Larry Hughes goes hard, no matter his role.
Heading into the ’09-10 season, Larry Hughes saw the writing on the wall. The chances of the wiry veteran logging meaningful minutes were nothing short of nil. Word of Hughes getting relegated to the pine was littered all over articles, columns and throughout the growing New York basketball blogosphere.
Turn the clock back to the preseason, and Hughes’ woeful performances certainly didn’t augment his chances.
Hughes was mired in a nightmarish 0-17 shooting slump, burying his chances under a barrage of bricks. He fell out of favor with the faltering franchise, at a rapid pace. Clank after clank, Ofer followed by another Ofer. The future wasn’t promising.
But Hughes, a 6-5 guard who’s averaged 14.6 points throughout his career, kept shooting. He thwarted his individual freefall with a 20-point outburst during the Garden opener, a crushing 141-127 OT loss to the Sixers.
With electrifying, trigger-happy guard Nate Robinson bitten by the injury bug, Hughes is thrust back into a familiar role as a scoring threat.
“Right now, it’s about trying to string some wins together,” said Hughes, he of the tatted tears and laid-back, cool customer attitude which has won over fans in Philly, Golden State, Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, and now the Mecca of basketball.
The St. Louis-bred baller, who spent his teenage years kicking it with Nelly and starring at Christian Brothers College High School (where he led the squad to a Missouri state championship in 1997) spent time taking pictures with fans before the game while being peppered with questions from a hungry New York media circus hastily awaiting LeBron James’ arrival tonight.
Hughes, who played alongside James for over two seasons, is also ready to be reunited with the King.
The major challenge cooking on Hughes’ front burner, however, is putting together a win streak and finding a groove for this Knicks team. “It’s a new month, November. Obviously we want to just have a winning month. That’s really our goal right now.”
Hughes pierced the nets, averaging 19.5 points through the Knicks first two home games. He shot a meager 2-10 in the Knicks 101-89 loss to the Pacers on November 4, a game underscored by the ‘Bockers second half power outage.
Weeks ago, Hughes couldn’t foresee this role. All signs pointed to Hughes nearing the sunset of his career and catching unfair bench splinters. What will Hughes do to embrace his jump from spare part to cast member?
“Just play the game,” said Hughes, resonating the words Jake Shuttlesworth once spit to his son, Jesus, while he was getting shellacked in a mano y mano battle. “Just going out and doing my job and really just not putting anything extra on it. Just playing the game, taking whatever the situation calls for, just being aggressive on both ends of the floor, you know?”
The Pacers’ Brandon Rush admitted it felt good as the Pacers got the monkey off their back Wednesday night. The win halts a three-game slide, one which made Indiana one of L’s three winless teams entering the tilt at MSG.
“We were just playing hard and aggressive, they are a fast-paced team,” said Rush, heaping praise on a Knicks team that’s constantly pushed to rehydrate Mike D’Antoni’s go-go, speedball approach. “We played our game, and we came out on top. It was just about grinding it out, one possession at a time and not trying to make a home run play. We try to be a team that plays defense first.”
Rush continued: “There was definitely a sense of urgency [to get the win]. We fought hard the whole game. I mean we got some big stops down the stretch. I’m glad we got this first win. I liked the way we played. We played fast, we got shots up. We all played pretty good. We definitely have to carry that over against Washington, because they’re a good team.”
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.