The Immortality of Zydrunas: Cavs to Retire Big Z's No. 11


The Cavs announced yesterday that they'll be retiring Zydrunas Ilgauskas's number 11 in a ceremony before the March 8 game against the New York Knicks. But don't hop on StubHub just yet; tickets won't go on sale until Dec. 7.

Ilgauskas, the 7'3" Lithuanian drafted 20th overall by the Cavs in the first round of the 1996 draft, holds the franchise records for games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), total rebounds (5,904), and blocks (1,269). He also trails only LeBron in total points scored and minutes played.

The tragedy of Ilgausksas's career, of course, is the nonstop barrage of foot injuries which derailed huge chunks of his potential prime. Do you remember how frustrating that all was?

He sat out the entirety of the '96-'97 season, played a commendable rookie season one year removed in '97-'98, then played only five total games through the course of the next two campaigns. He returned in 2000, but appeared in only 24 games before fracturing some other obscure bone in his foot. AHHH!

It wasn't until '02-'03 that he played a full healthy season and contributed at the level execs had always anticipated. Then he kept chugging for 7 more seasons with the Cavaliers, putting up 13-and-7s (with occasional glorious offensive bursts) night in and night out.

Without the early injuries, his Games Played dominance would have been even more stratospheric. Right now, to put things in perspective, the current Cavalier with the most games played is Andy Varejao. Even with significant time missed over the past three seasons due to injury, he's still managed to appear in 469 games through nine seasons.

After Andy? It's Alonzo Gee, who's appeared in 185 games over 3 seasons. Ilgauskas's record appears to be safe for the time being.

Here's GM Chris Grant on Big Z's contributions:

Zydrunas represents the very best of how any sports franchise would hope to be represented. He was a hard working competitor who persevered, was dedicated, inspiring, and was a great teammate. As good as he was on the court, he was just as good off the court and in our community...His jersey hanging in The Q will be a permanent reflection of all that he has meant to the entire organization and Cleveland.

And here's Z improbably lighting it up in overtime against the Kings.

Yesterday's announcement came before an authoritative Cavs' victory last night against the morgue-bound Philadelphia 76ers. The current Cavs' squad moves to 3-2 in the preseason thanks to strong play from Kyrie Irving (17 pts, 12 assists), and Tristan Thompson (15 pts, 16 rbs).

Injuries continue to complicate Mike Brown's rotational experiments. Last night, rookie Sergey Karasev left the game with a sprained ankle. He's now listed as day-to-day. Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack also didn't play last night, though their conditions aren't thought to be serious. Tyler Zeller is still recuperating from his appendectomy and Andrew Bynum is inching toward competitive play. C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee started on the wings last night.

And Henry Sims, bless him, tallied 14 pts on 6-6 shooting in only 20 minutes of play. He's just got a beautiful mid-range touch. Here's hoping his feet don't explode.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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