LeBron James criticizes coach Mike Brown’s failure to play Zydrunas Ilgauskas in record-setting game Saturday
By Mary Schmitt Boyer, The Plain Dealer
November 30, 2009, 2:40PM
Joshua Gunter, The Plain Dealer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James criticized Cavaliers coach Mike Brown today for his failure to insert Zydrunas Ilgauskas into Saturday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, which would have given Ilgauskas the Cavaliers record in games played at 724.
Speaking after a rousing game of touch football following today’s practice, James said:
“Me personally, I definitely thought he should have played. I’m not trying to stir up anything with coach or the organization. I
don’t know who made the call. But sometimes one game is a smaller thing. What was on the line the day before yesterday was way bigger than us playing the Mavericks, and that was Z breaking the record to become the franchise leader in games played.
I stand behind Z and whatever Z feels at this point in time, I definitely — if I was in control of it — would have put him in, probably would have started him. You could have easily started him and subbed him right out and had the standing ovation from the fans with a timeout. If you didn’t want to play him, there were a lot of ways for that accomplishment to be accomplished.
It’s a sensitive subject. I’m not one to raise havoc or raise fire into the locker room or our team. But, for me, I speak the truth. I stand behind Z and I feel like Z not playing wasn’t the right thing. As a friend of his, I was very upset, and I know he was also.”
Ilgauskas, who worked on his shot while most of the rest of his teammates took part in the football game, declined an invitation to speak to the media, the first time reporters remember that happening. Saturday’s game might have been the first time in his career he did not play in a game based on a coach’s decision, although that cannot be verified.
He was the first person to head to the locker room after Saturday’s game and the first person to leave the locker room, also two rarities. He reportedly was devastated by the decision, in part because he had a contingent of family and friends at the game to help him celebrate.
It has been a difficult season for the 33-year-old center, who is coming off the bench for the first time in his career, backing up Shaquille O’Neal.