- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007


Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is resisting the urge to replace the hobbled Larry Hughes in the starting lineup with Daniel Gibson tonight, for whatever nebulous reasons.

Hughes is dealing with yet another injury, this time a torn plantar fascia in his left foot that has robbed him of his quickness and explosiveness.

This is as it always has been with Hughes, whether he was with the 76ers, Warriors or Wizards before joining the Cavaliers.

Hughes always has another body part in need of medical attention — a strained shoulder, a sprained ankle, a broken wrist, a fractured thumb, a fractured finger and now a torn plantar fascia.

Hughes sustained his latest injury in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. He has played through the discomfort, with modest results.

He missed four of five field goal attempts in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He finished with two points, three rebounds and two fouls in 23 minutes. He also was too slow on defense to stop Spurs point guard Tony Parker from driving to the basket.

Gibson, meanwhile, finished with a team-high 16 points in 28 minutes and is potentially an antidote to the Spurs’ doubling- and triple-teaming of LeBron James. He has averaged 19.7 points in his last four games after being rarely used at the beginning of the playoffs.

Yet Brown sees no need to make a switch, not now, not with the Cavaliers in need of resuscitation on offense going into Game 2 tonight.

Daniel is in a nice rhythm coming off the bench, and we don’t want to try to mess with that right now,” Brown said yesterday. “But I understand Larry’s injury, as he does, and it’s something that we’ll just continue to monitor.”

This is not how Hughes imagined it to be after he bolted from the Wizards two summers ago.

He was coming off his best season in the NBA and was signed to be the No. 2 guy to James. Instead, he has the contract of a leading player — a five-year, $70-million deal — but numbers befitting a role player.

Hughes was the highest-paid member of the Cavaliers this season at $15.3 million. He still has three years and $38.4 million left on his contract, an unappealing prospect for the Cavaliers given his injury-plagued history and struggles playing off James.

James dominates the basketball for long stretches of the game and needs spot-up shooters on the floor to stretch the defense.

Hughes is a capable scorer if he is in transition or able to create off the dribble.

He becomes a far less efficient player on offense if he is reduced to standing on the 3-point line and reading the cues of James, as the Cavaliers have discovered the last two seasons.

And now, playing on one leg, he is flirting with being a liability to his team.

“It is tough not to have the ability to take off and drive or get in the air and make a play,” Hughes said. “But I’m in a position now where I have to figure out the best way I can help the team, bad foot or not.”

Gibson has been given no indication from Brown to expect additional playing time tonight.

That Gibson is even in a position to warrant more minutes is a commentary in part on the team’s lack of dependable scoring options other than James.

It also is a basic truth that the two good legs of Gibson are better than the one good leg of Hughes against Parker, who is one of the quickest guards in the NBA.

“He’s a quick, quick guy,” Gibson said. “So whoever is on him, it takes a lot of help on defense. I don’t think one guy can contain him.”

With Hughes crippled and the Cavaliers coming off a 76-point game, a rookie guard from Texas is taking on a significance that was unthinkable at the start of the playoffs.

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