Justice Is Served

February 25, 2010 11:32 PM

Z, can any city but Cleveland be your choice?


Of course Z's coming back, isn't he?

Nothing else makes sense. Does it? After all, that had to be the reason, deep inside all the posturing and front-office head-fakes, Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry included center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the three-team trade that brought power forward Antawn Jamison to Cleveland.

Yes, Jamison was a needed piece here, and so was Z.

The Cavs, though their roster is loaded with talent, might not be able to compete seriously for the NBA championship without Z. He's an irreplaceable piece of any run the team hopes to make toward its first title.

Much like LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, Ilgauskas can create nightmares for opposing defenders. Z's long and tall, and he has an outside game that big men must respect. His presence opens room for LeBron to slash to the rim, and with Z on the floor, Jamison becomes even more effective.

And if the Cavaliers want to play big, coach Mike Brown can put a giant team on the court in Z, LeBron, Shaq, Jamison and Anthony Parker or Delonte West. Now, let Phil Jackson's Lakers try to match up with that lineup of oak trees - and Kobe be damned.

Getting 7-foot-3 Z back in wine and gold makes the Cavs the most imposing team in the Eastern Conference, and if their fans can dare believe it, a Cavs team with Z might well be the best team in the NBA.

Now, the only concern will be this: Does Z want to return?

As expected, the Wizards bought out Z's contract, which will allow him to test the open market. He's a free agent, a not-so pricy free agent who could beef up any team's playoff prospects.

A handful of teams can use a player like him. A handful of teams want him, especially for what he will cost them -- pocket change, literally, in NBA dollars. He should find suitors aplenty, even if they only want to keep him from the Cavaliers.

But for Z, 34, to sign with anybody but the Cavs would border on lunacy. Like most NBA players, he wants a championship ring. His best chance of getting one this season is to come back to the city where he's spent nearly all of his career with: Cleveland.

His wife and children are here; Cleveland is his home. His NBA friends are here. He understands this city and its team better than he does any other city or team. Plus, he and LeBron are sidekicks, so this looks like the closest thing to a slam-dunk decision that Z, unless the itch of having to sit out a month before he can re-sign doesn't overtake him, can find.

The Cavs are calling, man.

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