From 2004 until February 29, 2016, center Anderson Varejao was a fan favorite in the city of Cleveland while giving it his all for the Cleveland Cavaliers and doing his best to bring a championship back to The Land. But when the he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers (and then immediately waived) on February 29, 2016, that all changed. The Brazilian was no longer able to achieve his ultimate goal while with the wine and gold: to bring an NBA title back to the city that adopted him from the moment he came into the NBA prior to the 2004 season.
Now, after signing with the Warriors following him being dealt and waived at the trade deadline, the 33-year-old is in a tough situation. Although he will most likely receive a ring no matter who wins the series between the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors due to the amount of time he was with the Cavs this season, Varejao is now battling to win a ring with the team that has ultimately become the wine and gold's biggest rival over the past couple seasons. While he will win a ring either way, the Wild Thing admitted that he wants his ring to come because his team won the Finals, not because his former team won, per cleveland.com's Chris Haynes.
"Right now my focus is on this series. We're trying to win this. Everything is part of business, as far as what happened to me and now I'm here. I'm a Warrior. That's what I want to focus on now."
Just one day before the start of the 2016 Finals, Varejao admitted that donning the blue and gold never ever crossed his mind, but the NBA is a business and he realizes that anything can happen, something that has become a reality for him over the past few months.
"No one did. I never thought this would happen one day, but I never thought I was going to be traded one day and I was. It's part of the business. I have to understand and respect that."
Surprisingly, although he was one of the most well-liked teammates while he was with the Cavaliers, at least from the outside looking in, the center mentioned that since being traded, he hasn't spoken to a single member of the wine and gold. Whether it is due to the fact that both Varejao and the Cavaliers realized that Cleveland and Golden State had a great possibility of meeting in the Finals or not, the fact that Varejao hasn't spoken to a single Cavalier is surprising, to say the least.
Although Cavs star LeBron James hasn't spoken directly to Varejao since that day, he admitted that he was happy for his former teammate because he is on such a good team, one that made out of the Western Conference and into the Finals.
"I think good things happen to good people. So either way he would have been part of The Finals. He's done so much in his career. He's sacrificed a lot. For him to be in this position, I think is great for him, his family. No matter what has happened, he would have been here anyways."
For the first time in his career, Varejao will go against the team he once called his own for his first 12 and a half years in the NBA. While he realizes that he must keep his mind in the right place, the Brazilian knows that he will be fighting with plenty of emotions once Game 1 begins Thursday night and especially when he returns to the city of Cleveland and the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena for Games 3 and 4 (and possibily Game 6). But either way, his sole mission is to win a championship, even if it is against the Cavs.
"I'm pretty sure a lot of emotion are going to go through my head, go through my body because we all know how important Cleveland is for me and what Cleveland did for me. The organization, the fans, and everyone in Cleveland, I love the city. I love everyone. But right now, I'm a Warrior and I have to focus on helping them win a championship."
Whether Varejao is guaranteed a ring no matter who wins the series between the wine and gold and blue and gold remains up for debate, but the Brazilian big man is now a foe of the city and team he once called his own.