Surgery Advised For Ilgauskas

Actress Elisabeth Rohm poses for photographers as she arrives at the world premiere of the romantic comedy "Failure to Launch," at Chelsea West Cinemas in New York on Wednesday, March 8, 2006.
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson

Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, whose foot problems have limited him to five games the past two seasons, has been advised by a doctor to have a screw surgically inserted into his sore left foot.

Ilgauskas was expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks, but is now considering having the surgery on the foot he broke five games into last season.

Last week, Ilgauskas visited Dr. Bill Hamilton, a foot specialist in New York, and was told to have the procedure, which would keep him out for an indefinite period.

Ilgauskas has also spoken with two other foot specialists in Virginia in addition to consulting with the Cavs team doctors.

"He's weighing all his options right now," Cavs general manager Jim Paxson said Monday. "He wants to ask the doctors some more questions and sort things out. He has got a lot coming at him at the moment."

Ilgauskas, who the Cavs signed to a six-year, $71 million contract last season, had foot problems before the Cavs took him in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The 7-foot-3 center, better known as 'Z', sat out all of 1995 in Lithuania because of a broken right foot, and was sidelined for what would have been his rookie season after having surgery.

When he finally played in the NBA, Ilgauskas was superb, averaging 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in 1997.

Convinced he was the presence they needed in the middle to compete for an Eastern Conference title, the Cavs signed him to a long-term deal before last season. But he broke his foot five games in, and once again found himself hobbling to Gund Arena on crutches and watching from the bench.

He decided against surgery and his foot was placed in a cast as the Cavs decided to take a cautious approach during his recovery. Ilgauskas worked diligently all summer in hopes of returning this season, and was ready when training camp opened.

But almost immediately he began experiencing soreness in the foot, and on the advice of a specialist in Houston, was told to stay out for at least eight weeks.

Now, he's being told a screw could help the foot, which is not fractured, heal more completely.

"The most important thing is for Z to do what's best for him," said Paxson. "Would we like to have him back tomorrow? Or Thursday? Sure. But what we want is for him to make the right decision. We'd like him to play again for us this season, but we're more concerned about him being able to play here for many more."

Paxson said the Cavs will support whatever Ilgauskas finally decides to do. Ilgauskas is expected to tell the team of his intentions in the next few days.

Under first-year coach Randy Wittman, the Cavs figured to struggle without their big man. But Cleveland is off to a 3-1 start, after playing four games in five nights, and there's no telling how good they might be if Ilgausks returns.

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