The Cavaliers can start talking contract today with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and there’s a chance the team’s former center could be back in uniform for a game in New Orleans on Wednesday.
“He’s a good friend of mine and he’s a great teammate,” LeBron James said Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena prior to a game against the Detroit Pistons. “If that’s the case … I’m excited to have him back.”
The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, shipped to Washington in the trade-deadline move that brought Antawn Jamison to Cleveland, was bought out of the remainder of his expiring contract by the Wizards, but could not re-sign with the Cavaliers until 30 days after the trade was made.
Ilgauskas, who left $1.5 million on the table in his buyout with the Wizards, will likely re-sign with Cleveland for most or all of the $1.99 million biannual exception.
The biannual exception is for two years, so one part of the negotiating process will likely center around who will have the option in the second year of the deal.
Ilgauskas and agent Herb Rudoy will likely ask for a player option, and Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry will probably agree. That would allow Ilgauskas to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, after which he would be able to sign a multiyear contract that starts at a larger chunk of the mid-level exception, which was $5.85 million this season.
The Cavaliers can also offer Ilgauskas a pro-rated version of the NBA veteran minimum salary of $1.3 million, but, with the regular season almost concluded, that would not allow the 34-year-old to recoup much of what he left on the table in his buyout.
When Ilgauskas does return, he will almost certainly come off the bench, first behind current starter J.J. Hickson, then in relief of Shaquille O’Neal when he returns from a thumb injury.
“‘Z’ is a veteran,” James said. “His play will automatically guarantee him minutes because of how good he is and how tall he is. ‘Z’ doesn’t have to worry about having a role on this team.”
Also when Ilgauskas re-signs, which could happen as early as today, the Cavaliers will have to clear a spot on their 15-man roster. Second-year big man Darnell Jackson or rookie guard Danny Green will likely be waived.
“Danny Ferry and those (front office) guys are going to figure that out,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “Once they figure out what they need to figure out, they’ll come to me and I’ll give my two cents.”
On Saturday, Cleveland assigned Jackson to the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League. Jackson had 32 points and 11 rebounds that night in a 101-100 loss to the Dakota Wizards and was recalled by the Cavaliers on Sunday.
In two games for Erie this season, the 6-9, 253-pounder has averaged 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. With Cleveland, Jackson was averaging 0.7 points on .333 shooting and 0.8 rebounds in 26 games prior to Sunday.
Green, who declined the Cavaliers’ offer to play for Erie against Dakota, entered Sunday averaging 2.4 points in 16 appearances for the Cavaliers.
When asked about the current seventh edition of his Nike basketball shoe, James said there would be an eighth and ninth edition as well.
When asked if that meant his original endorsement deal with the shoe company — it was rumored to be for $100 million — had been extended, James smiled and said, “I take care of my business.”
Brown’s freshman son, Elijah, is a varsity member of the St. Edward High basketball team, which was up 14 points but lost to Mentor in a regional final Saturday.
“You’ve got to give Mentor credit,” Brown said. “Ed’s defense was spectacular, but Mentor just kept firing away (from 3-point land) and firing away and firing away.”
Detroit point guard Rodney Stuckey, who collapsed on the bench and left the arena on a stretcher during a March 5 game at The Q, returned to action Friday in Indiana and had 25 points in 27 minutes.
“It’s just good to see him up and moving and exercising, period,” said James, who thought he was witnessing a catastrophe when Stuckey went down earlier in the month.
James on Friday surpassed Kobe Bryant as the youngest player to score 15,000 points (25 years, 79 days) and became just the sixth player to reach that mark in seven NBA seasons. The others were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, George Gervin, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
James entered Sunday having led the Cavaliers in points, rebounds and assists in an NBA-high 16 games this season.
Cavaliers reserve Anderson Varejao began the night averaging 7.8 rebounds, second among bench players to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom (8.2).
Varejao had scored in double figures in 10 of his last 13 games, averaging 11.5 points on .696 shooting and 8.3 rebounds in that span.
- The Cavaliers began the night with the best home (30-4) and road records (25-11) in the NBA.
- The Pistons were without big men Ben Wallace and Chris Wilcox, though neither was listed on the team’s injury report.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.