- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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But another prominent team on the list of Ilgauskas suitors has conceded that the veteran center's widely anticipated return to the Cleveland Cavaliers is all but official.
Dallas Mavericks representatives declined formal comment Sunday, but one source briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com that Ilgauskas' agent, Herb Rudoy, has informed the Mavericks that Ilgauskas intends to re-sign with the Cavaliers as soon as he's eligible.
Rudoy, though, has repeatedly insisted that Ilgauskas won't make a firm decision until next week.
League rules stipulate that Ilgauskas must wait 30 days -- after being traded from Cleveland to Washington in the three-way deal that landed Antawn Jamison with the Cavaliers and then getting bought out by the Wizards earlier this week -- before rejoining the Cavs as a free agent. Ilgauskas is already back in Cleveland in anticipation of his return but can't actually sign his new contract until March 22.
The Cavs are currently two centers down with Ilgauskas in free-agent limbo and Shaquille O'Neal out indefinitely with a thumb injury picked up in Thursday's win over Boston. But the overwhelming expectation around the league -- even before Ilgauskas' buyout from the Wizards was completed or O'Neal injury -- was that teams such as Denver and Dallas had little hope of swaying Ilguaskas, given his career-long connection to the Cavs and the deep fondness LeBron James has for the Lithuanian.
The widespread pessimism, however, didn't stop top teams such as Atlanta, Utah and Portland from making earnest pitches to Rudoy in addition to the Nuggets and Mavericks.
As Karl said Sunday before his team's game against the Los Angeles Lakers: "I'm not giving up on that. ... I did talk to him [Sunday]."
Karl, though, declined to reveal specifics about his phone chat with Ilgauskas.
Players under contract must be waived by March 1 to be eligible to appear in the playoffs with another team, but the league office confirmed to ESPN.com this week that players don't have to clear waivers by March 1 to secure playoff eligibility. They merely have to be released by Monday.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
5dEthan Sherwood Strauss
6dMatt Walks, ESPN.com