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.
Chris Paul broke his finger Saturday.
The initial diagnosis said the injury wasn’t serious.
Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
Paul obviously wouldn’t push it during the preseason. If the Clippers are allowing him to play, this can’t be bad.
Really, the most challenging aspect to this is grasping the concept that a broke finger can be a minor injury.
Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.
It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.
A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.
That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.
Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.
Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.
I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.
This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.