- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

Stopping LeBron James may be the only concern most fans have in Verizon Center tonight, when the Washington Wizards play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the third game of their Eastern Conference playoff series. But the Wizards, most likely, will not focus solely on the Cleveland superstar.

That’s because as good as James is, the Wizards know the Cavaliers have other players capable of causing problems, demonstrated during Washington’s gritty 89-84 victory in Cleveland on Tuesday, which evened the series at 1-1.

“We believe that you have to take away their strength,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said, referencing James. “But we have to cover the other bases, too. I think we’ve done a good job of protecting the paint and following the game plan.

“But, you know that we always talk about an X-factor,” Jordan continued. “It could be Larry [Hughes], it could be [Flip] Murray, it could be Damon Jones. Donyell Marshall had his time in the first game and Drew Gooden had his time in the second game. So, who is going to be the next guy we are going to have to overcome?”

While James is an astonishing player — arguably better than any 21-year-old the NBA has seen — it is true that there are other Cavaliers the Wizards need to be mindful of.

Drew Gooden demonstrated that with 24 points (on 11-for-12 shooting) and 16 rebounds in Game 2. And before that, Marshall, whom the Wizards came very close to signing as a free agent last season, came off the bench to contribute 19 points and seven rebounds in the Cavaliers’ 97-86 Game 1 victory.

One player the Wizards will no doubt be leery of is Hughes, who spent three years in Washington and last year in particular played a huge role in the Wizards’ attack.

Jordan mentioned Hughes’ defensive play on Arenas in the series thus far. Hughes has limited the Wizards’ All-Star guard to just 17-for -44 shooting (38.6 percent) in the series.

Jordan believes Hughes could continue to have an impact on the series with his defense.

“Larry has been playing pretty good defense on Gil and taking away some of the things we like to do,” Jordan said.

Hughes, who last summer signed a deal with Cleveland believed to be worth between $65 million-70 million, set the tone for the Wizards on defense last year when he led the league in steals (2.89) and was named to the All-Defensive first team.

Hughes is not bashful in saying, he intends to use what he knows about the Wizards to help his team. And more often than not, he is the one assigned to guard Arenas.

“I know Washington inside and out,” Hughes told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I know the calls. I know when those guys run to their spots. I know what plays they’re running. I’ll even call their plays out during games.”

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