INDEPENDENCE – Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has a problem with the amount of minutes he`s playing center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Ilgauskas does not.
“Any player is lying if he says he doesn`t want to be out there more,” the 7-foot-3,
260-pounder said Monday following a practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Even if I didn`t feel well, I`d still want to be out there rather than sitting on the bench.”
Through 10 games, Ilgauskas is averaging 33.9 minutes, almost two full minutes over Brown`s goal of 32.
“I`m not doing well there,” Brown said. “I feel like I did with LeBron (James the last few years) when I said I wanted to keep him at 40 and he was at 43. Now I`m doing the same thing with â€˜Z.` Hopefully, (general manager) Danny (Ferry) isn`t smart enough to put a clause in my contract about LeBron`s and Z`s minutes.”
The good news is Ilgauskas` numbers are way up in every other statistical category as well. He is averaging 16 points on .500 shooting from the field and .839 at the line while pulling down 12.1 rebounds a night.
The latter number may be the most impressive of all given that Ilgauskas has never averaged more than 8.8 rebounds in a season. The Lithuanian posted that average in each of his first two NBA seasons, but topped 8.1 just once over the next seven years.
“I take very good care of myself,” said Ilgauskas, whose weight is actually down about five pounds from his listed 260. “I know I`m not 22 anymore, but I`m not 42. I`m 32. Coach has been good about watching me in practice and giving me a rest when I need it.”
Save for 1998-99, when he averaged 34.2 minutes in five games before breaking his foot, Ilgauskas` current playing time would be a career high. Over his nine previous seasons, he averaged 29.9 minutes, with a high of 33.5 in 2004-05, the season before Brown arrived. Under his current coach, Ilgauskas averaged 28.3 minutes over the two previous seasons.
“With â€˜Z` it`s really important for me to try and control (his minutes) because of his age and size and all that other stuff,” Brown said.
“All that other stuff” means the five foot operations Ilgauskas underwent early in his career, but the two-time All-Star has been one of Cleveland`s most durable players over the past five-plus seasons. In that time, Ilgauskas has appeared in 406 of a possible 420 regular-season games, with a handful of his missed games resulting from suspensions, not injury.
“I think I can handle 30-35 minutes a game,” said Ilgauskas, who has been hard to take out because Anderson Varejao is holding out and Donyell Marshall (wrist) is injured, leaving only unproven youngsters Dwayne Jones and Cedric Simmons to come off the bench on the front line.
“It`s hard to go full speed for 40 or 45 minutes. Everybody will tell you that. — But that doesn`t mean taking a play off. It means being smart. If the ball goes over my head and I see LeBron going after it, I`m not running.”
LET IT SNOW: Veteran point guard Eric Snow, who underwent knee surgery on Oct. 2, went through a full practice and pronounced himself ready to go against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I feel like I can give it a try,” the 13th-year pro said. “I don`t feel 100 percent, but I feel like I can go out and see what I can do.”
TIP-INS: The Cavaliers have won seven straight games against the Bucks, their longest current streak against any club. Cleveland has downed Milwaukee eight straight times at The Q.
James currently leads the league in scoring at 29.2 a game. It is believed to be the first time in his five NBA seasons that he`s been No. 1 in that category.
Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden (14.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg) are the only teammates in the league averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.
Yi Jianlian, a 7-0, 238-pound rookie from China, has started every game at power forward for Milwaukee and is averaging 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Scott Williams, a former Cavaliers television analyst for FSN Ohio, will be in town with the Bucks, for whom he now works as a sideline reporter on FSN telecasts.
Noland may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4061.