Maybe the Cavaliers could have used a little more help from Zydrunas Ilgauskas this season.
HE’S OUR RAFTER MAN.
According to a report from the Morning Journal’s Bob Finan, Ilgauskas has not been with the team this season and decided last summer to take the year off. There were rumors during the draft last summer that Ilgauskas was a front office presence that was pushing the team to draft Maryland Center Alex Len with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It’s now curious whether Z was involved at all.
According to Finnan:
“Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas hasn’t been phased out, as some believed. The former Cavs center decided last summer to take the year off to focus on his family. Some thought he backed away when Grant was fired. It was actually long before that. The door is open for Z to return to the organization in some capacity.”
In all fairness to Finnan, the rumor that was put out was actually published on the day of the Zydrunas Ilgauskas jersey retirement ceremony. And it wasn’t that Z was going to be “phased out”, it was that he was going to be fired.
Another newspaper reported that Ilgauskas was tied to fired former General Manager Chris Grant and would be “gone” soon. Also that it was an “open secret” that Ilgauskas was unhappy with his role with the Cavaliers, that he had become a ghost at Cavs games, that there remained “palpable unhappiness” from Ilgauskas toward the organization.
It was certainly disturbing to hear that a player as beloved as Z was likely going to be fired, was unhappy with his role with the Cavs. It was most disturbing to hear it reported on the night that Z’s jersey was retired. On that night, which was already threatened by the distraction of former Cavalier Lebron James being present, the notion, however completely false, that the organization had cut ties with Z and that he was unhappy with the organization cast an additional pall on the night.
Further, this false idea seemed to give credence to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, that the entire jersey retirement ceremony was orchestrated as a ploy to bring Lebron James back to the Cavaliers which had been thwarted by the team’s decision to fire Chris Grant. And the logical conclusion is that maybe this whole idea was bogus. Apparently Z wasn’t conspiring with Chris Grant to woo a free agent to the Cavs in free agency this summer, because they didn’t even work together this year. Apparently the Cleveland Cavaliers just really genuinely love Z.
In fairness, some things are subject to interpretation and some things are objective fact. It seems that it’s an objective fact that Z decided before the season even started to take the year off and spend time the way you’d expect Z to, with his family. Here in Cleveland, where they live.
DION WAITERS AND BRADLEY BEAL
ZELLER WRESTLING WIZARDS
Every once in a while, someone writes something that makes such a good point that it sticks to your bones and keeps rolling around in your head for a little while. About two weeks about, Ryan Mourton at fearthesword.com wrote a piece comparing the careers of Cavalier Dion Waiters and Washington Wizard Bradley Beal, the man who was taken immediately before Waiters in the 2012 NBA Draft.
“…we can draw the conclusion that for all of their differences in narrative and play style, they have produced generally the same output.”
I’m at the Celtics/Cavaliers game right now, where the score is 72-52 Celtics with 5:49 left in the third quarter the night after the Cavs lost game 80 in Milwaukee. As this one and the next game wind down, the summer where a lot of change is possible, but can you imagine the Washington Wizards media talking about Bradley Beal needing to be fired because he didn’t get along with John Wall after a season together and less than 100 games? Nope.
So what’s different about Dion Waiters? Because, as Mourton correctly suggests, they seem pretty close to the same. And… that’s pretty good for both the Wizards and the Cavaliers.
Photo of Z retirement, Matt Florjancic, WKYC. Photo of Waiters Jeff Miller, Getty Images.