Posts Tagged ‘Zydrunas Ilgauskas’

The day the rafters almost got ‘Big Z’


VIDEO: Big Z’s No. 11 is raised to the rafters

That warm, embracing jersey-number retirement ceremony in Cleveland Saturday night for Zydrunas Ilgauskas? The one that even LeBron James, in a true show of respect to a admired teammate, felt was mandatory to attend?

It never happens if Ilgauskas had been sitting 18 inches to the right…

I’ve told this story before but the timing is right again, what with Ilgauskas’ No. 11 hoisted into the Q’s rafters: Before Big Z was drafted in 1996, maybe a year before, he came to Minnesota with the Timberwolves’ Euro scout Boris Karebin for some medical procedure on one of his feet (a sign of uncomfortable things to come). He visited the Timberwolves’ practice one afternoon, a gawky 7-foot-3 unknown, and sat on a bench up against one wall.

The practice was being videotaped by the team from a balcony/running track above (this was at the practice court in the health club beneath Target Center, where club members could peer down and watch Christian Laettner, Isaiah (J.R.) Rider & Co. through entire sessions). As the video guy was packing up, he dropped his tripod over the railing and the heavy metal gadget crashed down onto the bench below — right next to Ilgauskas. Scared the heck out of everyone, with a few sheepish, awkward sideway glances to follow, as the realization of what almost happened hit home.

Eighteen inches over, Big Z gets craniumed and maybe isn’t around for the jersey-number retirement. So Ilgauskas got the rafters Saturday but about 19 years ago, the rafters nearly got him. And now you know the rest of the story…

Morning Shootaround — March 4


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Mar. 3

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron runs wild on Charlotte | Nash may not play again this season | Big Z’s special guest for Saturday | Abdul-Jabbar, Bridgeman want stake in Bucks?

No. 1: LeBron goes bonkers vs. Bobcats — This far into his career, it seems there are few things LeBron James can do amaze those who follow him or are just NBA fans. But yet, last night in Miami, James found yet another way to add to his lore. He scored a franchise-record 61 points in Miami’s rout of Charlotte, nailing eight 3-pointers and fashioning a night of scoring wonder that harkened back to his days as a Cleveland Cavalier. Our Sekou Smith excellently details how James’ monster night has added a new chapter to a history that is already plenty robust:

What do you do for an encore of one of the greatest months in NBA history? When you’re LeBron James you turn in one of the greatest nights of your storied career.The Heat star had a February for the ages, becoming the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2003 to average 30 or more points and eight or more rebounds while shooting better than 57 percent from the field for an entire calendar month (a minimum of five games played). Toss in LeBron’s seven assists a game in February and only Wilt Chamberlain, in February of 1966 has had a wicked stretch of that sort.

That’s why LeBron going for a career-high 61 points in the Heat’s 124-107 home win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday ranks right up there among his greatest performances ever. He did it with a mask on, protecting his recently broken nose. He did it with Dwyane Wade resting in street clothes, as part of ongoing maintenance program. And he did it with work from all over the floor, including a career-high tying eight made 3-pointers.

He needed just 33 shots, 22 makes, to notch the 10th game of 50 or more points of his career and his first outing of 60 or more. He’s one of just five players to reach the 60-point plateau shooting better than 65 percent since the 1985-86 season — joining Carmelo Anthony from earlier this season, Shaq in 2000 and Tom Chambers and Karl Malone (both in 1990) as the only players to accomplish that feat.

How many other guys can get 60-plus points without it becoming an absolute hysterical exercise from one basket to the next? If you watch the highlights, it looks just like any other night from LeBron … save, of course, for the 3-point storm he rained down on the Bobcats.

***

No. 2: Nash likely done for seasonRecurring injuries to the roster have sapped any overall sense of hope the Los Angeles Lakers might have had for 2013-14. On the top of that list of injuries has been point guard Steve Nash, who has played in just 10 games this season. He’s unlikely to be back in the lineup before the end of this campaign, writes ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin:

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni thinks we’ve seen the last of Steve Nash on the court for the 2013-14 season. Does that mean Nash has played the last basketball of his brilliant 18-year NBA career?”I doubt it,” D’Antoni said after the Lakers’ shootaround Monday when asked if Nash would play again this season with 23 games remaining, starting with the Trail Blazers on Monday night. “I don’t think so. What’s the end game? We’ve talked about it. He’s not completely healthy. We have 23 games left. We’re not going to make the playoffs. So what’s his objective into taking minutes away from the young guys that we’re trying to develop? That’s kind of the theme that we’re talking about.”

Nash was noncommittal about his chances of playing again this season.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I couldn’t really make a prediction. If I get the chance, it would be great.”

Nash has missed the Lakers’ last seven games after returning from nerve root irritation to play a four-game stint in early February. During his short-lived comeback, he collided with Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich, with the point of impact occurring in nearly the same spot on his left leg where he suffered a fracture last season.

“That knee to [his leg], that was crazy,” Nash said. “It just flared everything up. But it’s subsiding, and I’m kind of working through it and coming back to where I was.”

Nash looked like his old self in a 112-98 win against the Philadelphia 76ers in a game played on his 40th birthday, racking up 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five assists and four rebounds.

“You look at an 18-year career and, like, one game against Philly [should not matter],” Nash said, “but it meant so much to me just to say, ‘OK, I showed I can do it still.’ Can I sustain it? That’s the next step, and I haven’t been able to prove that yet.”

Nash has one year remaining on his contract with the Lakers, set to pay him $9.7 million. Under the collective bargaining agreement, L.A. could waive Nash via the stretch provision before the start of training camp and have one-third of the $9.7 million owed to him (approximately $3.2 million) counted against the salary cap for the next three seasons.

Nash commented on the possibility of being a stretch provision candidate in the second episode of his documentary series “The Finish Line” on ESPN.com’s Grantland.

“I’d imagine that’s the outcome,” Nash tells his agent, Bill Duffy, in the documentary, believing he will be waived.

Nash said Monday that the stretch provision was a key motivator in him coming back in February after being sidelined since Nov. 10 because of back, neck and hamstring discomfort because he did not know if this would be the last time he would get a chance to play professional basketball.

“The reality that next year’s not guaranteed made me realize that I had to take more risks with my training and try to get back on the court,” Nash said. “When you’re looking at potentially the last few months of your career, I didn’t want to just let that slide by without getting back on the court.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters shortly after the trade deadline two weeks ago that Nash’s future will be in the point guard’s hands.

“It’s really his decision,” Kupchak said. “He’s under contract to play basketball next year. There’s a lot of moving pieces in something like this. For us to sit down and influence one way or the other is not ethical.”


VIDEO: The Nash-less Lakers score a big upset win over the Blazers

***

No. 3: Ilgauskas’ jersey retirement may have special guest — Former All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas spent 12 of his 13 NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and, upon his retirement from the NBA after the 2010-11 season, stands among Cleveland’s all-time leaders in points, games played, rebounds, blocks and more. His No. 11 jersey is set to be retired by the team on Saturday and one of his famous former teammates — LeBron James — says he’d like to attend Ilgauskas’ ceremony if possible:

LeBron James is considering a return to Cleveland. Well, for one night, anyway.James has been asked to attend Saturday night’s Cavaliers jersey retirement ceremony for his former teammate and longtime friend Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who now works for the organization.James and Ilgauskas were teammates in both Cleveland and Miami.The timing works for James, at least with regard to the Heat schedule. Miami is at San Antonio on Thursday, is scheduled to be off Friday and then hold a practice in Chicago on Saturday afternoon in advance of its Sunday afternoon game there against the Bulls.

That would afford James plenty of time to make the short flight to Cleveland for Ilgauskas’ big night.

“I want to be there, but we’ll see. I’m not sure just yet,” James said. “But I think it’s going to be a great day for my friend, a real dear friend of mine. And I’m excited for him.”

James spent the first seven seasons of his career in Cleveland, and his trips there with the Heat have been highly anticipated by Cavs fans ever since. The venom many felt over his departure for Miami seems to have tapered considerably since the summer of 2010 – even a smattering of cheers have been heard at some recent Miami-Cleveland games – but still his presence at such an event could potentially overshadow the guest of honor.

James said if he goes, he hopes all the attention remains where it should be, on Ilgauskas.

“I hope it doesn’t, if I’m able to make it,” James said when asked if he was worried that his presence would overshadow the former center. “I hope it doesn’t. It’s not my day, it’s not about me. It’s about Z. But it wouldn’t matter to me. Obviously I’m there for a dear friend, to be able to support him, if I’m able to make it, and that’s the main thing.”


VIDEO: Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the Cavaliers’ all-time leading rebounder

***

No. 4: Familiar faces from past may try to help Bucks’ future — The Milwaukee Bucks have been in town since the 1968-69 season and have an NBA title, multiple division championship banners and a storied legacy of legendary players to show for their time in the league. But the Bucks are dealing with an uncertain future of sorts as they search for funding and support for a new arena to replace the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center. Team owner Herb Kohl remains steadfast in keeping the team in town and is only interested in selling it to a buyer who would be committed likewise. Two names from the Bucks’ past, players Junior Bridgeman and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, may be among those interested in getting in on owning the team, writes our own Steve Aschburner:

First it was Junior Bridgeman, a Bucks alumnus who dropped by Milwaukee over the weekend and fueled speculation that he might buy a chunk of the franchise from owner Herb Kohl to keep it in town.

Now it’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, talking in more general terms about his interest in NBA ownership but doing so on the day he’s back in Milwaukee, too.

Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks’ first and greatest superstar, acknowledged to the Milwaukee Business Journal on Monday that he hasn’t talked with Kohl about investing in the Bucks.

It also sounded as if his commitment — whenever, wherever and if ever — would have more to do with reputation and perhaps sweat equity than the deep pockets Bridgeman can bring to any deal. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points) and six-time champion talked with the Business Journal’sRich Kirchen more about his fit as a minority NBA owner than about securing the Bucks in the city he left after six seasons.

Abdul-Jabbar was in Milwaukee on Monday to promote his role in a new Wisconsin Department of Tourism ad campaign that teams him with “Airplane!” co-star Robert Hays and directors David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. In the retro commercial, Abdul-Jabbar reprises his role as pilot “Roger Murdock,” with he and Hays’ character marveling at Wisconsin scenery from their cockpit view.

Part of the joke is Abdul-Jabbar’s mock second-guessing of his decision after six seasons to leave Milwaukee in 1975, when he pressured the Bucks into trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five more championship rings by teaming up with Pat Riley, Magic Johnson and the rest of the “Showtime” Lakers, but the Bucks haven’t returned to The Finals since winning the title in 1970-71 with a team featuring NBA legend Oscar Robertson and a young Abdul-Jabbar.

So it rang a little hollow when the Hall of Fame center spoke with Kirchen about the challenge faced by Kohl to build and maintain a winner in a small market.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tayshaun Prince had a bit of a throwback performance in the Grizzlies win in D.C. last night … Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova got off the schnide a bit with his 31-point game against the Jazz … Kings rookie Ray McCallum draws praise from the coaching staff for his play of late …

ICYMI of the Night: Sit back and enjoy as the Blazers’ Robin Lopez powers down a ferocious jam over the Lakers’ Robert Sacre … 


VIDEO: Robin Lopez powers through the lane and jams on the Lakers’ Robert Sacre

Hit And Miss: The Cavaliers’ 40-Year Draft History Has A Bit Of Everything!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Teams use all sorts of information to guide them during the Draft process.

Everything from analytics to eye-witness accounts to brain waves (in Boston) to studying a guy’s tattoos is used as a way to gain insight into what sort of projection a team can make on a particular player.

It wasn’t always this complicated. There was a time when the recommendation of the right scout or college coach, along with a standout career in the college ranks, was enough to convince a team that they’d found their man.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a 40-year history of hit-and-miss first-round picks that span the entire spectrum of the Draft process, dating back to 1970 and then 1971 with their selection of Austin Carr as the No. 1 overall pick. Nearly every uptick in their franchise history is tied to the work they did well in the Draft,  from Brad Daughtery in 1986 to LeBron James in 2003 to Kyrie Irving in 2011 and whatever they do with the No. 1 overall pick tonight.

The Cavaliers have a chance to change the course of their franchise history once again, provided they do the right thing with the pick tonight and that player they get turns out to be like Daughtery or James and not one of their many lottery misses over the years (apologies to Trajan LangdonLuke Jackson, DaJuan Wagner, DeSagana Diop and several others who, for various reasons, never lived up to their Draft hype).

With that said, the Cavaliers have had more hits than misses if you grade out their Draft history since 1971, as The Plain Dealer‘s Mike Peticca did this morning.

In addition to those overall No. 1 picks they hit on, the Cavaliers can boast of drafting the likes of John Johnson (sixth overall) in 1970, Campy Russell (eighth) in 1974, Ron Harper (eighth) in 1986, Kevin Johnson (seventh) in 1987, Terrell Brandon (11th) in 1991,  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20th) in 1996 and Andre Miller (eighth) in 1999.

For every miss the Cavaliers have at least one hit, which is a pretty solid track record for a franchise with decades of Draft history. We can only speculate how different things might have been if the focus and attention to detail on the Draft was as meticulous 40 years ago as it is now (not that combing through every bit of minutiae prevents a team from making a Draft night blunder or two) …

And One: Fade To Green

Some quick takes on the happenings around the NBA …

  • The Old Men and the Cs: If this is the end, and indications are that it is, viewed through the standings or the honesty of Danny Ainge in admitting a willingness to break up the Big Three, then there should be no regrets. It was a short run for the Celtics but a great one, three full seasons of one title and another push deep into the fourth quarter of Game 7 of The Finals in 2010 before falling short. Quickly going from contender to geriatric was always part of the deal. The initial investment from summer 2007 – acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and spending big on a KG extension rather than building with Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson and lottery picks – is a no-brainer in retrospect.
  • The Celtics aren’t necessarily road kill, by the way. While not in the same class as the Heat, Bulls or 76ers in the East, and maybe the Hawks, there is still time to find the rip cord and reach the playoffs if the roster stays together and they can delay rebuilding until the summer. Anyone sure about the Magic in the playoffs if Dwight Howard is traded? The Pacers, the team that just gagged on a 16-point lead and lost to the Kings as Sacramento shot 30.1 percent from the field and 68.3 from the line? The Knicks? Boston won’t be champions, but it can still be respectable. (more…)

What’s Next For The Heat?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With The Finals in the books (and in case you missed anything, check out our nifty recap above), it’s never too soon to start analyzing the participants. We’re not ones to wait, so here’s our quick post-Finals take on the state of the Heat and Mavs and what’s next for each of them. Up first are the Eastern Conference champs and Finals runner-up.

MIAMI HEAT

A quick look back: The most anticipated combination since beer and pizza, the debut of the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James-Chris Bosh Era left a bad taste in the mouth when the Heat lost at Boston on opening night and delivered the message that this was going to be a process.

After Udonis Haslem was lost to a torn ligament in his foot on Nov. 20, things hit rock bottom on Nov. 27. A 106-95 loss at Dallas dropped the Heat to 9-8 and was marked by the episode of James bumping into coach Erik Spoelstra. The loss precipitated a postgame, players-only meeting that cleared the air and set things straight.

The meeting led to sizzling stretch of 21-1 from Nov. 29 through Jan. 9 where the only loss was — in perhaps another hint at the future — at home to Dallas.

A four-game losing streak in January and a five-game losing streak in early March set the alarm bells ringing again. But the Heat closed the regular season on a run of 14-3 to complete a 58-24 record that was good enough for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and they cruised through the playoffs with a swagger that never stopped until they ran into the Mavs again.

(more…)

Where have you gone, Mr. Mourning?

CHICAGOAlonzo Mourning‘s tougher and better and would scare the Bulls more than any big man in a Heat uniform. Like, right now, at age 41.

‘Zo currently cuts a dignified presence in the Heat front office, the scowl replaced by a compassionate heart that reaches deep into the community, the Popeye forearms hidden by a tailored Brioni suit. But you could forgive the Heat for wondering if ‘Zo could find some sneakers and some shorts right now, 24 hours after Miami was bloodied on the boards by Joakim Noah and crew.

The Bulls own a huge advantage over the Heat from a big man’s perspective, and that won’t change in this series. It’s a fixed advantage for Chicago, meaning there’s nothing the Heat can do about it. Not only does Miami have the weakest collection of bigs of any team left in the playoffs, you’d be hard-pressed to recall another team that advanced this far in the post-season with a weaker group.

Remember those howls heard in Chicago when the Bulls trotted out Luc Longley and Bill Cartwright and Will Purdue? The Heat would kill for any of those guys right now.

Put it this way: The centers (Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas) who started 73 of the 82 regular-season games sat in suits for Game 1 because they couldn’t be trusted.

(more…)

Rebound now, or maybe not at all

CHICAGO – If the Miami Heat hope to rebound in Game 2 from their 103-82 pasting Sunday by the Chicago Bulls in the opener of the East finals, they will need to do just that: Rebound.

Rebound as they did at times in previous playoff games (52 vs. Philadelphia back on April 16). Rebound like Spider-Man working the glass. Rebound as if their postseason lives depend on it. Which they might.

Choose whichever you want, the Heat got beat on the boards. They managed to grab only six offensive rebounds (one more than their 2011 playoff low). That limited them to just eight second-chance points and worse, only 68 field-goal attempts. That matched their previous low in these playoffs.

So it did Miami little good to shoot at a higher percentage than Chicago; to match the Bulls’ 38 field goals while taking only 68 shots, the Heat would have had to shoot 55.8 percent. And no one shoots 55.8 percent against a Tom Thibodeau-coached defense in the postseason.

At the other end, the Heat grabbed 27 defensive rebounds but allowed Chicago to take back 19 of their misses. That fueled the Bulls’ bounty of 31 second-chance points. That’s deflating in its own sense but it really hurt because Miami did not make Chicago pay for its aggressiveness on the offensive glass. The Bulls still managed to get defenders back to close off Miami’s fast-break opportunities, even as Joakim Noah was grabbing eight offensive rebounds Carlos Boozer was getting four and Taj Gibson managed three off the bench.

Some of this is personnel, certainly. NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk addressed that issue:

“[The] Heat have had their best success these playoffs with a small ball lineup. Meaning the 6-foot-9 Joel Anthony at center. The 76ers couldn’t expose the Heat for that, and the Celtics by design don’t try to grab offensive rebounds. But the Bulls do and just destroyed the Heat so severely it made Erik Spoelstra go to Jamal Magloire for 10 minutes to see if that would help. If the Heat have to go away from the Anthony lineup, they could suffer in other ways.”

Yeah, when your options in the middle are Anthony, Magloire or Juwan Howard Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier were inactive Sunday – that can happen.

But the Bulls deserve credit too for tiptoeing that fine line between going after their missed shots vs. heading off Miami’s transition game. Thibodeau had said Saturday, after his team’s final practice before the series, that he wanted his guys to do exactly what they had done all season, boards-wise.

“Our smalls have a responsibility of getting back to protect,” the Bulls coach said. “Our bigs, if they’re inside, go to the offensive glass. If a big is on the perimeter, he gets back. I don’t want to change what we do in terms of responsibility. But you are concerned about giving them easy baskets, so if it does mean you get everyone back, you get everyone back.”

Don’t overlook the Bulls’ accuracy from 3-point range (47.6 percent) and their care in not hoisting reckless long jumpers from out front, the ones most likely to kick back as breakout chances. It all conspired to beat the Heat on this particular night.

“When they started to overwhelm us on the glass,” Spoelstra said, “I think we started to lose our focus on the other end of the court. And it affected us.”

All Set In The East

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Thanks to a surge here and a slump there, the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference playoffs are set.

The bracket filled itself out overnight. The Bulls and Pacers will square in the No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup, Heat-Sixers in the 2-7, Celtics-Knicks in the 3-6  and Magic-Hawks in the 4-5.

While it would be a bit foolish to try to offer up any predictions right now (those are coming Thursday, when the entire field is set), there is no shortage of storylines surrounding each series as we wait for things to kick off this weekend.

Your friends here at the hideout wanted to make sure you were well equipped to tackles each series. So we’ve cooked up a few items for your Tuesday morning reading pleasure, with a huge assist from the Prime Minster.

No. 1 BULLS vs No. 8 PACERS

The Skinny: We’d like to thank Pacers swingman Danny Granger for doing his best to start a small fire in a series that, minus Joakim Noah, is short on eccentric personalities. When asked which team he’d rather face between Boston and Chicago, Granger offered up this salvo to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com:

“Boston’s a different monster,” he said. “They don’t have the best record in the East, but they won championships; they know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about. Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance of beating them.”

That sounds great in theory, Danny — except for the part where the Bulls handled you three times this season and have no reason to fear anything the Pacers bring to the playoff party. Granted, these Pacers and this Bulls crew have the same number of playoff series wins (none) going in. But there’s a reason the Bulls are the No. 1 seed and the Pacers had to squeeze their way into the postseason.

(more…)

Bosh Delivers, Plays ‘Bigger’

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We pounded on him for three days, a merciless beating that surely crossed the line a time or two, questioning everything about his very existence in Miami.

This morning is the flip side for Chris Bosh here at the hideout. He did his job against the Lakers last night, delivering on his promise to play bigger, be more aggressive and demand the ball in his sweet spot so he could give the Heat the post presence that was missing during their five-game losing streak.

Dwyane Wade took care of business at crunch time, delivering the plays the Heat needed to finally win one of these close games. He took the proverbial heat off everyone in Miami, especially coach Erik Spoelstra. LeBron James provided his usual dazzling-at-times play and the all-around game that is his trademark.

The man who set the tone, though, was Bosh. Just as he said he would, Bosh got started early and made a sincere effort to force the issue on the Lakers’ big men.

“We need big-time contributions from Chris so we tried to work him in some different areas,” Spoelstra said. “He had a terrific mindset in shootaround and set the tone for everybody. He was dead-[expletive] serious. It really was contagious.”

Bosh’s team-leading 24 points and nine rebounds weren’t just symbolic. Bosh proved his point — when he is a factor, the Heat have a better chance to deal with the other members of the league’s elite (granted, their two wins over the NBA’s big boys have come against the Lakers).

He was 10-for-17 from the floor, but the most important thing Bosh did was show up with the energy that had been missing from his game in recent days. “This was a very big game, and we had everything riding on it,” he said. “I put everything I have into it. When it’s time to play, the way I know I can play, I just go out there and let it happen. I know I can help this team in a different way. I wasn’t playing around.”

(more…)

Still The King Of Akron?

***

Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – LeBron James is 2-for-2 this summer in public relations disasters.

The ill-conceived and horribly executed “The Decision” was first, enraging an entire fan base and region of Ohio while also uniting fans of 29 other NBA teams against the Miami Heat and their new trio of superstars.

Now comes a letter from James, serenading his hometown of Akron, Ohio — while curiously ignoring the word Cleveland — for helping raise him and supporting him the last 25 years:

“To My Family, Friends and Fans in Akron:

“For all my life, I have lived in Akron — and for that, I am truly a lucky man.

“It was here where I first learned how to play basketball, and where I met the people who would become my lifelong friends and mentors. Their guidance, encouragement and support will always be with me.

“Akron is my home, and the central focus of my life. It’s where I started, and it’s where I will always come back to. You can be sure that I will continue to do everything I can for this city, which is so important to my family and me. Thank you for your love and support. You mean everything to me.”

Of course, this letter (which ran in the Beacon-Journal in Akron) comes days  two days after fellow Heat (and former Cavaliers star) Zydrunas Ilgauskas took out an ad in the Plain Dealer thanking Cavaliers fans for their support over the years.

Naturally, there are fans buzzing about a starting a campaign to retire Big Z’s number in Cleveland.

But for James, well … at least they still love him in Akron.

***