Zydrunas Ilgauskas has played two games for the Cavaliers since re-signing with the team on Tuesday. His true return to Cleveland, however, comes later today with Big Z plays his 'first' game in front of fans - the same fans that Ilgauskas says were a major reason he decided to come back.
"It will be emotional; I look forward to it," Ilgauskas said. "In front of your own fans, it is always easier to play. Whatever they do, it will be much appreciated by me."
There is a special connection between Ilgauskas and the fans of Cleveland. Whether it be what Z went through off the court with multiple surgeries on both feet, or on the court, playing for some of the worst Cavaliers teams in history, Z has been part of it all. Now, with the Cavaliers looking at perhaps their best shot at a NBA Championship, it only seems right that Z be part of it all.
"It is something the fans have been waiting on for a long time," LeBron James said. "It is always hard to come back on the road, but the fans are definitely going to welcome him on Sunday."
You can credit the Cavaliers with one thing, however, they know how to atone for a mistake. In November, with Ilgauskas set to break the franchise record for most games played, Z was a DNP-Coaches Decision for what is believed to be the first time in his career. While he did take the high road, Z was angered by the move - as were many of his teammates.
While Z is not expected to start, there is no doubt Z will play - and likely early - and the Cavs have rolled out the virtual red-carpet.
According to the Cavaliers, the team has a number of Ilgauskas-themed promotions planned. Fans will be given "Z" signs, the Cavs will be known as the "Cavz" and The Q as The Z for the day. T-shirts celebrating Ilgauskas' return will be on sale, and throughout the game videos featuring Ilgauskas, dating back to his rookie season (1997-98), will be shown.
Whenever Ilgauskas enters the game it will surely be a special moment. Sure, Z is not Jim Brown, but he is a Cleveland Sports Legend and he is back where he belongs - as a Cavalier.