TWO SUMMERS ago
the Cavaliers signed 6'5" multitalented guard Larry Hughes from the
Washington Wizards. The numbers Cleveland liked: Hughes's averages of 22.0
points and 2.9 steals in 2004--05. The numbers Hughes liked: five years and up
to $70 million. His nickname is Smooth, but his transition to life as King
James's court sidekick was bumpy. A new system, a new role, a broken finger
that cost him much of '05--06. Now, though, come the dividends—a Hughes who is
happy, healthy and hard to stop. He averaged 19.0 points in Cleveland's
first-round sweep of his old team and was at it again on Sunday, scoring 17
points and making four steals as the Cavs knocked back the Nets in Game 1 of
the Eastern Conference semis.
On switching from
shooting guard to point guard in March
It was an easy transition; I've always been used to having the ball and making
decisions. Coach [ Mike Brown] told me he wanted to have the ball in my hands
earlier in the shot clock so I can make more plays for my teammates. As a point
guard I can get any shot whenever I want it. I don't have to worry about when
I'm going to get the ball, so I don't press as much.
between ex-Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James
Gil is constantly hungry and always trying to prove people wrong. He looks at
me more as a big brother—I was in Golden State with him when he was a rookie
[in 2001--02]. LeBron was established when I got here. He didn't need me to
help him. He's on his way to being one of the best players to play this
On how he picked
I didn't start real young. And I never, ever thought about making money at it
or being a star. My mom [Vanessa] just wanted me to play something organized.
So after messing around with it for a little while, when I was 12, I started to
play on teams. I've never played any other organized sports. Not one.
On becoming the
man of the house when he was in eighth grade
My mom told me this was my role and I had to make good decisions. It made me
stronger. I had to learn how to discipline myself. When my mom was at work [as
a bank teller], I couldn't be out doing crazy stuff. I had to make sure my
brother [Justin, seven years younger] and I were eating the right food and
watching the right TV shows. I made meals, simple stuff like PB & J,
noodles, chicken soup, cereal. And I made sure we didn't set anything on fire
or drink bleach. I didn't want my mom to worry when she was at work. That
thinking kept me out of trouble.
On dealing with
the loss of Justin, who died of heart failure last May at 20, nine years after
having a heart transplant
It took a lot of time. I had mood swings, and every day was different. Talking
about it to family and friends helped. Now, before every game I say a prayer
and talk to him. He gets me going.
I loved the city and the guys I played with, but here we have a real shot at
the conference finals. You can't turn that down. We're close to being a title
contender too. We need to work on our killer instinct. When we have teams down
10, 15 points, we have to stop letting them back into games.
On the rapper
We're close. He put me in his [Dilemma] video. We first met in the schoolyard
[as teenagers]. He loves to play ball, and we have a lot in common. He's a
young black guy from St. Louis trying to open doors for kids, and so am I. We
talk a lot about that.