The Cleveland Cavaliers may need Zydrunas Ilgauskas back now more than ever.
Shaquille O’Neal left Thursday’s game at Boston with what TNT’s David Aldridge reported was a “significant sprain” of the thumb on his right hand. Replays indicated the sprain was suffered when Shaq went up for a shot and was struck on the hand by the Celtics’ Glen Davis.
O’Neal later called time out during a Cavaliers possession and went to the locker room, where x-rays revealed the injury, according to Aldridge. He did not return to the game, and Aldridge reported during the third period that the team would not be able to evaluate the situation until Friday at the earliest.
The Cavs play at Toronto Friday night.
If Shaq is sidelined for an extended period, the absence of Ilgauskas will be that much more significant. Washington negotiated a buyout of Ilgauskas’ contract Thursday, leaving him free to sign immediately with any team—except Cleveland.
To do that, Ilgauskas must wait 30 days after the date of the trade that sent Antawn Jamison from the Wizards to the Cavaliers. That means the earliest Cleveland can sign their former center is March 21.
O’Neal was averaging 12 points and nearly seven rebounds a game this season, but had increased his scoring to 17 points a contest since Ilgauskas was traded.
Anderson Varejao stepped into Thursday night’s game and put a jolt into the Cavs’ lethargic offense, scoring 10 points to go along with seven rebounds in the first half alone. If O’Neal is lost for a significant period of time, Varejao will shoulder the load at center.
It may also produce minutes for little-used Darnell Jackson, a second-year pro out of Kansas. Jackson was assigned to the Erie Bayhawks of the NBA Developmental League Thursday, but may find himself rejoining the Cavaliers sooner than expected if O’Neal is sidelined for an extended stretch.
Posted 2/25/20 at 9:40 p.m.