MIAMI - The big man slumped his shoulders, lowered his head and spoke in emotionally hushed tones.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been going through the roughest time in his life over the last two weeks, moments he revealed before his return to the Cavaliers on Sunday after being away for two weeks to deal with personal matters.
Ilgauskas said that after the Cavs hosted the Lakers on Feb. 11, his wife, Jennifer, went into premature labor, was taken to the emergency room and hospitalized. She delivered stillborn twins, a boy and a girl, three days later.
The event devastated Ilgauskas and his family, who had been eagerly awaiting the birth. Ilgauskas, who met Jennifer when he was a rookie in 1996 and married her in September 2004 in Hawaii, spent his time away from the team trying to heal.
``I just had to take some time for myself and for her, just to take care of things and be together,'' he said. ``I know it is a long process, but we are taking it one day at a time. Obviously, I've never been through anything like that before. It puts life in perspective.
``It has been tough. We just stayed with each other. Each person grieves differently. We just stayed home... and healed emotionally and for her, physically.''
Ilgauskas said he considered taking more time, but felt that returning to the Cavs after missing four games might help the process.
``I felt sooner or later I was going to have to play. I decided it was time to get back,'' he said. ``At least for a few hours, you can forget about it and enjoy basketball. I've done it all my life. I hope it will take some stuff off my mind. The team needs me, and I need these guys. I think it is important for me to be here.''
Akron Beacon Journal
MIAMI -- 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 lost 86-81 to Miami on Sunday.
He added that losing the babies 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, and finished with eight points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes against the Heat.
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."
(I personally would like to say "boo" to the multiple sports announcers who rumored that Z's failure to play was an indication that he was soon to be traded.)