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Cavs’ Z Has Foot Surgery

February 8, 2001

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas had three new screws inserted during a ``complicated″ surgery on his broken left foot on Tuesday and will be sidelined for at least 6-to-8 months.

Ilgauskas, who has missed most of the past three seasons because of foot injuries, underwent two hours of surgery at Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital. The two-hour procedure was performed by Dr. Mark Myerson, who last month operated on Orlando forward Grant Hill’s injured ankle.

It was the fifth operation _ and most extensive _ in six years for the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, signed by the Cavs to a six-year, $71 million contract before the 1999-00 season. He has played in just 29 games the past three years.

Myerson removed two screws from the navicular bone in Ilgauskas’ foot. He inserted three new screws and performed ``extensive″ bone grafting to repair the second fracture in the bone in two years.

Myerson also realigned Ilgauskas’ heel and performed an osteotomy, a procedure that contours the foot in order to more evenly distribute stresses on the foot.

``This was a very complicated fracture on a foot with imperfect structure,″ Myerson said. ``The shape of the foot was changed ... to allow healing to occur. This was the best course of action to insure Zydrunas’ healing.″

Ilgauskas, called by ‘Z’ by his teammates and Cavs fans, will remain in Baltimore through the end of the week before returning to Cleveland to begin rehab.

Before Ilgauskas got hurt, the Cavs had begun the season 15-8 and were the NBA’s biggest surprise. Since then, they’ve gone 5-18 and entered Tuesday night’s game against San Antonio with a six-game losing streak.

``People don’t realize how much we miss him, especially offensively,″ said guard Bimbo Coles. ``Just him being out on the floor helps guys get open.″

Cavs general manager Jim Paxson said the team has proceeded with the idea that Ilgauskas may not come back.

``The reality is if ‘Z’ comes back at any point, it’s a bonus,″ said Paxson, who called the surgery ``more complicated and different″ from the previous operations.

Ilgauskas averaged 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in his rookie season in 1997-98. But he broke his left foot just five games into the ’98-99 season and sat out all of last year.

He had surgery in January and was back in time for summer training camp. After spending most of three years on crutches, he had just gotten his confidence back and was averaging 11.7 points when he broke his foot in a Dec. 22 game against Atlanta.

``You can’t replace him,″ Paxson said. ``If he kept playing the way he had, he probably would have been the backup center for the Eastern Conference (All-Star team).″

The 25-year-old Ilgauskas, a first-round pick in 1996 from Lithuania, has had three surgeries on his right foot and two on his left.

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