Tag: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Cleveland Cavaliers' Zydrunas Ilgauskas rests his head on the shoulder of LeBron James in Cleveland

Cavs broadcaster talks LeBron, Ilgauskas’ move to Miami


Joe Tait was the Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster for four decades, starting with when the NBA first dropped an expansion team in Cleveland to try and slow the growth of the ABA.

Tait has a new book out about his recollections as a broadcaster, and of course there’s plenty of talk about LeBron James, something highlighted in a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via I am a GM).

But what jumped out at me is the story of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a part of Cleveland and loved the city but moved on last year, only to be disappointed.

“He went to Miami to try and get a championship ring before he retired,” said Joe. “He wasn’t even in uniform for some of those games in The Finals. He wanted to be a contributor, playing 15, 20 minutes a game and helping a team win a title. He loved, absolutely loved Cleveland. But when LeBron left, he knew they couldn’t win here — and the team wanted to rebuild and get younger. So he went to Miami. I’m telling you, the culture shock was hard on him.”

Joe said one of Ilgauskas’ friends visited the veteran center and his wife in Miami.

“I was told they were never happy, and the longer they were there, it got progressively worse,” he said. “Mrs. Z is from Cleveland. That was a zoo down there. I feel bad for him, because I’m sure it’s not anything close to what he expected.”

If you want LeBron James dirt, this is not the place. Tait liked him and was friends with Gloria (LeBron’s mom). He sees James as a product of his environment as much as anything — from the time he entered high school he could do no wrong, then he played in Cleveland where there was unconditional love and support from the fans while he was there. Owner Dan Gilbert coddled him and let him do what he want. So when James did “The Decision” it was the first time people really turned on him.

Tait’s basic thoughts get summed up this way in the story:

“In Cleveland, if he had a bad game or made a mistake — people would just say that was OK, he’ll play better next time,” said Joe. “He could do no wrong. No wrong at all. Everyone loved LeBron. That’s why he was so surprised by the negative reaction to the ESPN show. . . . He thought everyone would like it because everyone always seemed to like about everything he did.”

When Gilbert wrote an email ripping James and calling him a quitter, Joe said the first thing that crossed his mind was, “Dan, you created the monster, now you have to live with it.”

Zydrunas Ilgauskas officially retires from NBA

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Lithuanian big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas is retiring from the NBA after 13 seasons, 12 of them anchoring he middle for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ilgauskas spoke with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which tweeted his quotes.

Ilgauskas: “enough is enough. My body is beat up and I’m tired physically. There is no age limit, but everyone knows when it’s time.”

More Z: “I want to spend more time with my family. I have spent the last 15 years living out of a suitcase.”

Ilgauskas suffered serious foot injuries before coming to the NBA and had a couple of foot surgeries, not unlike the ones that ended Yao Ming’s career. However, Ilgauskas was just 21-years-old at the time and his body was able recover well enough for him to play at an NBA level. His deft outside touch — he took 5 shots from 16-23 feet a game in 2009 and hit 44 percent of them — allowed him to rack up double-digit scoring per game in 10 of his NBA seasons.

Ilgauskas was beloved in Cleveland, where he stuck with a troubled franchise for years then was a key part of the LeBron James era. Ilgauskas was very involved with some Cleveland area charities and was really part of the community.

There has been talk of retiring Big Z’s number in Cleveland.

Ilgauskas followed LeBron to Miami last season but was unable to provide the inside presence the Heat needed. He was just not physically able to do it anymore.

So he is just going to walk away. He will be missed, he was one of the good guys of the league.

Report: Cavaliers want to retire Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ number

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When Zydrunas Ilgauskas — one of the most beloved players in Cleveland Cavaliers history — followed LeBron James to Miami, there was not any of the same animosity.

In fact, they still want to honor the Lithuanian big man who spent 13 seasons with the Cavaliers by retiring his jersey. That’s the report from lithuaniabasketball.com.

Blame the rookie for not being able to keep his mouth shut about it. According to the report, No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving asked for Ilgauskas’ No. 11 but was told by the team that the number was about to be retired.

It’s a classy move by the Cavaliers. Ilgauskas has meant a lot to that franchise over the years and been deeply involved in the community.