MIAMI, Feb. 25 (AP) -- Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned to the Cavaliers' starting lineup in Miami on Sunday for the first time since his wife went into early labor and lost twin babies.

Ilgauskas missed four games, a stretch that began before the All-Star break.

His wife, Jennifer, began having problems after Cleveland played the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 11. She was about five months' pregnant at the time, and delivered a stillborn boy and girl on Feb. 14, Ilgauskas said.

"Neither one of them survived, so obviously, I just had to take some time for myself to take care of things,'' Ilgauskas said softly before the Cavaliers played the Heat on Sunday.

He added that this was the toughest thing he's ever experienced. "It puts life in perspective,'' he said.

Ilgauskas stayed with his wife, grieving privately, for several days before resuming personal workouts last Wednesday and practicing again with the Cavaliers on Saturday.

The trip to Miami was the first time he'd traveled with the team since the tragedy.

"He looked good in practice,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said of Ilgauskas, who entered Sunday averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Ilgauskas said he was looking forward to getting back to basketball, if for no other reason than to have his mind occupied by something else for a few hours.

"The team needs me and I need these guys,'' he said. "We don't have many games left before the playoffs start, so it was important for me to be here. ... It felt like the right time. The more time you miss, the harder it is to come back.''

He wasn't the only player Cleveland got back on Sunday.

Guard Damon Jones was active; he's been battling strep throat. But forward Sasha Pavlovic (flu) was not with the team, and Brown said he wasn't sure when he'd rejoin the Cavaliers.

"It's a day-to-day thing,'' Brown said.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited