Hughes expected to play Game 7 for Cavs

Updated: May 21, 2006, 1:31 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Larry Hughes walked off the practice floor Saturday dripping with sweat and itching to play.

He'll get his chance in Game 7.

Cleveland's guard, who returned to the club Friday after missing three games in the Detroit series following the death of his younger brother, is expected to play in Sunday's decisive game at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Hughes dressed for Game 6 but didn't see any action in Cleveland's 84-82 loss. However, Hughes' presence was an emotional lift for the Cavs, who traveled to St. Louis to attend Justin Hughes' funeral Tuesday.

Now, Hughes is hoping to give his team a boost on the court.

"Whatever the team needs, I'm here," said Hughes, who needed surgery on his right middle finger during the season and missed 45 games. "They've been playing so well winning games while I was at home. But I just want to come in and support those guys like they supported me. If I'm needed to take a foul, inbounds the ball or play defense on the inbounds play, that's what I'm willing to do."

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said the plans to play Hughes were unfinished.

"It's a game-time decision," he said. "I'm still exploring things with the coaches. There is a decent chance that I'll play him, but when and how long I don't know yet."

Brown was asked whether Hughes, who started the first two games of the series, would be back with the first five.

"Don't think so," he said. "But I don't know yet."

Hughes came back to the Cavaliers on Friday, a week after his brother died. Justin Hughes, 20, battled heart problems his entire life and underwent a transplant in 1997.

Since Justin's passing, Hughes had two tear drops tattooed under his left eye along with a halo and a pair of wings with his brother's nickname "Goo" inked on his left hand.

Hughes said sitting on the bench for Game 6 was strange, but being back with his teammates brought comfort.

"It took me a while, maybe to the end of the first to get focused," he said. "That's kind of how I expected it to be. I really wasn't too concerned about actually going out there and playing because of the focus factor and getting my mind ready to compete."

Once he settled in, Hughes said there were moments he wanted to be on the floor.

"In the second and third quarters, I seen coach walking the sideline a couple times and I was kind of hoping that he'd call and I was kind of hoping that he didn't," he said. "Just to be there was good for me."

Having him on the floor can only be good for the Cavaliers.

"Hooray!" guard Damon Jones shouted at the news Hughes would likely play. "We need him. He's a big part of what we do here. For us to get those three wins without him showed a lot of character and a lot of guys stepped up and did some great things.

"But if we're going to get this thing done, we're going to need his help. We're glad that he's back. We don't know what kind of condition he is in, but who cares? Put him on the floor, coach," he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press