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Z wants to go back to Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) — Zydrunas Ilgauskas has forgiven the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Feeling betrayed after he was traded last month, Ilgauskas wants to return to the only NBA team he has played for to help it win a championship.

Ilgauskas, the towering center known to Cleveland fans simply as "Z," told his agent Herb Rudoy to begin negotiations with the Cavs on March 22 — the first day he can sign.

"The NBA rules do not allow any contract discussions until that date," Rudoy said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "It is Zydrunas' desire to return to the Cavaliers if a suitable contract can be agreed upon."

It's likely the Cavs will accept him back with open arms. General manager Danny Ferry agonized over the decision to trade Ilgauskas, a former teammate, close friend and the franchise's leader in rebounds and games played, to Washington as part of the deal for forward Antawn Jamison.

Now, Ferry has a chance to make everything right.

Plus, with Shaquille O'Neal sidelined for at least another six weeks with a thumb injury, the Cavs need the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas more than ever.

After being traded on Feb. 17, Ilgauskas never played for the Wizards. He bought out his contract from the club, making him a free agent and clearing him to sign with any other team after 30 days. But despite interest from several playoff contenders, including Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, the 34-year-old wants to return to Cavs, who drafted him in 1996.

Earlier this week, a few of the Cavaliers took advantage of a game in New Jersey to visit Ilgauskas, who has a place in New York's SoHo district. Rudoy said Ferry also stopped in recently to meet with Ilgauskas, who has received hundreds of e-mails and letters from Cleveland fans urging him to come back.

"He has been overwhelmed and deeply touched by the outpouring of support and affection by the fans and by his teammates," Rudoy said. "He hopes to return to bring a championship to the Cavaliers and to the city of Cleveland."