CLEVELAND -- The season is barely a week old and the Cleveland Cavaliers are already down two big men.
Rookie Tyler Zeller returned to Cleveland on Wednesday for further evaluation after sustaining a concussion and broken cheekbone when Los Angeles Clippers centre DeAndre Jordan elbowed him in the face in the Cavs' 108-101 win Monday night. In that same game, centre Anderson Varejao bruised his right knee in the first quarter.
Varejao played through the pain on adrenaline but his knee swelled up later. He sat out Cleveland's game at the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night because of soreness.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said it's unclear when either will return.
"Tyler was playing great. We know how Andy was playing, unbelievable. You lose not only two of your best players, you lose your size as well," Scott said before his team faced the Warriors. "Again, we just got other guys who are going to come in and try to pick up the slack for what both those guys brought to the table."
With Varejao sidelined, Scott started Samardo Samuels at forward and Tristan Thompson at centre against Golden State. Both are expected to play more minutes at centre while Varejao and Zeller are out.
Varajeo has averaged 14 points and 15 rebounds in four games this season. As if his loss wasn't enough of a setback, news earlier in the afternoon handed Cleveland another blow.
Zeller was hit under the left eye by Jordan with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter against the Clippers. X-rays taken after the game in Los Angeles were negative, but a CT scan performed in San Francisco revealed a non-displaced fracture of his left orbital cheekbone.
The first-round pick from North Carolina has been placed in the NBA's concussion protocol process. He will have to be cleared by a league doctor before he can resume practicing or playing.
The Cavs said there is "no specific timeline" for Zeller's return and that he will continue to be monitored and evaluated. Zeller travelled back to Ohio for further evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health before the game at Golden State.
Before he got hurt, the 7-foot Zeller was having his best game as a pro. He scored a season-high 15 points with seven rebounds and two assists as the Cavs improved to 1-1 on their six-game trip. The Cavs play at Phoenix on Friday.
"Two of our best big men, Tyler and Andy go down, so that makes it obviously very tough. But what can you do?" Scott said. "The next guy has to step up and be ready to play. We always talk about opportunities. So here it is."