- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

There is no worse sight on Fun Street than Larry Hughes in the open floor.

Hughes sees the floor like a carriage-pulling horse with blinders.

He sees nothing but the tiny space in front of his feet.

Hughes is not too good in math, either.

He can’t count past one and he can’t see the traffic in front of him, which is an awful combination for a guard.

Hughes has refined the habit of turning a 3-on-1 fastbreak opportunity into a player-control foul. It could be argued he is becoming more frenetic with age.

The hearts in the stands often beat faster as soon as Hughes gathers momentum on a foray to the basket.

“Uh-oh,” is the collective cry, followed by a whistle, a groan and a march in the opposite direction.

There is no subtlety on a Hughes-inspired trek to nowhere. There is only a misguided urgency to barrel into a body and hoist the ball toward the basket in an awkward fashion.

The suspicion persists that if it were just Hughes and an open basket, he would feel compelled to drag an innocent spectator onto the court in order to have someone accept the charge.

Hughes picked the wrong game to have an obsession with physical contact. Basketball, at its best, is a game steeped in nuance and pacing. Those who play at only breakneck speed are sentenced to be less than what they could be.

Hughes, in his sixth NBA season, is not unlike Wile E. Coyote. He works himself into a lather, only to be unaware of the boulder that is hurtling toward his body.

Hughes ought to play the game in a crash helmet, with the Red Cross symbol stenciled to his jersey.

He drives to the basket, bodies go to the floor, and the referees put down roadside flares before sifting through the wreckage.

If the venue were different, Hughes would merit a sobriety test.

Hughes just might add the stiff-arm to his repertoire one of these seasons.

He plays that hard. He just does not play with a sense of equanimity.

Hughes has one dictum: “Get out of my way.”

He has the incriminating numbers to confirm it: 87 fouls and 80 turnovers vs. 76 assists in 31 games.

Eddie Jordan, the coach who is attempting to be selected the NBA Saint of the Year, lurks on the sidelines with a jug of Maalox stuffed in one pocket and a bottle of aspirin in the other.

“He’s going to play,” Jordan said yesterday after the Wizards fell to the Bucks 100-94 and Hughes displayed all his worst proclivities. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hughes missed 17 shots in a row at one point in the game, proving that two can play the itchy-trigger game favored by Juan Dixon.

Jordan said he asked Hughes if he were physically tired, if not tired of missing shots and open teammates.

His right elbow undoubtedly needed to be iced after the game.

“I have to live with that,” Jordan said, which is no way to live. “That is the personnel we have.”

The personnel is mercurial to a fault, though no fault of Jordan’s. The ill-fated pass has become one symbol of the turnover-addled team, an anxiety-riddled fourth quarter the other.

The personnel sometimes dissolves into 12 separate agendas. Even the pregame shoot-around can be fraught with potential drama, as it was with Gilbert Arenas, benched after Arenas Standard Time bumped up against Jordan’s Eastern Standard Time.

The Wizards lost their way in the third quarter after neglecting to follow the tenets of their offense. They pieced together enough mindless possessions to let the Bucks begin to wrest control of the proceedings.

Jordan’s ever-growing fondness with Steve Blake is an admission that the point of the rest of the point guards is blunted because of manic-depressive mood swings.

Blake, the rookie from Maryland who appears to be the long, lost younger brother of Eminem, sticks to Jordan’s playbook and eschews the hissy fit. The latter quality is not unimportant, given the volatile nature of the team’s leading player who is usually in charge of the offense.

Down three points, Arenas missed a shot at one end of the floor, then picked up both a personal foul and a technical foul at the other end with one minute left.

Hughes added one more bad shot in transition to complete the team’s latest fall.

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