In 2010, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was conflicted.
He’d played for the Cavaliers his entire career and felt comfortable in Cleveland. But he’d also grown close to LeBron James and wanted to win a title before his career ended.
Ultimately, Ilgauskas followed LeBron to Miami that summer, and the Heat fell in the Finals to the Mavericks.
Now, with LeBron back with the Cavaliers – who were championship favorites even before trading for Kevin Love – Ilgauskas doesn’t have to choose between his multiple desires.
But there’s an obvious catch: He’s 39 and has been retired three years. Not that he’s letting that get in his way.
At 41 and after six years of retirement, Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy returned to play seven games for the Cincinnati Royals. That’s the only precedent for Ilgauskas.
John Long was 40 when he came back for the Raptors and 1996, and he hadn’t played in the NBA in five years, but he spent the middle year out playing in the CBA. Michael Jordan had been retired for three years when he returned with the Wizards, but he was just 38. More recently, a 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace had been retired two years when he came back with the Knicks.
So, it’s not impossible for Ilgauskas to come back. It’d be a really nice story, and I’m sure he and LeBron would enjoy reconnecting. The Cavaliers could use a little more center depth, too.
But there are so many complications, including the small matter of pulling Ilgauskas’ retired jersey from the rafters or giving him a new number. But the bigger issue – a player of Ilgauskas’ age proving himself NBA-ready – stands above the rest.
I hope this happens. I’d be shocked if it does.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors, and Toronto wants him back.
But what about those Lakers rumors?
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, via Noah Coslov of Bleacher Report Radio:
I’m breaking up with you.
No, I’m breaking up with you first.
The Warriors went an NBA-record 73-9.
And the Thunder massively outplayed them in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
No, Golden State wasn’t at full strength. But Oklahoma City reached a level the Warriors hadn’t all season. Even if Golden State had hit peak performance, I’m not sure that would’ve been enough. The Thunder were that good.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their superstar selves. Steven Adams defended inside and out. Serge Ibaka hit timely shots and moved well defensively. Andre Roberson made open 3-pointers and cut. Dion Waiters read the floor to make the right shot or pass. And everyone rotated correctly throughout entire defensive possessions.
Oklahoma City was awesome, handing the Warriors 28- and 24-point losses.
But Golden State rallied to force a Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win, they’ll become just the eighth team in NBA history to lose multiple games by more than 20 in a series and still win it. The seven to do it:
- Houston Rockets lost to Los Angeles Clippers by 25 and 33 in 2015 second round
- Atlanta Hawks lost to Miami Heat by 29 and 26 in 2009 first round
- Houston Rockets lost to Phoenix Suns by 22 and 24 in 1995 second round
- Philadelphia 76ers lost to Boston Celtics by 40 and 29 in 1982 Eastern Conference finals
- Denver Nuggets lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 31 and 28 in 1978 Western Conference semifinals
- Los Angeles Lakers lost to Milwaukee Bucks by 21 and 26 in 1972 Western Conference finals
- Minneapolis Lakers lost to St. Louis Hawks by 34 and 30 in 1959 Western Division finals
The Warriors never stopped believing in themselves, even when getting routed. That mentality has them one game from a comeback for the ages.
DeMar DeRozan sounds like he wants to re-sign with the Raptors.
But does Toronto want to give max money to someone who 39% from the field and 15% on 3-pointers in the playoffs?
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
This is probably the right course. I don’t know whom the Raptors could get if they lets DeRozan walk, but if he signs elsewhere, they would have just about $19 million in cap space – less than a max salary. I doubt they could land a better replacement.
I’m not sold on DeRozan as a playoff player, though he legitimately took the next step this regular season. But I’d rather keep him, hope he learns to handle the challenges of the postseason and possibly use him in a trade down the road. It’ll cost a max salary if DeRozan isn’t willing to take a discount, but that beats the alternative of losing him for nothing but cap space.
At 30-11, the Cavaliers had the best record ever while firing a coach during a season. Cleveland was the first team in a decade to fire a coach that took it to the NBA Finals the year prior.
Maybe firing David Blatt was the right move, but on the surface, it seemed outrageous.
Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” cleveland.com learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.
Lue’s response was candid and immediate.
“This is f—– up, Griff.”
That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.
Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.
Griffin circled back to his original question.
“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.
“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”
Griffin then congratulated him.
I’m not sure I buy all this. It’d look bad if Lue undermined Blatt in any way.
But the Cavs asked for this situation when they hired the runner-up in their head-coaching search to assist the winner. Lue didn’t have to do anything for that call to happen. The situation opened the door for it.
And it worked out. Lue has done a masterful job guiding the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. We’ll never know how Blatt would’ve done if he remained on the job, but Lue has set an excellent bar. I’m not yet sold Lue is a great head coach, but for this team – and the difficult task of communicating with LeBron James and elevating Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who’d be featured stars on many teams – Lue has been aces.