A long, long time ago -- back when the Cavaliers were playoff regulars -- everything was much the same as it is now for Anderson Varejao.

The 6-foot-11 Brazilian was the Cavaliers' energy-providing sixth man, the agitating big guy off the bench. He was the one who clawed his way to any ball that caromed off the rim, and who played a physical and frenetic brand of defense that coach Mike Brown adored.

And six or seven years ago, Varejao had the same patchy, scruffy growth on his face when he tried to grow a beard for the playoffs. The facial scruff is back now for no apparent reason, and so is Varejao's sixth-man role now that Andrew Bynum has assumed the starting center role.

The beard? Varejao laughs at.

"I still don't know the deal with my beard, but I keep growing it," he chuckled Wednesday. "I don't know why. It's terrible right now."

The sixth-man role, obviously, he takes more seriously. And it's something he's embraced and learned how to thrive in, again, after three seasons as a starter -- three seasons that all were cut short by injury, that is.

On Tuesday, Varejao recorded nine points and seven rebounds against the New York Knicks, and received his usual praise from Brown for his energetic style in the Cavaliers' fourth win in five games.

In that stretch, Varejao is averaging 8.2 points and 9.6 rebounds, including a 17-rebound performance in Cleveland's triumph over the L.A. Clippers.

"I coached Andy for five years, and that's what he did for us," Brown said. "He may come off the bench, but at the end of the day, there's a good chance he's going to be on the floor at the end of the game.