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Big Z on verge of buying freedom, but it'll cost a lot

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Feb 23 2010 5:51PM

While everyone expects the Washington Wizards to complete a buyout of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the next 48 hours, allowing him to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in time to be eligible for their postseason roster, Ilgauskas will likely have to leave more on the table in exchange for his freedom than he had hoped.

A league source indicated Tuesday that the Wizards want savings far in excess of the approximately $590,000 "trade kicker" Ilgauskas is due after being traded last week from Cleveland to Washington as part of a three-team deal that sent Antawn Jamison to the Cavaliers. While no specific dollar amounts have been disclosed, the source indicated Washington was going to be firm in holding out for the most money possible -- likely $1 million or more -- from Ilgauskas.

The Wizards no longer are under the pressure of having to work out a buyout with Ilgauskas in order to get under the $69.9 million luxury tax threshhold. Washington got under by trading forward Dominic McGuire to Sacramento last Thursday for a second-round pick.

By contrast, Ilgauskas is under the gun to get something done by next Monday, March 1. Players that are on a team's roster on March 1 are not eligible to be on any other team's postseason roster, meaning if Ilgauskas is still a Wizard he would not be able to play for Cleveland in the playoffs, although he could re-sign with the Cavs for the rest of the regular season. Once Ilgauskas is a free agent he can sign with any team and be eligible for the playoffs.

Ilgauskas's agent, Herb Rudoy, said via text Tuesday that the two sides were "still working" on the buyout.

"Z has not made a decision, but I expect him to do so by the weekend," Rudoy said in the text. Asked if he would speak with other teams besides Cleveland if the Wizards and/or the league gave him permission, Rudoy texted, "Yes I can and I will."

A handful of contending teams, including Dallas, Denver and Atlanta, have interest in the 34-year-old Ilgauskas, and each would be willing to pay him the pro-rated amount on the $1.306 million minimum for a veteran with 10 or more years' experience. (With approximately one-fourth of the regular season remaining, that would work out to roughly $326,500 for the rest of the regular season.)

A league source says the Mavericks have made inquiries about Ilgauskas' availability. But most around the NBA expect that Ilgauskas will return to the team that drafted him in the first round in 1997 and has stuck by him through a series of injuries to, and surgeries on, his feet.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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