Team doesn't know if it's thumbs up or down with Shaquille O'Neal

Brian Windhorst, The Plain Dealer

The hard news on Shaquille O’Neal’s thumb, be it good or bad, is going to wait a day.

The Cavaliers center missed Friday’s game at Toronto after suffering a
sprained right thumb Thursday night in Boston when he was smacked on
the hand by Celtics forward Glen Davis during a shot attempt.

Varejao likely will have to start at center for a while for the Cavs.The team decided to wait until it gets back from the road trip for O’Neal to have an MRI and confirm just how bad the injury is. The team is scheduled to fly home Saturday afternoon.

Cavs coach Mike Brown said doctors have defined it as a "severe" sprain, and the team’s official injury report called it "significant." Either way, it doesn’t sound good.

If O’Neal suffered just a partial tear of a ligament, he could be out just a couple of weeks and perhaps less. The team is being optimistic that this is the case. But if the ligament is torn, which only the MRI can show, it is possible O’Neal could be out six weeks or longer and even a chance he will need surgery.

He has a history with this type of injury. In 1995, O’Neal suffered a torn ligament in his thumb during the preseason and missed the first 22 games of the season.

While there is a strong chance Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be able to re-sign with the Cavs on March 22 if he chooses, the Cavs likely are faced with having to start Anderson Varejao at center for a period of time. He made his first start at center of the season against the Raptors.

"I’m going to try my best and go out there and try to help the team," Varejao said. "It is not going to be easy because I have to be more physical, and hopefully it works."

Varejao has started at center occasionally during his career for the Cavs, usually when Ilgauskas has been injured. The Cavs have had success with him in the lineup because his quickness can help them on defense. But he often will be undersized in the matchup.

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