Hughes won’t give up spot
NBA FINALS: CAVALIERS VS. SPURS
SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James’ face lit up on the interview podium Saturday afternoon when he was asked a question about the hit series “The Sopranos,” and the Cavaliers small forward then talked at length about his desire that Tony not get “whacked” in the series finale.
Larry Hughes’ face got real serious when he was asked about the possibility of getting whacked from the starting lineup in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, but he said he would understand if coaches or team doctors told him he shouldn’t play due to the partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot.
Then there’s the fact the Cavaliers could be in severe danger of being whacked if they fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is tonight at 9 — “The Sopranos” start on HBO at the same time — at the AT&T Center.
“I think I’ll be more focused on Tony Parker,” James said of the Spurs point guard, “but I am a fan of Tony Soprano.”
Parker lit up the Cavaliers for 27 points in Game 1, with many of them coming against Hughes, who is far from 100 percent.
The Cleveland point guard said he was planning on playing tonight — and the rest of the series, for that matter — but seemed to leave open the possibility of sitting out.
“I plan on sticking it out,” Hughes said. “If there’s something our staff sees that is not best for the team, I understand when something’s bad enough that you’re not helping out. I’m fully prepared to deal with that situation if it comes about.
“I won’t give up,” he added. “You’ve got to tell me I can’t play and I’m really hurting the team.”
Many observers think he is hurting the team.
Hughes scored just two points in Game 1 of the finals, when he was 1-of-5 from the field, and had no assists in 23 minutes. Since suffering the injury early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit, the 28-year-old has averaged just 5.5 points (on 7-of-22 shooting) and 1.5 assists, but he feels no need to apologize for giving it a go.
“I feel good (about trying to play),” Hughes said. “I’ve given this team all I can give.”
Hughes’ willingness to play in pain has scored major points with his teammates, and it also has helped Cavaliers coach Mike Brown keep his rotation intact.
However, now that the Cavaliers are playing a team with a lightning-quick point guard in Parker, Hughes’ lack of mobility has become much more glaring than it was against the slower, stronger Chauncey Billups of Detroit.
For that reason, even if the 6-foot-5, 184-pounder plays tonight — he’s almost certain to start if he does — the Cavaliers will likely alter their matchups and put James (or even Sasha Pavlovic) on Parker.
“We’re just going to keep monitoring him,” Brown said, “and if we feel like it’s too much for him — like in the fourth quarter, I didn’t go back to him at that time — then we’ll sit him, whether it’s our call, the doctor’s call or his call.’’
The fact Cleveland rookie Daniel Gibson has been playing exceptionally well off the bench — he’s averaged 19.8 points and shot 62.5 percent from the field over the last four games — also means Hughes could get a quick hook tonight.
He’s prepared for that — and the possibility of getting whacked completely — but plans on being out on the court for the opening tip until someone tells him otherwise.
“I would have been fully justified if I had said, ‘I can’t play through the pain,’” Hughes said. “I feel proud of myself (for trying).”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Game 2
WHO: Cleveland at San Antonio
TIME: 9 o’clock
WHERE: AT&T Center, San Antonio
TV/RADIO: Channel 5; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Larry Hughes (left) shoots a look at Daniel Gibson on Saturday in San Antonio. The injured Hughes could lose even more playing time to Gibson tonight.