Nov 30, 2010, 4:50 PM EDT
One of the legendary names of Cavaliers basketball, a guy who was part of the fabric of the community, is coming to town for the first time in another jersey on Thursday. And he’s not sure what the reception will be.
No, not that guy. We’re talking about Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Big Z spent a dozen years in Cleveland — he has played more games, grabbed more rebounds and blocked more shots than any Cavalier in history — and became entrenched there. He was the guy who often was the face of the team at charity events. He was one of the most beloved Cavaliers.
Now he’s a member of the most hated Heat, having gone to South Beach with LeBron James. He told the Associated Press he is not sure what kind of reception awaits him Thursday night when the Heat come to Quicken Loans Arena.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what to expect,” Ilgauskas said. “It’s my first time as a visitor. I’m not going to separate myself from the team. I’m part of the Heat now, so these are my guys and obviously we are going to get a harsh, harsh reception as a team.”
“I know it’s going to be a hard, emotional game,” said Ilgauskas, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian who Cleveland drafted in 1996. “But that’s life, so you cannot worry.”
There doesn’t seem to be the same resentment toward Ilgauskas that there is for James. Both left as free agents and went to Miami looking to win a ring, but the circumstances and style with which the two went about their choices were different.
Ilgauskas still has a home in Cleveland and talks about retiring there. However retirement is a few years away, in the mean time he wants to keep playing and wants to win that elusive ring.
But he wants to do it with Cleveland’s public enemy No. 1, for that team in Miami, and for that reason he will not be welcomed back completely with open arms. Well, at least not for 48 minutes.