Zydrunas Ilgauskas has dealt Cleveland another blow by planning
to follow LeBron James to the Miami Heat.
The veteran center, who started playing for Cleveland in 1997
and has never suited up for another NBA team, expects to sign a
two-year contract with the Heat later this week, agent Herb Rudoy
said Tuesday. The two-year deal would come with a player option for
the second season, Rudoy said.
”We’ve agreed to agree,” Rudoy said.
Ilgauskas’ decision became known less than a week after James –
who played a role in recruiting the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian to South
Florida – sparked outrage and outcry in Cleveland by going on a
made-for-television special and saying he was joining the Heat.
This departure won’t generate the same reaction from
Clevelanders, but it’ll hurt nonetheless.
Ilgauskas was a fan favorite for more than a decade, and when he
returned to the Cavs after getting traded to the Washington Wizards
this past season, a sellout crowd welcomed him with huge signs
bearing the letter ”Z” – his moniker. Ilgauskas never played for
the Wizards, quickly getting bought out and then returning to
Cleveland after a 30-day waiting period.
Playing with James again was a major factor in Ilgauskas’
”LeBron was very encouraging and explained the whole
situation,” Ilgauskas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. ”And,
obviously, he’s my friend, and him being there made it a lot easier
On his Twitter feed, James quickly welcomed Ilgauskas to
”Glad u are joining me in South Beach my friend. Also thanks
for the encouraging words big fella,” James wrote.
The Heat had no immediate comment. They had talks about
acquiring Ilgauskas when he was available this past season after
the trade to Washington and buyout that followed.
Ilgauskas is the Cavs’ career leader in games played, blocked
shots and rebounds. He was drafted by the club in 1996 and overcame
serious foot injuries that nearly ended his career.
He’s just the latest name to join what shapes up as a serious
title contender in Miami, joining not only James but Dwyane Wade,
Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and presumably Mike Miller, who agreed to
a deal late last week that remains unsigned. Agent Arn Tellem wrote
on his blog Monday that Miller will play in Miami.
It’s still possible Ilgauskas accepts a one-year deal, though
his preference is the multi-year arrangement.
”His best chance to win a championship would be in Miami,”
Ilgauskas told Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris
Grant the news on Tuesday. James played a role in luring Ilgauskas
to Miami, and other teams were interested as well.
Ilgauskas was immensely popular in Cleveland, and expects to
keep a home in the city.
”It’s hard,” Rudoy said. ”It’s been 14 years. It was very
hard for him. I know that. When he called Chris Grant and Dan
Gilbert today, it was definitely a hard decision at this stage of
his career. But he wants to win a championship. That’s how he made
Playing as a reserve for the first time, Ilgauskas averaged 7.4
points and 5.4 rebounds last season. For his career, Ilgauskas has
averaged 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds, plus has played in two