- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CLEVELAND (AP) - The case of the missing basketball took a heartwarming bounce.

The ball Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas used to score his 10,000th career point turned up in the hands of a local youngster who left with it after it was thrown into the seats at Quicken Loans Arena following a March 21 game against Atlanta.

Ilgauskas, who hit the 10,000 mark early in the first quarter, was hoping to find the ball and keep it as a memento. There was even an outcry for its return by some local media outlets.

The 8-year-old boy’s mother contacted the Cavs to say her son had the ball and wanted to return it. But the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, as gentle a giant as there is in the NBA, told the youngster to keep it as a souvenir.

“I felt bad for him,” Ilgauskas said. “He took an uncalled for beating for it in the last couple days. For me, it was more about the journey and not the ball. I want him to have peace with it. I don’t need the ball.”

Ilgauskas, who played in his 700th career game on Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, wasn’t sure how the ball wound up in the seats to begin with. But he didn’t criticize the youngster for wanting to hang on to it when he fell into his hands.

“I would have taken it home, too,” he said. “He just walked out. There are 20,000 fans walking out of the building. They don’t do a strip search. I hope not.”

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