36 start with a sizzling .344 average in 90 at-bats since April 22 that includes six doubles and three home runs. His OPS in that span is .909.
Most importantly, Travis crushes left-handed pitching. He's hit .358 (93-for-260) against them in his professional career, and is .414 (12-for-29) against them this year.
Hector Velázquez was sent back to the PawSox to make room for Travis, ensuring another roster move later this week. After Kyle Kendrick's failed attempt to take control of the fifth spot in the starting rotation, Velázquez was called up and given a shot in Oakland last Thursday night. He allowed six earned runs over five innings, failing the test. And thus the search for a fifth starter -- at least until David Price returns -- continues.
Price will make a rehab start in Pawtucket tomorrow and could return to Boston after that, but the Sox will need a pitcher for Saturday's game against Seattle. Even if Price is cleared to return to Boston, he won't be able to pitch Saturday on two days' rest.
Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday that the NFL would ease off its restrictions on touchdown celebrations going forward.
"Just as NFL teams use the offseason to get better, at the league we use this time to listen to players, coaches, officials and fans about how we can continue to improve our great game.," he said in a statement. " . . . Today, we are excited to tell you about another change that comes after conversations with more than 80 current and former players: we are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays."
Using the football as a prop, celebrating on the ground and group celebrations will all be allowed after scores under the new policy.
"Offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized," Goodell explained.