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.
Luka Doncic? Marvin Bagley III? Jaren Jackson Jr.?
If you were in the shoes of Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings, who would you draft No. 2?
In this latest PBT Podcast, Kurt Helin and Rob Dauster (who has been writing the in-depth prospect profiles such as Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., Deandre Ayton, and others — of NBC Sports try on those shoes — and go an unexpected direction with it — as well as breaking down the rest of the draft such as the risers, the sleepers, and is Michael Porter Jr. worth the risk?
Also, in the bigger picture, are we focused too much on the bigs at the top of this draft — the majority of guys who will go in the top six — when we just saw in the last two rounds of the NBA playoffs that a lot of bigs can’t stay on the court in those situations? Which of these draftees can?
As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.
The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.
Is a coaching change enough to fix them?
Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.
So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.
Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.
All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.
Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.
But what about more marginal first-round prospects?
The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.
The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):
Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.
Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.
Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.
This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.
Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.
Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.
This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.
I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.
Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.
Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.
Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.