Agent: Ilgauskas to sign with Miami Heat

source: The Associated Press

MIAMI —Zydrunas Ilgauskas has dealt Cleveland another blow by planning to follow LeBron James to the Miami Heat.

The veteran center, who started playing for Cleveland in 1997 and has never suited up for another NBA team, expects to sign a two-year contract with the Heat later this week, agent Herb Rudoy said Tuesday. The two-year deal would come with a player option for the second season, Rudoy said.

“We’ve agreed to agree," Rudoy said.

Ilgauskas’ decision became known less than a week after James—who played a role in recruiting the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian to South Florida—sparked outrage and outcry in Cleveland by going on a made-for-television special and saying he was joining the Heat.

This departure won’t generate the same reaction from Clevelanders, but it’ll hurt nonetheless.

Ilgauskas was a fan favorite for more than a decade, and when he returned to the Cavs after getting traded to the Washington Wizards this past season, a sellout crowd welcomed him with huge signs bearing the letter “Z"—his moniker. Ilgauskas never played for the Wizards, quickly getting bought out and then returning to Cleveland after a 30-day waiting period.

Playing with James again was a major factor in Ilgauskas’ decision.

LeBron was very encouraging and explained the whole situation," Ilgauskas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “And, obviously, he’s my friend, and him being there made it a lot easier to choose."

On his Twitter feed, James quickly welcomed Ilgauskas to Miami.

“Glad u are joining me in South Beach my friend. Also thanks for the encouraging words big fella," James wrote.

The Heat had no immediate comment. They had talks about acquiring Ilgauskas when he was available this past season after the trade to Washington and buyout that followed.

Ilgauskas is the Cavs’ career leader in games played, blocked shots and rebounds. He was drafted by the club in 1996 and overcame serious foot injuries that nearly ended his career.

He’s just the latest name to join what shapes up as a serious title contender in Miami, joining not only James but Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and presumably Mike Miller, who agreed to a deal late last week that remains unsigned. Agent Arn Tellem wrote on his blog Monday that Miller will play in Miami.

It’s still possible Ilgauskas accepts a one-year deal, though his preference is the multi-year arrangement.

His best chance to win a championship would be in Miami," Rudoy said.

Ilgauskas told Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant the news on Tuesday. James played a role in luring Ilgauskas to Miami, and other teams were interested as well.

Ilgauskas was immensely popular in Cleveland, and expects to keep a home in the city.

“It’s hard," Rudoy said. “It’s been 14 years. It was very hard for him. I know that. When he called Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert today, it was definitely a hard decision at this stage of his career. But he wants to win a championship. That’s how he made this decision."

Playing as a reserve for the first time, Ilgauskas averaged 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds last season. For his career, Ilgauskas has averaged 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds, plus has played in two All-Star games. - AP

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