Hughes and Arenas: Friendly Foes
Friday, April 21, 2006
There was a moment during the Cleveland Cavaliers' first regular season visit to Verizon Center in February when it appeared that Larry Hughes was still very much a part of the Washington Wizards.
Just before the start of the second half, as Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was honored for being named to his second consecutive Eastern Conference all-star team, Hughes, who was out with a broken right finger, stepped back from the Cleveland huddle and watched his good friend and former teammate walk to midcourt where he soaked in the applause of 20,173 fans.
The look on Hughes's face suggested that he wished he were in the other huddle that night, sharing in Arenas's honor.
"I don't want to say that he has regrets," Arenas said yesterday. "I don't want to put that out there but I'll just say that he misses here."
Hughes signed a five-year, $60 million contract with Cleveland over the summer.
The Wizards responded by acquiring forward Caron Butler in a trade and by signing veteran guard Antonio Daniels to a free agent contract.
Now, nine months after Hughes bolted Washington to join up with LeBron James, the two reconfigured teams will meet in a best-of-seven playoff series. Most of the attention will be on James, who is making his playoff debut, but much of the on-court chatter will be generated by Hughes and Arenas.
In fact, the smack talk has already started.
"It's good because he is a defensive player and he really thinks he can stop me," said Arenas, who averaged 27.8 points, 8.5 assists and 5 rebounds in four games against Cleveland this season. "We started talking trash when they played here last game, so I know that's going to continue when we get out there."
After missing three months with a broken finger, Hughes returned on April 4 and has been working his way back into playing condition while building chemistry with James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Cleveland's other key players.
Hughes, who averaged 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 36 games, helped Cleveland finish 50-32 while wrapping up the fourth seed. It will be Cleveland's first playoff appearance since the 1997-98 season, when James was in junior high school.
It will be the third playoff experience for Hughes, who appeared in eight postseason games as a rookie with Philadelphia in 1999 and averaged 20.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 10 games with the Wizards last spring.