- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

Contrary to popular belief, Larry Hughes dearly wanted to play alongside teammate Gilbert Arenas when he was a Golden State Warrior.

But after starting at point guard for most of the 2001-02 season, Hughes was sent to the bench, opening the door for Arenas — a year removed from being a second-round draft pick — to start. That led to more rumblings that Hughes, a former lottery pick who fell out of favor with Larry Brown while in Philadelphia, was somewhat of a head case.

Today, Hughes is again a teammate of Arenas’ with the Washington Wizards. He says there was no friction between him and Arenas, the league’s most improved player a season ago.

“Never. Never was, never will be,” said Hughes, who will start alongside Arenas in the backcourt this season. “Gilbert’s like a little brother to me. He looked at me and wondered why I wasn’t playing and wondered if it could happen to him. We talked about it.”

Hughes, who practiced for the first time yesterday after an aching Achilles’ tendon forced him to miss the Wizards’ final four preseason games, has a wistful excitement about the team’s upcoming season. And mostly because Wizards coach Eddie Jordan decided to move the 6-foot-5 Hughes off the ball and out on the wing.

It was Hughes’ play on the wing as a 19-year-old freshman at Saint Louis that caught the eye of NBA scouts. Hughes averaged 20.9 points in his lone collegiate season, was the consensus national freshman of the year and was selected by Philadelphia with the eighth pick overall.

“I’m ready, I’m real excited,” said Hughes, who averaged 13.5 points in the preseason. “I have a lot to offer. I’ve been working hard to be able to prove it. Nobody has been seeing me out there on the wing in a while.”

Not long after Jordan was hired to coach the team, he started hearing reports about how Hughes dominated the team’s pickup games at MCI Center.

Jordan occasionally sneaked a peek during the summer and it was Hughes who most often caught his eye. When the team started training camp last month in South Carolina, Hughes’ athleticism again caught the coach by surprise.

“Just having his skill and athleticism out there is a plus,” Jordan said after yesterday’s practice. “When you have a guy who can do the things he can do, when the play breaks down he can break the play and create something. Now the key is for him to get back his rhythm and his timing.”

Hughes said he can have a breakout season this year. However, he doesn’t speak of it in terms of putting up 20 points every night — he’s never averaged better than 16.5 in a season — or made the All-Star Game.

“Breakout to me just means stepping up, being more of a threat, being that guy that teams need to stop in order to give them a chance to win,” Hughes said. “I just want to be an all-around player. I want I want to be that guy that makes a difference every night over 82 games.”

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