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Fighting Father Time: Derek Fisher Refuses To Change

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We've seen players from the 1996 come and go in this league, and while some have arguably had more successful careers, no one's persistence is quite as surprising as Derek Fisher's.

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Cavaliers To Retire Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ Jersey

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

No Cleveland Cavalier will don the No. 11 jersey again – it now forever belongs to Big Z. Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ jersey will be hung up in the rafters against the New York Knicks on March 8. The 7′ 3″ center played in a franchise record 771 games for the Cavaliers, and is the all-time leader in rebounds (5,904), offensive rebounds (2,336) and blocks (1,269), while he ranks second in points scored (10,616).

The Lithuanian native played fourteen seasons in the league, and holds career averages of 13 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He spent his first thirteen years in the league with the Cavs and played his final season in Miami as a member of the Heat.

After he was selected as the No. 20 overall pick in the 1998 draft, Ilgauskas went on to be named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and was a two-time All-Star. The 38-year-old now serves as a special assistant to general manager Chris Grant.

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Game of the Day: April 11

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers — 1 PM eastern, telecast on ABC

This game will be more interesting in the absence of LeBron James. It’ll also be one the Magic have to win to prove they can play with the Cavs come playoff time.

The league’s top two teams (by a wide margin) square off in a rematch of last year’s conference finals, and it should be a great contest.

The Magic face the Cavaliers for the first time since they acquired Antawn Jamison from the Wizards and since Shaquille O’Neal injured his hand. Missing, too, from the Cleveland rotation will be James, whom Mike Brown is electing to sit so he can rest for the upcoming postseason.

Vince Carter should have a good day against Anthony Parker and Delonte West, so look for big points from him. Jamison and Rashard Lewis will be a great matchup, as both feature the perimeter game as their primary means of scoring.

Most important for Orlando will be Dwight Howard’s play. He’ll only be dealing with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao up front, whose inability to guard D13 in last year’s summer collision led to Danny Ferry’s acquisition of the Diesel in the offseason.

The Cavaliers have won two of the teams’ three meetings this campaign, but both of those wins featured 30-point scoring outbursts from LeBron. To be honest, they have very little chance without the King or the Big Cactus. Give the W to Orlando.

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Big Z Returns

Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned to the Cavaliers Sunday.

After being traded to the Wizards as part of a deal for Antawn Jamison, and submitting to a 30-day waiting period during which he could play in no NBA games, Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned Sunday to the Cleveland Cavaliers — the only team for which  he has ever played an NBA contest.

The long and thin Ilgauskas is a fan favorite in Cleveland and deservedly so. He endured several years with the team when it had absolutely no chance at contention, and he didn’t even consider other teams’ offers this season; he went right back to the Cavaliers.

Big Z works hard every game, combining rare height (in fact, I think he’s the league’s tallest player in Yao Ming’s absence) with a shooting touch out to the three-point line. While he lacks the strength to adequately defend the heftier and stronger centers in the NBA, his length can easily disrupt attempts at the rim by shorter players.

In 2009-2010, his performance has dropped significantly, as he’s lost five points, two rebounds and half a block off his per-game averages. The arrival of Shaq to start at center combined with the emergence of Anderson Varejao as a solid rotation player (and sixth-man contender) has eaten into Zy’s minutes drastically, but he doesn’t complain. And he gives his best effort when he is on the hardwood.

But in the shadow of Shaq’s thumb injury, which should hold him out for a few more weeks still, Ilgauskas’s return is received just as well from a basketball standpoint as from a loyalty standpoint. The Cavs had been playing without a true center, relying on Varejao and youngster J.J. Hickson to fill in at the 5. Now, those guys can spend more time at the 4 and fill in for Ilgauskas when he needs a rest.

As far as the playoffs go, Zydrunas’s return helps the Cavs immensely. When they face teams like the Celtics, Magic, or Lakers, his outside-shooting ability will require those teams’ primary interior defensive presences to step out, leaving the lane less congested for LeBron and co. to get to the hole. Above all, though, he’s a presence for the players and fans that adds to the team’s camaraderie, which is very crucial to their success.

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