In a move that very few people found surprising, Zydrunas Ilgauskas officially signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers this week and played for them against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Ilgauskas has never played an NBA game for a team other than the Cavaliers. He was traded at the deadline for forward Antawn Jamison, but was promptly bought out by the Wizards and re-signed with the Cavaliers as soon as he was eligible. Ilgauskas did have other teams that were interested in signing him, but he ultimately chose to return to the team that originally drafted him out of Lithuania.
“I just felt like I had unfinished business here in Cleveland. I felt like I was leaving, not only a lot friends, but a lot of guys that I consider like a family to me. Everything happened so sudden and when everything settled down, I had a chance to look at my options and think about it and I really couldn’t pull myself away. If I wasn’t going to come back and this team would win a championship, I don’t think I would forgive myself for not being there. That was the biggest thing. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Although he’s never been a superstar in the NBA, Ilgauskas is a beloved figure in Cleveland who will likely have his number retired after he retires. He owns several important Cavalier records, has spent as much time with one team as almost any player in a major sport, and has strong ties to the Cleveland community. About all that Ilgauskas has left to accomplish in Cleveland is win a championship, and he knows it. Now he just has to do what he can to help his team try to actually win it.