(Always focused on basketball)
In case you do not fanatically peruse NBA blogs like some people I know, The Real Shaq is hosting a wonderfully entertaining series of articles throughout August detailing the worst contracts in the NBA since the 1998 lockout. This series is known as the Jon Koncack Commemorative Awards, and links to all of the other entertaining and informational articles in the series (aside from the KG article, as a huge KG apologist I am going to pretend that I never read it); can be found HERE. I decided to do my portion of the series on Larry Hughes, as the entire outlook of the NBA for the past 5 years, the present, and beyond may have been altered by that hideous $70 million, 5 year deal Mr. Hughes signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005.
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.” This was the most famous quote in the sporting world this summer, probably this year. And if it was not for Larry Hughes and his ridiculous contract signed in 2005, this quote may never have been uttered. Actually, the whole scope of the NBA may look a lot different right now if it was not for this joke of a contract. The Miami cHeat may still be D. Wade + scrubs, or even worse a bottom 5 team with the loss of Wade this summer. The oppressed fans of Cleveland may be an overjoyed, thankful bunch of crazed fans in the midst of celebrating consecutive championships. The Lakers may not be back-to-back champions, and Kobe may not be viewed as a “winner at all costs”, but instead as a “me-first” guy who cannot carry a team led by him to a championship. Ron Artest – a team cancer rather than a key contributor to a championship. Pau Gasolina – too soft to be a champion, rather than the Robin to Batman on the past two championship teams. The Celtics – a one and done championship team rather than perennial contender who was 6:00 away from winning another championshi…
...whoa, sorry, I just snapped out of a 20 minute daydream caused by my mentioning that the Celtics were THAT CLOSE to winning another title in June. I digress…
Okay, so how could a relatively unnotable player like Larry Hughes alter the state of the entire NBA in 2010? Easy, actually. Before all of the other failed second banana to LeBron James experiments occurred (think Jamison, Shaq, Mo Williams), Larry Hughes paved the way as the originator of this string of failed sidekicks. Not only did he fail on the court as the second option, but his ridiculously big contract made it nearly impossible for Cleveland to try again with anyone else for years, much less trade him for anything worthwhile (he was eventually traded in 2008 for an over the hill Ben Wallace and his hefty contract).
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(Urge to kill.... rising.)
Remember in 2007 when Cleveland made it to the NBA Finals? Never mind, maybe that was a bad question. I am a complete NBA rube, but I barely remember it. Maybe because it was the most boring and lopsided finals in my lifetime, with San Antonio sweeping Cleveland 4-0 in unexciting fashion. Where was LeBron’s $70 million sidekick Larry Hughes? Making ONE shot in the whole series! One. Some second banana. He started games one and two shooting a combined 1 for 10 in 44 minutes of game action. He had more fouls and turnovers (5) than assists and steals (3), and ended up sitting out games 3 and 4 (which Cleveland only lost by a combined 4 points, after losing the two Hughes games by 20) with a suspicious injury. It should also be pointed out that it was not just the Finals where Larry disappeared that year. As the playoffs wore on, Hughes’ numbers got worse and worse. In the Eastern Conference Finals series versus Detroit, Hughes averaged 41 minutes, 11 field goals attempted, and 3 field goals made in the two losses, while he only played an average of 24 minutes, with 5 field goals attempted, and 2 field goals made per loss. Less Larry equaled more success for Cleveland in the playoffs, which is really a shame considering he made $13.4 million that season, and was handed the keys as the undisputed second option prior to the season. With Hughes completely disappearing, the likes of Big Z, Sasha Pavlovic (no, I’m not kidding), and Drew Gooden were expected to carry the team. Hughes was so bad that as the playoffs wore on, he was spelled more and more by Boobie Gibson, who averaged a mere 4.6 ppg and 1.2 apg in the regular season. Although Gibson was a 2nd round rookie, he was expected to cover for the $14 million dollar man in the biggest stage of basketball in the world.
I now have spent entirely too much time detailing the way Larry Hughes failed Cleveland when they needed him most, in the 2007 playoffs. This is because he was injured, traded, and in and out of lineups every year since. See, that just goes to show how wasteful this contract of his was. 2007 was his BEST year of the 5 years included on that $70 million contract. During his two and a half years in Cleveland, he shot 39% from the field! He also averaged only 3.2 apg while playing 35 minutes a game as the team’s starting point guard. These embarrassing numbers speak for themselves.
In fact, Larry was so bad in Cleveland that a very popular website was hatched. This website was so popular that I used to check it at least once a week even though I have no connection to the Cavaliers, Larry Hughes, or Cleveland. It was just that entertaining to see how much he maddened those poor tortured fans in Cleveland. The website was appropriately titled heylarryhughespleasestoptaking