"He knows I would love for him to be back here. I want him to be back here, especially while we're contending for a title," LeBron James said before the Cavaliers' game in Boston. "He's one of the main reasons why I want to win a title for this team."
The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, who was acquired from Cleveland on Feb. 17 as part of the three-team trade that sent Antawn Jamison to the Cavaliers, didn't play for Washington. He reported on Feb. 19, took a physical and immediately returned to Cleveland.
A source tells ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that it cost Ilgauskas $1.5 million of his salary to secure his buyout from the Wizards. Giving that money up was made more painful by the fact that he was paid up front by the Cavs, which meant he had to write a check for $1.5 million to the Wizards to pay for the right to be waived.
The 34-year-old is averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds this season.
"We agreed to terms with Zydrunas on a contract buyout, giving us further financial flexibility and allowing our young big men to continue to develop over the remainder of the season," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said.
No team is far enough under the salary cap to absorb Ilgauskas' $11.5 million salary for this season, so he will become a free agent eligible to join any team for a prorated share of the veterans minimum. Under NBA rules, he would be able to rejoin the Cavaliers in 30 days, but could sign with another team immediately.
"I'm expecting to talk to about half a dozen teams in the league -- including the Cavaliers," Herb Rudoy, Ilgauskas' agent, said.
"He's not going to rush into anything. He has time," Rudoy added. "He'll let me know what he wants to do."
Rudoy also said the Mavericks are one of Ilgauskas' alternatives.
"He definitely has some options to think about and one will definitely be the Mavs," he said.
Though he lost his starting job this season after the Cavs acquired Shaquille O'Neal, a return to the Cavs could be attractive for Ilgauskas. He's spent his entire career in Cleveland after he was drafted in 1996, and the Cavaliers are one of the favorites to win the NBA championship this season.
"I think any playoff team -- and that's what we, we're a playoff team -- any playoff team would like to have his services, so we'd be just as eager as anybody else," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
In his 12-year career, Ilgauskas has averaged 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.
An NBA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Monday that the league had not threatened to stop Ilgauskas from returning to the Cavs, saying it would step in only if there were proof of an agreement before the trade was made.
Last season, Antonio McDyess went back to Detroit after the Pistons dealt him to Denver along with Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, and players such as Brent Barry (San Antonio) and Gary Payton (Boston) also have returned to clubs that dealt them in recent seasons.
ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.