Since being drafted in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has taken part in one of the most eventful careers in NBA history. Between 1996 and 2001, the young center had five different surgeries on both of his feet; each time he’d recover, he’d return to the floor only to break yet another bone.
But Ilgauskas withstood each of these obstacles and, over the last 14 seasons, has morphed himself into one of the greatest players in franchise history. He holds the franchise record for blocked shots, defensive rebounds, total rebounds and games played. Perhaps most importantly, Z has accomplished these feats while remaining the most well-liked and respected individual in the organization, from the top down. Majority Owner Dan Gilbert said, “His journey to this point has been remarkable in many ways and we all have a great deal of respect and admiration for what Z has accomplished.”
He has remained loyal to the franchise through the ups and downs of his 14 year career. He took a back seat to Shaquille O’Neal this season and was used as trade bait to bring Antawn Jamison to Cleveland – only to rejoin the city and team that he loves so much. Though he has never won a championship, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a winner. And his contributions to this team, and to this franchise, will never be forgotten.
This offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are faced with a rather large issue – a 7 foot-three inch issue, to be exact. Should Ilgauskas retire now or should he hang around for one more year? And, if he chooses to hang around, should Cleveland be the team to resign him?
I like Ilguaksas; I really do. He’s a great guy and a great teammate. But when you’re time is up – and Lord knows Z’s best years are behind him – it’s more respectable to retire. Especially when you pose such a potential moral issue for the franchise that you dearly love. If Z decides to stick around, Cleveland may almost be obligated to extend a contract offer in his direction due simply to the blood and sweat the Large Lithuanian has given to the city. But, as he proved to fans this season, he is no longer capable of playing the game of basketball at a high level. He’s too slow to defend the pick-and-roll and is no longer an offensive threat due to his struggles shooting this season.
I just hope he retires this offseason – though still holds an integral role within the team – so that a) he doesn’t play for another team or b) he doesn’t spend the last season of his career parked at the end of the bench.
What do you think?