AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Cavaliers got starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in their lineup three days ago. Shooting guard Delonte West may join him within two weeks.
West, who suffered a fractured right wrist Jan. 15 in Chicago, said he expects to have his hard cast removed Thursday and will begin shooting exercises later in the week.
“That’s some exciting news for me,” West said Sunday prior to Cleveland’s 90-80 victory in Detroit. “I’m good, I’m in good spirits, and I’m ready to start shooting. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get into a game before the All-Star break (which begins Feb. 12).”
West has missed nine games with the injury, depriving the Cavaliers of their best defensive guard and one of their top 3-point threats. He is averaging 12.3 points and 3.5 assists while ranking 36th in the NBA beyond the arc at .409.
The affable pro said he wasn’t worried about being able to bounce back to form when he returns. But he did admit to being concerned about the length of his absence.
“I’ve got to get back because I’m running out of suits,” he quipped. “I had to buy this one, in fact. It’s Versace.”
Ilgauskas, meanwhile, reported no aftereffects after playing in his first game in more than a month Friday. The 33-year-old had sat out 13 games with a chipped bone in his left ankle, but didn’t miss a beat in collecting 20 points and 11 rebounds in a home win over the Clippers.
“I’m a little sore, but that’s what you expect coming back,” he said. “I just didn’t want to mess anything up, and blend in with the guys.”
Ilgauskas made 10 of 16 shots, many on midrange jumpers, in a 29-minute performance. His marksmanship opened up the floor for Cleveland’s perimeter players, who responded by making a season-high 14 3-pointers.
“I played the same game I usually do,” Ilgauskas said. “I got a lot of open looks early and I made some shots. If I had missed them earlier, who knows how it would have turned out?
“I’m glad things went the way they did.”
Instead of battling for the best record in the Eastern Conference as they usual do, the Pistons are fighting just to gain home-court advantage in the first round of this year’s playoffs. They trail the first-place Cavaliers by 12 games in the Central Division and are having major personnel issues since trading All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups to Denver for the mercurial Allen Iverson on Nov. 3.
“It definitely hurt the chemistry of the team,” said Cleveland power forward Ben Wallace, who spent six season with Detroit. “Billups set up guys for better shots and Iverson is more of a scorer. I guess it takes a little getting used to.”
Cleveland coach Mike Brown, though, said the Pistons remain a dangerous ballclub. Iverson may only be averaging 17.7 points, but he is still the 16th-leading scorer in NBA history.
“If at any time he gets hot, the ball is gonna be in his hands,” Brown said. “And he’s capable of getting hot at any time. They’re still a good team, a veteran team that knows how to defend.”
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James averaged 27.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists in January, becoming the first NBA player to post those numbers since Larry Bird in March 1987.
• The Cavs went 10-4 in the month, giving them double-digit victories in three straight months for the second time in franchise history.
• Cavaliers guard Sasha Pavlovic, starting in West’s spot, has moved into eighth place in the league in 3-point percentage at .443.
• The Cavaliers are an abysmal 22-66 all time at Detroit (which includes games at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Pontiac Silverdome, Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Arena). The teams’ final two meetings this season are in Cleveland on Feb. 22 and March 31.
Odds and ends
Popular Pistons public address announcer John “Dee-troit bas-ket-ball” Mason is a Cleveland native.
• There are now 32 banners hanging in the rafters at The Palace, including ones honoring musicians Kid Rock, Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond and Alan Jackson for selling out the building at least 10 times.
• Cheryl Ford of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock sat courtside.
• Pistons mascot Hooper wore a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, not a Detroit Lions shirt, in a skit humiliating a faux Cavaliers fan.
Quote of the day
“Detroit has so many scorers now, which makes them a tough matchup, but on the other hand, Chauncey was the engine that made the whole thing work.” — Cavaliers coach Mike Brown on Detroit’s early season trade of Chauncey Billups.
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.