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Cavs’ courtship of LeBron James did not include visit from Zydrunas Ilgauskas aboard owner’s plane

TNS Regional News • Jul 8, 2014 at 6:07 PM

If LeBron James ultimately decides to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it won’t be because of a mysterious plane that landed Sunday evening in South Florida. Contrary to popular belief, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was not on that plane.

Neither were Cavs General Manager David Griffin nor owner Dan Gilbert.

Griffin was in Cleveland on Sunday, Gilbert was at home in Detroit and Ilgauskas never boarded the private jet that flew from Detroit to South Florida, several sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed to the Akron Beacon Journal.

One source with knowledge of Gilbert’s inner workings said the Cavs owner, who has a hand in more than 70 companies, has regular business in South Florida.

Twitter erupted Sunday when it was learned a Gulfstream jet registered to Gilbert’s Rock Construction Co. was scheduled to fly from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The flight was delayed, then mysteriously rerouted to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport 13 miles away. It returned to Oakland County International Airport in Pontiac, Mich., early Monday morning, according to flight records. Those records have since been pulled from public view.

Gilbert responded on Twitter when news of the flight plan was first revealed.

“Sorry folks but enjoying weather in my backyard today,” Gilbert wrote Sunday afternoon.

Who exactly was on the plane remains unclear, but it seems unlikely the trip had anything to do with the Cavs’ pursuit of James. The plane never landed in Cleveland on Sunday, according to flight records, making it unlikely it could’ve carried any Cavs officials.

Much of Sunday’s Twitter focus revolved around Ilgauskas, who was reported to be on board. The entire stir even spurned the Twitter hash tag “BringHimHomeBigZ” which was trending most of the day. But four sources, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of the situation, confirmed late Sunday night and early Monday that Ilgauskas was not on the plane. Three of the four sources said he spent the day in Cleveland, while the fourth source wasn’t sure where he was Sunday, but knew it wasn’t on that plane.

Ilgauskas remains close to James and certainly doesn’t need Gilbert’s jet to see him. The two created a buzz a week ago when a video of James and Ilgauskas together in Miami went viral. But one source with knowledge of the event said the two were in Miami for the wedding of James’ personal trainer, Mike Mancias.

A decision on James’ future could come this week. Today is the four-year anniversary of The Decision, when James spurned the Cavs to sign with the Heat on national television, and Thursday is the first day players can sign new contracts. Past history indicates James could announce Thursday where he’s going, since four years ago July 8, 2010, was the first day players could sign new contracts.

James and Heat President Pat Riley will meet this week face to face, USA Today reported, but it’s unclear when that will transpire. James is expected in Las Vegas at some point this week for his Nike skills camp.

In an effort to rebuild their roster, the Heat reportedly agreed to terms Monday with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. McRoberts will reportedly command all of the Heat’s midlevel exception, and Granger will absorb the biannual exception. If accurate, that means the Heat are operating as if they will not have cap space, which would seem to indicate none of the team’s Big Three intend to take significant salary cuts to remain in Miami.

As for Gilbert’s now famous letter in the wake of James’ departure, it was still viewable from the team’s website until Monday, when it was mysteriously taken down. But a league source insisted the letter was actually taken down at least three years ago, and what remained was an archived page.

That archived page was discovered Sunday and promptly removed Monday morning.


By Jason Lloyd - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

©2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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