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Cavs' Ilgauskas Deals With Painful Losses
When Pollard saw Ilgauskas in the locker room before his first practice, he opened his arms and shouted, "Z!" It took several days, however, before the man Pollard playfully calls "the lengthy Lithuanian" began to act remotely like himself again. He didn't smile for days. The two later went out to dinner, spoke briefly about Ilgauskas's hardship, and shortly thereafter he was "smiling and laughing around here again," Pollard said. "For a while there it was pretty touch and go."
"It was tough being a teammate, to search for the right things to say to help him out," forward Drew Gooden said of Ilgauskas. "I never brought it up."
Pollard said that he was somewhat surprised even to see Ilgauskas return at all.
"At our age, with as much money as he's made in his career, a tragedy like that can make you question if you want to continue playing," Pollard said. "When I was a kid, my dad died when I was 16 and I thought about not playing. Turns out it was the best thing for me [to keep playing]. This keeps his mind on basketball, the happy things in life."
Ilgauskas struggled to focus in his first few games back, but Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown, having learned from his experiences the previous year with Hughes, admitted that he didn't try to push Ilgauskas too hard.
"I understand there is a tragedy," Brown said. "It's a tough, delicate situation and you have to let your emotions lead you instead of the other stuff. I have compassion. You've got to step back a little bit."
Ilgauskas found his rhythm on the floor in his fifth game back, notching 14 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime win at Detroit on March 7. Now he is hoping to help the Cavaliers go deep into the playoffs.
"Eventually, you know, just being around guys helped me when I was here, at least, to forget all of the stuff going on outside with our family," Ilgauskas said. "In the long run, it was good for me."