Ilgauskas brought his family and a group of friends to the game against the Mavericks, ready to mark his new achievement. Instead, Ilgauskas was shocked by what was his first "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision" in memory. Mike Brown started Shaquille O'Neal, and never subbed Ilgauskas into the game.
Ilgauskas hasn't talked to reporters, but today his longtime teammate -- one LeBron James -- did. And LeBron, while avoiding outright lyrical maiming of Brown, does not sound like someone happy with the Ilgauskas snub.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, LeBron told reporters today after practice that he and Ilgauskas were both very upset that Z never got into Saturday's game.
"I stand behind Z and whatever Z feels at this point in time, I definitely -- if I was in control of it -- would have put him in, probably would have started him. You could have easily started him and subbed him right out and had the standing ovation from the fans with a timeout. If you didn't want to play him, there were a lot of ways for that accomplishment to be accomplished.The Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer also notes that Ilgauskas refusing to speak with the media is unheard of, as are two other things Z did Saturday: he was the first Cav back to the locker room, and the first Cav out of the arena.
"It's a sensitive subject. I'm not one to raise havoc or raise fire into the locker room or our team. But, for me, I speak the truth. I stand behind Z and I feel like Z not playing wasn't the right thing. As a friend of his, I was very upset, and I know he was also."
Clearly, Brown made a huge mistake in snubbing Ilgauskas on Saturday. It could have been an honest mistake (though I'd doubt it, given the heft of importance LeBron placed on the record) or perhaps it really wasn't the right game for an Ilgauskas appearance. (Given that Ilgauskas might be the best big man on the roster, even at age 33, I'd doubt that too.) Brown has not yet addressed the matter, and the Cavaliers do have two more home games before the team's next road trip. But the damage is done, clearly, whatever the excuse and reparation.
As a frequent defender of Brown over his controversial tenure in Cleveland, bonehead mistakes like this only owe to his reputation as a bumbling dunderhead who can't stay out of his own way while managing a roster featuring the greatest player of this or maybe any generation. I don't think that reputation is fair in general, but it's certainly applicable in this situation.