When Larry Hughes was a free agent in 2005, there were a number of NBA teams he considered playing for. In the end, he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers – in part because they had something no other team could offer.
They had LeBron James.
“Oh, that was definitely one of the factors – a key factor,” Hughes said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I did talk to LeBron during free agency when I was making my decision, and we obviously talked about a few things that could work for our situation if we got together. Things didn’t always work out, but that was definitely one of the reasons I decided to go to Cleveland. We won a lot of games, and that’s definitely a plus.”
In 2006-07 – Hughes’ second season in Cleveland – the Cavs advanced to the NBA Finals, where they faced Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavs were huge underdogs in the series.
“I think the mentality was definitely to go in and (win),” Hughes said. “Obviously everyone wanted to shock the world. I think that was really our mentality from everyone involved. I think we wanted to go in and prove people wrong.”
Cleveland, however, was swept by San Antonio, losing Games 3 and 4 by a combined four points. At the time, James was a kid. Just 22 years old.
Eight years and two rings later, he’s the best player in the world and already one of the greatest players of all time.
“He’s just much better now,” Hughes said. “Obviously he was a talent when we played together, but just his understanding of being experienced and knowing what it takes to win close games and to be in the mix of being down in a series and going on the road to win games, you can really pull on that stuff and rely on that stuff through the course of the playoffs. I think that’s what he’s done thus far.”
James is averaging 29.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the playoffs and 35.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the Finals. He’s shooting just 38.8 percent from the floor against Golden State, but he’s put the Cavaliers on his back and has a chance to give the city of Cleveland its first sports championship in over a half century.
“I actually had the Cavs picked to win the championship,” Hughes said. “I think it’ll go seven games. But . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if it went either way, just because of the situation of being injured and the way Golden State has played all year.”
Game 5 is Sunday in Oakland at 8 p.m. ET, with Game 6 to follow Tuesday in Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET.