Big Z to Return to Heat

Ilgauskas puts off retirement one more year

Zydrunas Ilgauskas is coming back to Miami. Big Z informed the Miami Heat he will exercise his $1.4 million player option for next season.

The move guarantees his salary but not a roster spot, as the Heat could cut him to make room for another player down the line.

Ilgauskas had been considering retirement all season, but it looks like the prospect of teaming up with the Big Three in glamorous Miami (and trying to win an NBA title - something Big Z has not done in his 13-year career) was preferable to retiring to his native Lithuania.

Ilguaskas spent 12 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers before joining the Heat as a free agent last summer, following his former Cavs teammate LeBron James.

Big Z was named Miami's starting center 10 games into the season, but saw his playing time diminish late in the year as coach Erik Spoelstra came to rely more on defensive ace Joel Anthony. Ilgauskas started Miami's first 8 playoff games, but saw no playing time at all in the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals.

Ilgauskas, Anthony and Dexter Pittman are the only centers Miami has under contract at the moment. The Heat are not expected to take a center in Thursday's NBA Draft, but could opt to add another big man in free agency using their mid-level exemption.

Regardless, Big Z likely will not be a key rotation player for the Heat in 2011-2012. He is not nearly as strong a defender as Anthony, and his scoring ability is not a huge necessity, considering the Heat get nearly all the points they need out of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Instead, he will be the Heat's stopgap in case another center is injured or the Heat need to rest their starters in the final minutes of a blowout.

Considering he will be able to spend another year in Miami and have a front row seat to watch the Big Three (all while being paid seven figures), that is not a bad gig at all.

David Hill is a Miami native and the former owner of a youth replica Rony Seikaly jersey.

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