Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Larry Hughes Out

I have to take a moment and disagree with Michael Wilbon of PTI (who is great, by the way). Today on the air he said that he thought what was once a winnable series for Cleveland has been lost due to the fact that Larry Hughes is out of the lineup.

Now, before I ask my next question, I will note that the one thing Hughes does well is press up on Chauncey Billups from end to end. So if Billups breaks out and has a big game tonight (which is absolutely due for, regardless of who is guarding him), Wilbon and others might turn out to be "right."

But that said, has my man been watching the games? I know he's only on location for the Western Conference Finals, but I presume he's still tuning in to the Cavs-Pistons series. If he has, then he should be seeing what I'm seeing: Larry Hughes setting basketball back a couple of decades. I've crushed Hughes in this space and am honestly starting to feel bad about it, but his absence can only be a positive for Cleveland. Daniel Gibson is outplaying him (badly) and even Damon Jones is a better guy to have on the court if only because he can do Larry Hughes' job (stand on the wing and pop jumpers) better than Hughes can, plus he brings the added benefit of not trying to do too much. Hughes kills Cleveland because he thinks he's better than he is. This is the trait of all complimentary players that bring down franchises. The role players who simply suck and stay out of the way never actually lose games, but the sidekicks who think they have great skill wind up taking 20 shots or committing 8 turnovers because they keep doing things they shouldn't be doing and monopolizing the ball. (See: AJ Abrams of the University of Texas last year.)

Anyway. I expect the Pistons to play well tonight, actually, and win the game. But it will have nothing to do with Hughes being out of the lineup. If anything, the Cavs have a much better chance now. MUCH better.

(Update: Well, so much for that. Hughes is out there playing. And Steve Kerr is raving about Hughes' defense on Billups, which is just more reductionist analysis of the situation, as Gibson has been just as good on Chauncey. Billups' struggles are a little bit about pace (he's going faster than he would like), a little bit about strategy (hugging him the length of the floor), and A LOT about Billups just playing like dog crap. I am quite sure he would tell you the same thing. Mr. Big Shot needs to get it cranked up. After all, it is May AND time for a new contract.]

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