Larry Hughes Going Back to Cleveland? Um, No.

Larry HughesIf there was a Mount Rushmore of NBA Writers, I’m not exactly sure who would all be on it. What I can tell you, though, is that one name that would probably get some consideration (in some circles) is Sam Smith. The former Chicago Tribune writer who covered the Bulls beat in the MJ era and currently writes exclusively for the Chicago Bulls’ official site (Bulls.com) probably earned his most fame for writing his essential must-read book “The Jordan Rules”.

I cannot think of another book that influenced my love of the NBA more than this book. In a few hundred pages, Sam Smith tears down the curtain between fan and player and gives anyone who will dare to look a peek inside the world of the NBA athlete. The book followed the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls team as they overcome no shortage of inner turmoil and jealousy in order to rise above and win their first NBA Championship. But most importantly, Smith writes the book in such a way that we can’t help but feel like we’re the ones inside the locker room with the team. The book is a masterpiece and it has cemented Smith’s place in the pantheon of great NBA writers.

Unfortunately, it seems these days Smith is more interested in ruffling feathers and spreading (seemingly) baseless rumors. In particular, he loves to take shots at LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year, he was one of the loudest voices complaining about LeBron’s “star treatment” he was getting from the officials. It was Smith who first reported that some people in the NBA think Durant is better than LeBron. That statement alone isn’t a shot at LeBron per se, but it was the way in which Smith wrote it that irked many Cavs fans, including the line:

“It’s being whispered now among NBA types because, I believe, under a secret NBA/ESPN provision you are not permitted to say aloud anything that might be interpreted to suggest LeBron James isn’t the best thing to ever happen in anyone’s life.”

The latest rumor, or theory, or whatever Smith wants to classify it as, has Larry Hughes possibly finding his way back to the Cavaliers. In an article in which he ranks this year’s rookie class, Smith had the following to say in one of the blurbs at the end of the story:

Larry Hughes was 0-for-17 in the preseason before Sunday’s game against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hughes was one of three Sunday in eight minutes in the game which was delayed when the Maccabi coach was ejected and refused to leave even after a rabbi came out of the stands to ask the referees to allow the coach to stay. Yes, only in New York.

[...]

Hughes, meanwhile, said he’s not worried since, “I’m a proven scorer in this league.” When did we hear that one? Hughes also offered that he doubts former teammate LeBron James will leave the Cavs and for James it’s not about playing in a big market like New York. The Knicks had to love that. The speculation in New York is the Knicks will try to buy out Hughes, who then could return to the Cavs with the Cavs uncertain about the status of Delonte West.

My only question for Sam would be ‘Who, exactly, is speculating Larry Hughes could return to Cleveland’? “Speculation in New York.” I’m not even sure what that means. Is he referring to NY Sports Writers? The Knicks front office? Larry Hughes himself? Whatever the case, the speculation in Cleveland is that any thought of Larry Hughes coming back to the Cavaliers is a complete joke.

If Danny Ferry were to give a candid interview in which he let his guard down, I’m positive he would rank the Larry Hughes contract as one of the biggest mistakes of his tenure. Possibly even the #1 mistake. It was Ferry’s first job as a GM, and the first big move he got to make. So he signed Larry Hughes. It’s not just the fact that he signed him that was so bad. But he signed him to so much money ($70 million) and for so many years (5 years). It was the single most defining contract of Ferry’s time as Cavalier GM, as it has completely handcuffed him for so long and prevented Ferry from making any significant moves for 2.5 years. In a way, it’s as if Danny Ferry has spent the entirety of his GM term trying to atone for that one summer. So I wouldn’t expect Hughes to walk through those doors at any time.

And what role would Hughes serve on this team anyway? Is the demand for a player who can’t shoot and only plays defense when his offensive game is working (which, as I said, is pretty much never) really that high? There’s no question Hughes has the quickness to defend the kind of speedy PGs who sometimes give the Cavaliers problems, and the Cavaliers could certainly use another PG. But the last time the Cavaliers tried to ask Hughes to play PG (a lineup which eventually led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance), Hughes raised holy hell and he had his buddy Gilbert Arenas speaking out against the Cavaliers on his behalf, stating that the Cavaliers were mis-using Hughes. So no, I don’t think the Cavaliers will have a whole heck of a lot of interest in welcoming Little Larry Hughes back with open arms.

Look, Sam Smith knows what he’s doing. He’s always had a bit of a snarky, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek approach to his writing. For example, last December when writing about the NBA at the first quarter checkpoint, he said of the Cavaliers:

“LeBron James is doing his Michael Jordan thing, lifting a team of role players and adding committed defense to his game, finally. Wonder if he’s planning to sign with the Thunder near his financial mentor Warren Buffett.”

I doubt Smith really believes Larry Hughes is going back to Cleveland any more than he believes LeBron is going to sign with the Thunder (although, can you imagine what a LeBron/Durant pairing would look like?). He’s not afraid to say outlandish things to get people talking. But when the line about Larry Hughes coming back to Cleveland shows up as the first link on the HoopsHype.com Rumors Page, well, that’s when I have a bit of a problem with it. There are plenty of people who will read that and think it’s a real story.

There are at least several other examples of crazy/insane things that Smith has written in recent years that I could use to further bolster this point, but I’ll spare you the details. The bottom line is simple, really. If you hear rumors that Larry Hughes is going to be bought out in New York and is then going to come back to the Cavaliers, I wouldn’t believe the hype if I were you. Even if people insist it must be true because Sam Smith is the one who wrote it.

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(Photo Credit: Dan Hanson, 2007)

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I just cried a tattoo.

  • Biff

    Game 5, 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Cavs vs. Nets: In 39 minutes of action, Larry Hughes shoots 3-17 and single-handedly murders his team on their way to a 9 point home loss. He smirked at the crowd after every brick, as if to say, “f*&# you Cleveland, I’m getting mine.”

    I’ve never seen a fan base more enraged with one player than Cavs fans were that night. My buddy left 10th row seats in the middle of the 3rd quarter (of a close playoff game!!!) because he just couldn’t stand to look at Hughes anymore. It was perhaps the worst performance I’ve ever seen in any sport . . . and that’s saying a lot in this town.

    This has nothing to do with anything other than my pure, unadulterated hatred for Larry Hughes. I hate him with all my being.

  • Boomhauer

    Sam Smith will be on the Cavs’ roster before Larry Hughes is.

    Knowing Larry, I imagine if the Knicks want to buy him out, they’re going to have to pay him the full remaining value of his contract. I doubt he’ll give them a discount on what he would make from another team. On the open market, he’s not getting anything better than the veteran minimum.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    I was at that game, too, Biff. I have never in my life been so furious with a team at a game I was actually attending. I desperately wanted to run on to the court, grab Larry by the neck, and scream at him to stop shooting the ball. I was beside myself with anger and frustration.

  • Nullster

    I don’t mind this article for the only reason that it made me go actually check to see if http://www.heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com had been updated in the last year

  • dwhit

    In other news the Browns have decided to fix their QB issues by bringing in Trent Dilfer and Jeff Garcia.

  • Clown Baby

    Are you guys kidding? I loved this site!
    http://heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com/

  • Clown Baby

    @5:

    Jinx!

  • Biff

    Rock, I could not have described my own feelings any more appropriately. It’s one of the only times in my life that I ever felt like it might be a good idea to have a friend close by to restrain me, just in case.

  • Ike

    Larry’s time in Cleveland was pretty bad.

    But even with Lebron heroics in the 2007 ECF, the Cavs don’t get by Detroit without Hughes completely putting the clamps on Chauncey Billups for the entire series. Just sayin..

  • Roger Podacter

    Biff & Rock,

    Not to beat a dead horse but like most of us, I have attended many Cleveland sporting events and NOTHING has ever made me feel like Larry Hughes did that night. To say that I was blinded by rage would be a tremendous understatement.

    I had buried the thought of what his stupid smug face looked like as he was chucking up brick after brick that night in the farthest back reaches of my mind but reading your comments just dredges up those feelings yet again.

    I would rather have a starting backcourt of David Wesley & Lucious Harris than ever see Larry play one more minute in a Cavs uni.

  • steve

    i’m sorry but sam smith falls into the same category of kobe bryant’s fan boys who feel too threatened to accept another elite player is in the league.

    he’s a hack and he has something of a vendetta against lebron just because people like him.

    you’re so non-conformist sam.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    @Ike: Oh, I dunno….I’d imagine that without Hughes’ $13.363 million salary on the books that season that the Cavs could have found someone else in the NBA who could do just as good of a job.

  • steve

    I mean you can still point out Lebron’s faults and the sheer craziness of some of his media coverage without being a total prick about it.

  • Biff

    Yes Ike, our $70 million did buy us two above-average defensive games in that series. Offensively . . . not so much.

    Game 1: 4-13
    Game 2: 2-9
    Game 3: 2-2
    Game 4: 1-6
    Game 5: 2-3
    Game 6: 3-8

    Series Total: 14-41 – 34%

  • ben

    has brady/cribbs/wimbley/stclair/entire team been traded?

  • Biff

    Shaun Rogers to the Jets for Ken O’Brien, Al Toon, a 4th round pick, and Blair Thomas

  • Jason

    I find it ironic that anyone who followed Jordan closely (esp as a fan) would complain about LeBron getting “special treatment”. Jordan got 4-6 steps in between dribbles…and rarely every got called for traveling. Years later, Lebron got called for traveling by doing what his idol got away with… the crab dribble thing.

    btw, I think Lebron does get special treatment from the refs, as does Kobe, KG, Tim Duncan, D-Wade, etc. I also think the fans who watched team-oriented squads coached by Lenny Wilkens get screwed by “Traveling Mike and his band of referees” are owed a little karma now that we have the superstar.

    I call this my “two wrongs making it right… for us” logic.

    This is almost like Patriots fans complaining about any future “tuck rule” calls that might go against them.

  • BB

    Sam needs to retire. I remember a few years ago he lauded the hiring of Paxson as a consultant for the Bulls because of the ‘excellent’ situation he left the Cavs in. Hey Sam, your glasses need Windex. Big surprise he is now working for Bulls.com, Sam knows where to put his nose.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    @18: Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t say that “The Jordan Rules” is exactly a pro-Jordan book. I always felt like Smith painted MJ as a spoiled star who was despised by his teammates. I think Sam doesn’t like superstars, period.

  • Isis

    Ike…….pleeeeeeeeeez. Was that on the few occasions when Hughes actually put forth effort? I’m totally with Rock@#13.

  • Anthony

    The header image from “Hey Larry Hughes…” still makes me giggle. It’s amazing to think that it was started just a little under two years ago – feels like a lifetime ago. Did anyone ever figure out whose site it was? And any way we can get an update with thoughts about these unsubstantiated “rumors”?

    One of my all-time favorite posts: Happy Birthday Larry Hughes!
    “Better Shooting 2″ featuring everyone’s favorite Dukie, JJ Reddick!

    And who can forget this Hughes pic? Deadspin

  • http://www.TheConstantComplainer.com The Constant Complainer

    Larry Hughes, possibly the worst player even to make it all the way to the NBA. I think there would be a lot of unhappy Cavs fans if he came back.

  • ShenBob

    Always love a good non-story from WFNY. Reporting on a baseless rumor. Solid.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    I’m sorry ShenBob. Rock, can we please refund ShenBob’s money?

  • Jason

    Rock,

    I haven’t read the book yet… so thanks for the clarification on Smith. I’ll look for a copy of the MJ book and add it to my list of books to read.

    Go cavs!

  • mike

    in related news, the indians have brought albert “joey” belle in for a manager’s interview due to his stabilizing presence in the clubhouse.

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