Ilgauskas gets release from Wizards, Hawks make pitch

Hawks hope to convince Big Z to leave Cleveland behind. (giantbomb.com)

Hawks hope to convince Big Z to leave Cleveland behind. (giantbomb.com)

The Wizards and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas completed a buyout agreement this morning and the Hawks have already made their pitch for the 7-foot-3 center to join them instead of returning to the Cavaliers.

“Once he clears waivers and becomes a free agent (on Monday), hopefully he will consider us,” Hawks general manager Rick Sund said today. “We talked to his agent. He knows we are interested, as are a couple other teams.”

Hawks coach Mike Woodson and some key players said Ilgauskas would be a great fit.

“He’d bring ‘veteranship,’” Woodson said. “And he can still play. He’s a big presence on the block, he can make shots, he can make free throws, he can rebound and he can block shots. ”

Hawks forward Joe Smith said he plans to contact Ilgauskas, his teammate during Smith’s two stints in Cleveland during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

“I will try to reach out to him and see what he’s thinking,” Smith said. “I hope his mind is not made up.”

It is widely assumed Ilgauskas will return to the Cavaliers, who drafted him in 1997. He has said his “heart is in Cleveland” but his agent said Ilgauskas will consider signing with the Hawks and will take his time with the decision.

Dallas, Denver, and Utah also are expected to recruit Ilgauskas. The Cavs would have to wait 30 days after they traded Ilgauskas (March 19) to re-sign him while any other team can sign him after he clears waivers on Monday at 2 p.m. No team in the league has the necessary salary-cap space to claim Ilgauskas off waivers.

In order to become a free agent and join a contender, Ilgauskas gave back $1.5 million of the prorated portion of his $11.5 million salary due, according to the Washington Post. The Hawks have both their mid-level and bi-annual salary-cap exceptions available but it’s not expected that Ilgauskas’ prorated salary will be large enough to need them. That puts the Hawks and his other suitors on roughly the same level with salary offers.

Ilgauskas’ motivations aren’t clear beyond his desire to play for a team capable of making a deep playoff run. If he’s looking for playing time the Hawks and Jazz appear to offer him the best opportunity for minutes among the teams reported to be interested.

Hawks forward Josh Smith said Ilgauskas would play a big role for the Hawks.

“I will try to get his number from Joe and give him a call and tell him how much we want him here,” Smith said.

“We need a guy like that,” said Hawks All-Star center Al Horford. “I hope our people can make that happen because he would be a big key for us.”

Ilgauskas would add three things the Hawks can use: size, shooting and playoff experience (64 games).

“He’s a guy that is good with shooting on the pick-and-pop,” Horford said. “He’s a big body. We already have some of those but you need as many as you can get for the playoffs, especially an experienced guy like that.”

Ilgauskas, 34, had foot problems early in his career but played in 73 or more games in each season from 2002-08. He played in 65 games last season and 53 this season, when he was relegated to a backup role behind Shaquille O’Neal.

“He’s just as healthy as anyone else,” Joe Smith said. “He didn’t have any problems in both years I was with him.”

The Hawks likely will try to sell Ilgauskas on playing time in their power rotation. In Cleveland he was playing a career-low 20.5 minutes per game in a frontcourt that included O’Neal, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. Now the Cavaliers also have power forward Antawn Jamison, who was acquired from Washington in the three-team trade that included Ilgauskas.

Ilgauskas would stand to get significant minutes in the Hawks’ power rotation. Jason Collins, the only 7-footer on the roster, has played sparingly. Zaza Pachulia (6-11), the primary reserve at center, has struggled lately. Horford (6-10), the starter at center, could play power forward alongside Ilgauskas with Josh Smith at small forward, a position he played early in his career.

“I’m down for whatever position they want me to play,” Josh Smith said. “If it means going big for matchups, that’s cool.”

The only true center playing significant minutes behind Utah’s Mehmet Okur is third-year player Kyrylo Fesenko. The Nuggets start Nene at center with defensive specialist Chris Andersen backing him up. The Mavericks recently acquired center Brendan Haywood to back up longtime starter Erick Dampier, who is out with a hand injury.

The Cavaliers, who lead the Eastern Conference, appear to have the best shot at the Finals among the teams pursuing Ilgauskas. The Hawks are seven games behind Cleveland in fourth place and could try to sell Ilgauskas on being the player to help them reach the next level in the playoffs.

“We are playing well,” Joe Smith said. “We’ve got just as good of a shot at the Finals as anyone.”

The Hawks do not plan to pursue veteran guard Larry Hughes, who recently was waived by the Sacramento Kings. It is believed the Hawks aren’t inclined to use their 14th roster spot for a perimeter player, which also means Mike James wouldn’t be considered after he gets an expected buyout from the Wizards.

The Hawks also are not expected to pursue 7-foot center Mikki Moore, a free agent who is looking to get back into the league after heel surgery in December.

MC

206 comments Add your comment

dap01

February 25th, 2010
11:32 am

MC: What is the best offer that the Hawks can offer Big Z? What can they do to set themselves apart from the other suitors? Can and will they offer more than the others?

SOUTHERN HAWKS FAN

February 25th, 2010
11:35 am

do you see the hawks really going after him or just a token offer, and do you really believe its not a done deal that he heads back to cle

D21

February 25th, 2010
11:36 am

Hi Michael,

maybe you should add the fact that between these teams, ATL is the only one with its full MLE available (even if Big Z won’t look at the money first).

BONE

February 25th, 2010
11:36 am

He would be a huge upgrade over PaFOOLia

jokurone

February 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Definately need the Big Z and I don’t mean ZAZA Get him and we go all the way?

dap01

February 25th, 2010
11:42 am

ZaZa has lost it. As of now, he is a wasted $5.0 million each year and he is definitely not the backup center that we need.

This team needs a defensive minded big man or an offensive minded one that can step out and hit a jumper.

darrell starks

February 25th, 2010
11:53 am

Tell zaza 2 call him now.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

February 25th, 2010
11:55 am

Rick sund tell biz z if he come 2 the hawks he will starte day 1, and tell mr. woody if he dont starte big z he will be fired.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
11:55 am

Question…Is the prorated league minimum the most any team can offer Z?

Hoops

February 25th, 2010
12:03 pm

This is a no brainer for the Hawks! Offer him a two year deal now!!!

SWATlantadolfan

February 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

You guys leave ZaZa alone, he and Z can play together, were going to need both of them if we are going to get past Cleveland or Orlando

Brian

February 25th, 2010
12:11 pm

How is he gonna find minutes on the Cavs? They already cut down what he had been averaging the past few seasons and keep bringing other players into the front court. He would help out the Hawks a lot.

Gilley

February 25th, 2010
12:11 pm

I will remain optimistic as much as possible…..he will be a great addition if used effectively (Wont hold my breath) but that’s if he even signs. I think him even considering other teams is a ploy by his agent so it won’t seem like there was a pre-arraigned deal. But if he is not signed by March 1 he can’t be on the playoff roster and the Cavs have to wait 30 days? So what would be the point right? I am confused. Someone please expound.

Ree Roe

February 25th, 2010
12:13 pm

MC,

If we don’t get Z are there any other players the Hawks are likely to go after?

-REEfried Roe!!!

Marcus

February 25th, 2010
12:15 pm

From Ilgauskas perspective, what compelling reason is there for him to go anywhere but back to CLE?

He knows the system, he knows his role, and arguably they have the best chance be the Eastern Conf. rep in this years’ finals. Money apparently isn’t a big factor, as he just gave 1.5 mil back to WSH.

darrell starks

February 25th, 2010
12:17 pm

Marvin is horrible he should not be starting, maybe if the hawks bring marvin of the bench it will bring his confidence back.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gilley

February 25th, 2010
12:18 pm

@Marcus will he even get to play in the playoffs though? They must wait 30 days to sign him and players must be signed with their teams by March 1st to be on playoff roster so I heard

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

Go get ‘im, Hawks!

Start: Bibby, Iso-Joe, J-Smoove, Al Horford and Big-Z.
Off bench: Teague, Crossover Crawford, Marvin Wiliams, Joe Smith, ZaZa

Finally, everybody is playing their natural position.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 25th, 2010
12:24 pm

Gilley, the NBA made an exception to that rule. They announced that they will not interfere with the transaction and that he could be eligible to make playoffs. Talk about monopoly, dude. Why don’t they just hand the Cavs the championship?

Traceman

February 25th, 2010
12:25 pm

It is a no brainer for the Hawks to go after Big Z and they should use all of their available resources to go after him. I’m not sure exactly what they have available due to conflicting reports but I think they have the full MLE ($5.8M) available.

I don’t know if salary cap exceptions have to be prorated but if they do, the Hawks should offer a prorated portion of the full MLE to Big Z. The season is 68% gone and 32% of $5.8M is $1.86M. According to Hoopshype, we are sitting at $65.876M in salary right now. The luxury tax threshold per Larry Coon’s site is $69.920M. If those numbers are correct, we can spend a little over $4M and not exceed the luxury tax. I hope the ASG is willing to spend up to that amount to get Big Z.

darrell starks

February 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

MARCUS in cle BIG Z wont starte thats why he wont go back, and if BIG Z come 2 the hawks he starte day 1.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!

Brian

February 25th, 2010
12:28 pm

You hit the nail on the head Stirg. That sounds like a plan. Send big Randolph Morris walking and Mario West off the roster and that will make it happen.

Ree Roe

February 25th, 2010
12:30 pm

@ Stirg, why would you want Josh to be our 3? If he’s our small forward, that means he’ll handle the ball alot more & he’ll set up on the perimeter. Josh is more effective in the post working alongside Al. If he’s out on the wing he’ll probably start taking more jumpshots (which is not what we want). Josh is our starting PF & Al is our C. Z would be a backup here.

-REElated to Roe!!!

darrell starks

February 25th, 2010
12:30 pm

STARTER BIBBY, JOE, JOSH, HORFORD, BIG Z
BENCH JAMAL, MOE, MARVIN, JOE SMITH, ZAZA
RESERVE TEAGUE, COLLINS
STREET CLOTHES MORRIS, MARIO
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

Publix

February 25th, 2010
12:31 pm

Big Z would fit in perfect. Use Stirg d’Nahsif lineup and we have a chance. Now at the end of the year, we need to get rid of Marvin.

Gilley

February 25th, 2010
12:32 pm

@Stirg d’Nahsif

Oh ok Thanks for answering!!!

Astro Joe

February 25th, 2010
12:33 pm

At his age and with his injury history, it is doubtful that Ilgauskas would even want to play 28+ minutes a game if such a job were available. He has a chance to return to a team and city that has been his home for 13 years AND happens to have a great chance for a championship. So he’s supposed to walk away from that for more playing time? Let’s see PT or a ring? PT or a ring? Remember John Salley sitting on a Chicago bench and cheering wildly for MJ and Pippen? I think Z will do more than that but if that’s all he does, I have a feeling that would be fine with him. After fighting through all of those foot surgeries, if he wants to put his feet up and lounge his way to a ring, he deserves it.

If Sund strikes out with Z (as I expect), I just hope that he is truly commited to consider other options to upgrade the roster.

D21

February 25th, 2010
12:33 pm

@Gilley: to be playoff eligible, he doesn’t have to be signed before March 1st, he had to be waived. He can then sign when he wants.

Ry

February 25th, 2010
12:35 pm

Waste of time…espn reported that he already flew back to Cleveland this morning. I am sure they are working on details of the agreement even though he can’t rejoin them for 30 days. They will probably have contract details worked out by tomorrow.

Pete

February 25th, 2010
12:36 pm

This AVERAGE player has spent 50% of his over paid career with broken bones in his feet. He’s as fragile as Jerious Norwood of the Falcons.
No thanks.

Fundamentals

February 25th, 2010
12:42 pm

MC

We need to really investigate what waivers are coming in terms of a PG or Post defender. Potentially even a SF who could also play solid D & rebound, as well as shoot the 3 and penetrate?

Big Z might be nice to think about, but that’s alot of headlines for a guy who’s 95% sure he’s headed back to CLE.

IREPATL

February 25th, 2010
12:48 pm

i find it funny this guy is the talk of our team when hes not even coming here

Traceman

February 25th, 2010
12:49 pm

Marvin is struggling but benching him for the likes of Zaza or Mo is not the answer. His biggest issue right now is confidence and I don’t think benching him is going to help in that regard. Neither Mo nor Zaza is even close to Marvin from a talent perspective and neither has ever produced to the level Marvin produced at just last year as a 22 year old. Last year, Marvin’s efficiency rating was better than Jamal’s is right now so I know the guy can be productive, he just has to find his game.

Being at the game last night, I saw Mo, Joe Smith and Jamal all pull Marvin to the side at different times, trying to encourage him. They are veteran players who have been in slumps before and it was great to see the support and leadership they showed in trying to encourage their young teammate. Watching those guys do that just reinforces my belief that Jamal, Mo and Joe Smith are all quality guys that we are lucky to have on this team.

I think Woody is doing the right thing by decreasing Marvin’s minutes when he struggles. Woody might try playing him with that second unit some when they come in at the end of the 2nd quarter and then letting Mo get the minutes with the starters at the end of the 2nd to shake things up a little but I wouldn’t bench Marvin as long as we are winning. However, if we start losing and he continues to play poorly, then Woody has to do what he has to do.

I remain a HUGE Marvin fan and I still believe in him. I saw Smoove struggle last year after signing his new deal and I see how well he has bounced back this year. Many other players have done exactly the same thing. I believe Marvin will bounce back as well, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Section 303

February 25th, 2010
12:50 pm

Big Z would be a nice add, but he is not essential. Remember, guys, this is not a superstar player we are talking about. If the Hawks get him, that’s great. If not, then the season will go on as normal.

Some are acting like the fate of the organization rides on getting Big Z. It doesn’t.

Bibby for Devin Harris

February 25th, 2010
12:50 pm

It’s not gonna happen……he will wait 30 days….

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
12:50 pm

He could of just flew back to Cleve b/c thats where his home is. All I’ve read so far on this is that teams will only be offering a prorated league minimum to Z, Why?

Traceman

February 25th, 2010
12:52 pm

Ree Roe,

You are right on about Smoove. Putting him at SF would be a HORRIBLE mistake. He is a PF. Al might be a PF too but he is a better Center than Smoove is a SF.

Traceman

February 25th, 2010
12:54 pm

Ted M,

Teams like CLE, DEN and POR who have expressed interest in Big Z only have a prorated portion of the vet minimum to offer. I’m sure they would offer more if they could.

D21

February 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

@Section 303: it’s not that simple, it’s not Z with ATL, or not, It’s, if you face CLE, having Z with ATL and not with CLE, against ATL without Z and CLE now with Jamison + Z back.

Signing Z would be a little more for ATL, AND a little less for CLE. And his impact can be more important in ATL than in CLE.

IREPATL

February 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

lol “Ilgauskas has already returned to cleveland on a flight this afternoon” <<<<<<there you have it folks

doc

February 25th, 2010
1:02 pm

big z here? … yeah right. wake me when he signs. zzzzzzz

GeeMack

February 25th, 2010
1:04 pm

Astro Joe,

Thanks for bringing some reality to the pipe dreamer about acquiring Big Z.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 25th, 2010
1:05 pm

Ree-Roe and Traceman, Z plays the perimeter, often; he shoots long range jumpers. That removes the opponents big man from down low and allows Horford and Smoove to do their thing. Lastly, there are more power forwards that can check J-Smoove than there are small forwards. Z would be a perfect fit.

Jay

February 25th, 2010
1:06 pm

Why does everyone want to move josh to the SF, but doesnt want him shooting 3’s????? Josh will not work at the 3. When i hear this i know you dont watch games. this team is built to be a 4 on 5 fastbreak(when they remember)every time down the court and we should accept that.I will take big Z off the bench, but Marvin is the problem.

Westurd

February 25th, 2010
1:07 pm

I heard Hakeem the Dream is coming out of retirement and joining the Hawks

Ree Roe

February 25th, 2010
1:08 pm

@ IREPATL, you do realize he lives in CLE & his family is there too. Contrary to popular belief I don’t think he’s made his decision on where to go just yet although I believe CLE is still the favorite. If his agent wasn’t just giving lip service about Z considering us, ATL might be more attractive than many of you give us credit for. He can compete for a title here & him coming here makes us thar much stronger.

-REEally it’s Roe!!!

AtlSouthside

February 25th, 2010
1:09 pm

Get her done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Exactly what we need…. A legit 7footer

Ree Roe

February 25th, 2010
1:16 pm

@ Stirg, again Josh as a 3 is a bad move for us. Josh as a perimeter player will handle the ball more, shoot more jump shots & be less likely to play in the paint. That equals turnovers, I’ll advised jumpshots & less rebounds. On a defensive end, Josh would be on the opposing team’s best swingman (Lebron, Carmelo, Durant, etc) and that would take away his effectiveness as our only shot blocker on the team & exploit his weakness as an on ball defender. Josh IS NOT A 3. It’s a bad move to switch him from the PF position.

-REEticulate it for Roe!!!

MsDee

February 25th, 2010
1:19 pm

Marvin can be what Jamal is to the team,,a breathe of fresh air off the bench. Mo Evans can start but Marvin can and should get starter minutes just like Jamal is getting. Jamal is looking and playing a heck of a lot better coming off the bench than he ever did starting with New York or even Golden State. Starting Mo would give us the offense that Marvin couldnt do with JJ or Smoove in the game. Also, by letting Jamal & Marvin come off the bench, Teague will then have Marvin to hopefully get some assists from since Zaza and Joe Smith hasnt been helping much. So I think it could be a win-win situation. What do u guys think??

IREPATL

February 25th, 2010
1:20 pm

@ree, idk if i dont really see why he would leave the best team in the leaugue to come to us, lol joe says the same thing. only way i see him coming here is if he wants more pt, thats it, a huy like z does not care about the city or money for that matter, he’s abbout done in this league and needs to win a ring, truethfully i believe he would sign with denver before us and they seem to be more aggressive than we are in trying to get him

“There hasn’t been a day go by that I haven’t heard from Mark (Warkentien, the Nuggets’ vice president of basketball operations),” Herb Rudoy, Ilgauskas’ agent, said Wednesday. “He had a great relationship with ‘Z’ (back in Cleveland). Mark has been very aggressive to convince me to convince ‘Z.’ “