On Saturday night, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had his jersey retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers. To an outsider, the event gave you the impression that the franchise was finally moving in the right direction.
Everyone who should’ve been there was there; former coaches, former staffers, the former owner, and former players. Even the team’s most high profile former player, LeBron James, was there. And that alone would make one believe that the Cavs have come a long way.
But according to Jason Lloyd of The Beacon Journal, everything isn’t as rosy as it seemed on Saturday.
Though they won’t say it publicly, the Cavs still believe they can lure LeBron James back to Cleveland. And the fact that the relationship between James and the team has gotten much better is one of the reasons why there is still hope in Cleveland.
The potential problem in all of this is former GM Chris Grant is the primary reason for the improved relationship. He worked tirelessly trying to mend the relationship with James through his friend and agent, Rich Paul. But Grant is gone. Now add in that Ilgauskas, who James absolutely loves, will also likely be relieved of his role as assistant to the general manager, and you begin to wonder if James would be willing to return.
Now Grant is gone and Ilgauskas, the man James adores, the man for whom he made this highly unusual trip, will likely be next. It’s an open secret in certain circles that Ilgauskas is unhappy in his role with the Cavs. He was the assistant to the general manager, only that general manager is gone.
Ilgauskas has become a ghost at Cavs games, rarely spotted around Cleveland Clinic Courts or the Q since Grant was fired. It’s what made Saturday’s ceremony so surreal. There remains palpable unhappiness from Ilgauskas toward certain facets of the organization, yet all that was put aside and the halftime show with no budget went off as planned Saturday night.
Lloyd paints a picture of Grant using Ilgauskas’ moment as just another chance to strengthen the relationship with James even further.
It’s no coincidence how this night was chosen. The Cavs, and specifically Grant, carefully selected this date. The Heat were off for the previous two nights and happened to be in Chicago, just a short flight away. The New York Knicks, and by extension a larger-than-usual visiting media contingent, just happened to be in town. That’s what made this the perfect night for what was perhaps the first gigantic step toward James’ return to this franchise.
It was all the intricate planning of the former general manager, who was the architect for this ceremony and James’ role in it months ago. The rest of us didn’t figure it out until last week.
As for Ilgauskas’ future, no one really expects Z to return to this role next season.
So while it may seem that the Cavs had gotten themselves together, behind closed doors they seem to be the same ol’ Cavs.