Cavaliers Weigh Loyalty in Possible Ilgauskas Deal
There's no question Ilgauskas has been loyal to the Cavaliers. But will the Feb. 18 trade deadline pass with the Cavaliers being loyal to him?
Ilgauskas, who has an expiring $11.54 million contract and has told FanHouse he might retire at the end of the season, is a prime piece for Cleveland to trade in this perhaps all-or-nothing effort to win the championship and retain LeBron James. Ilgauskas said "of course'' he doesn't want to be dealt, but he doesn't believe any possible loyalty to him would factor into the decision and doesn't believe it should.
"That has nothing to do with how long I've been here,'' Ilgauskas said in an interview with FanHouse while the Cavaliers were at the Staples Center for Friday's big 102-87 win over the Lakers. "No matter how long I've played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, I always leave with the best memories because I had a great time here. Awesome time.''
Ilgauskas, who moved to the bench this season when the Cavaliers acquired center Shaquille O'Neal and who had a squabble with coach Mike Brown last month when he didn't play in a game that would have enabled him to become Cleveland's all-time leader in games played (he broke the mark the next game), has heard the rumblings he could be dealt.
"Anything can happen,'' Ilgauskas said. "So you just prepare on a daily basis to help your team and you go on from there. So who knows what holds for us in the future in general? So you just enjoy what you have right now.''
There's no urgency to trade Ilgauskas. He shot 3-of-3 from three-point range and scored a season-high 25 points in a 117-104 overtime win at Sacramento last Wednesday.
Then Brown went to a twin-skyscraper lineup of O'Neal and Ilgauskas against the Lakers, starting both in the second half. Although Ilgauskas scored just two points, he had nine rebounds in 30 minutes, only the fourth time all season he's had that many in a game.
But as the trade deadline approaches, the 34-year-old Ilgauskas is a valuable commodity for a team looking to carve out cap room for next summer's big free agency period. While the Cavaliers obviously don't want to help out a team that could go after James, who can opt out of his contract, owner Dan Gilbert certainly might be willing to pick up money down the road for Ilgauskas if it gives Cleveland a better shot at a title this season.
"His name has not come up to me,'' Brown said about the possibility of Ilgauskas being moved by the trade deadline. "So I have not heard that. That's something that you really are going to have to ask (general manager) Danny Ferry that question.''
Ferry did not dismiss the possibility the way Brown did.
"I never rule out anything,'' Ferry said. "But he's been important to us.''
Ferry was asked if it would be very difficult to trade Ilgauskas considering his long tenure with the team and the relationship between the two. Ferry and Ilgauskas became good friends after Ilgauskas was drafted, with Ferry having played for Cleveland from 1990-2000.
"It's hard to trade anyone and especially with people that the organization cares about,'' Ferry said. "It would be hard to trade anyone. Trading people is not something that you ... enjoy doing.''
Nobody in the organization, though, enjoyed the friction that resulted after Ilgauskas didn't play Nov. 28 against Dallas, a night he expected to break the Cleveland record for games played of 723 he shared at the time with Ferry. Ilgauskas was greatly disappointed that, after inviting relatives and friends to see him break a record he treasures, he experienced what was believed to be the first career game he's missed that wasn't due to injury.
There were reports that, after not playing in the first half, Ilgauskas was so disappointed he expressed a desire to not play in the second half. Ilgauskas ended up setting the mark Dec. 2 against Phoenix. But the episode, which included James saying Brown should have played Ilgauskas against Dallas, was a distraction.
"It happened,'' Brown said. "You wish it didn't happen. It did.''
Ilgauskas didn't want to discuss the incident. Ferry said it's in the past.
"Since that particular situation, I think he's played well,'' Ferry said. "I think everybody just wanted to move on from that.''
Since then, Ilgauskas, averaging 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds, has had his only two games this season of scoring more than 15 points. In addition to his outburst against the Kings, he shot 7-of-9 for 16 points and blocked three shots in 22 minutes Dec. 15 against New Jersey.
"I've been playing better the last month,'' said Ilgauskas, who has started six of 30 games after entering the season having started 667 of 707 for his career. "It took me a while to adjust (to coming off the bench). I've been shooting the ball better, just kind of finding my rhythm, maybe not forcing things as much. The start (of the season) was rough but then just settling down. The last month or so I've been playing much better.''
How well Ilgauskas is playing, though, might not play a huge role in whether a team wants to acquire him. His big expiring contract is a valuable NBA commodity.
If there's an enticing offer on the table, the Cavaliers might have to weigh loyalty to Ilgauskas with how much the deal could help them win enough to retain James.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson