Hughes leaves Cavs after younger brother dies
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers received news Thursday that suddenly made their 2-0 playoff deficit against the Detroit Pistons seem less important.
Guard Larry Hughes' brother, Justin, died early Thursday at age 20, Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement. Justin Hughes was born with a heart defect and had a heart transplant 10 years ago.
Larry Hughes missed practice Thursday to travel to St. Louis to be with his family. No timetable has been set on his return and it was unclear whether he would play in Game 3 Saturday at Cleveland.
"Right now, basketball should be the furthest thing from his mind," teammate Damon Jones said. "He has to be there for his family. They're going through a trying time right now. If he's able to get back, that's good. If he's not, we're going to continue to keep him in spirit in our hearts."
In December, Hughes missed practice to tend to his ailing brother. He said then that doctors were running tests to determine if the heart was rejecting.
"It's not good, but it's not as bad as it has been in past times that it's happened," Hughes said on Dec. 22. "It'll be probably a couple months before they get it where they want it to be."
Justin Hughes had spent some time with the Cavaliers after his brother joined the team as a free agent last summer.
"The times that he was around, he embraced the team and was excited about being at the basketball games," Jones said. "Just to see the excitement on his face was a special thing, to know what he was going through in his life."
LeBron James said that it was hard for the team to concentrate on basketball Thursday.
"I look at Larry as a brother of mine and for Justin to pass away during a time like this, it's very difficult to focus on anything but Larry and his family right now," James said.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said he will have to plan for Saturday's game in the event that Hughes doesn't play. But he said it was too early to begin that process.
Hughes has had a tough first season in Cleveland. He missed 45 games because of a broken finger, which required a second surgery after it didn't heal correctly the first time.
He returned in April in time to finish the regular season and has struggled in the playoffs, shooting 32 percent in eight games against Washington and Detroit. His 11.3 postseason scoring average is far below the 20.7 points he averaged for Washington in 10 playoff games last year.
While a somber mood permeated the Cavaliers' practice Thursday, the Pistons had one of their best practices in some time, Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.
The Pistons, who haven't swept a seven-game series since the 1989 Finals, are preparing for what they expect to be a tough road game in Cleveland.
"It's difficult to beat a team three times in a row, much less four," Saunders said. "That's why you don't see many sweeps anymore."
The Pistons may still respect the Cavaliers, but the lopsided series isn't getting the same respect from the TV networks. ABC dumped Game 3 from prime time Saturday in favor of Game 3 of the Dallas-San Antonio series.
"Our series has the team with the league's best record against the 21-year-old that a lot of people think should have been the MVP," Saunders said. "That's pretty good, but so is Dallas and San Antonio."
The Pistons say they don't want to allow a repeat of the fourth quarter of Game 2 when James went on a scoring flurry and pulled the Cavaliers within five points.
"We were more inept offensively, and that allowed him to get in transition," Saunders said. "From Day One, one of our keys to contain LeBron was to score at the other end so that he doesn't get in the open floor. He had more of those opportunities in the fourth quarter than in the previous seven quarters."
Richard Hamilton, who responded to James' late rally with a three-point play that helped seal the win, said they have to treat Game 3 like Game 1. He added that James' comeback doesn't provide extra motivation.
"Our motivation is the same as it always is. We want to finish it this year," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press