CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers received news Thursday that
suddenly made their 2-0 playoff deficit against the Detroit Pistons
seem less important.
Guard Larry Hughes' brother, Justin, died early Thursday at age
20, Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement.
Justin Hughes was born with a heart defect and had a heart
transplant 10 years ago.
Larry Hughes missed practice Thursday to travel to St. Louis to
be with his family. No timetable has been set on his return and it
was unclear whether he would play in Game 3 Saturday at Cleveland.
"Right now, basketball should be the furthest thing from his
mind," teammate Damon Jones said. "He has to be there for his
family. They're going through a trying time right now. If he's able
to get back, that's good. If he's not, we're going to continue to
keep him in spirit in our hearts."
In December, Hughes missed practice to tend to his ailing
brother. He said then that doctors were running tests to determine
if the heart was rejecting.
"It's not good, but it's not as bad as it has been in past
times that it's happened," Hughes said on Dec. 22. "It'll be
probably a couple months before they get it where they want it to
Justin Hughes had spent some time with the Cavaliers after his
brother joined the team as a free agent last summer.
"The times that he was around, he embraced the team and was
excited about being at the basketball games," Jones said. "Just
to see the excitement on his face was a special thing, to know what
he was going through in his life."
LeBron James said that it was hard for the team to concentrate
on basketball Thursday.
"I look at Larry as a brother of mine and for Justin to pass
away during a time like this, it's very difficult to focus on
anything but Larry and his family right now," James said.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said he will have to plan for
Saturday's game in the event that Hughes doesn't play. But he said
it was too early to begin that process.
Hughes has had a tough first season in Cleveland. He missed 45
games because of a broken finger, which required a second surgery
after it didn't heal correctly the first time.
He returned in April in time to finish the regular season and
has struggled in the playoffs, shooting 32 percent in eight games
against Washington and Detroit. His 11.3 postseason scoring average
is far below the 20.7 points he averaged for Washington in 10
playoff games last year.
While a somber mood permeated the Cavaliers' practice Thursday,
the Pistons had one of their best practices in some time, Detroit
coach Flip Saunders said.
The Pistons, who haven't swept a seven-game series since the
1989 Finals, are preparing for what they expect to be a tough road
game in Cleveland.
"It's difficult to beat a team three times in a row, much less
four," Saunders said. "That's why you don't see many sweeps
The Pistons may still respect the Cavaliers, but the lopsided
series isn't getting the same respect from the TV networks. ABC
dumped Game 3 from prime time Saturday in favor of Game 3 of the
Dallas-San Antonio series.
"Our series has the team with the league's best record against
the 21-year-old that a lot of people think should have been the
MVP," Saunders said. "That's pretty good, but so is Dallas and
The Pistons say they don't want to allow a repeat of the fourth
quarter of Game 2 when James went on a scoring flurry and pulled
the Cavaliers within five points.
"We were more inept offensively, and that allowed him to get in
transition," Saunders said. "From Day One, one of our keys to
contain LeBron was to score at the other end so that he doesn't get
in the open floor. He had more of those opportunities in the fourth
quarter than in the previous seven quarters."
Richard Hamilton, who responded to James' late rally with a
three-point play that helped seal the win, said they have to treat
Game 3 like Game 1. He added that James' comeback doesn't provide
"Our motivation is the same as it always is. We want to finish
it this year," he said.