WASHINGTON -- NBA steals leader Larry Hughes was diagnosed Sunday with a broken right thumb and will miss four to six weeks, the first real crisis to
hit a Washington Wizards team off to its best start in decades.
Hughes was hurt when his thumb was hit by Quentin Richardson while driving for a layup in the final minutes of Saturday night's victory over the
"This is a difficult loss for our team," coach Eddie Jordan said. "We certainly feel for Larry, who has played a big part in our team's success. We
have confidence in our team to overcome a setback like this."
Hughes is one of the so-called Big Three, along with Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, who have led the Wizards (22-13) to seven straight wins in
their best start since the 1978-79 season. Hughes in the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points (21.2), five rebounds (6.1), five assists (5.3)
and 2.5 steals (2.82) -- all career highs for the seventh-year player from Saint Louis.
"I am very disappointed that this happened, but I have full confidence that my teammates will play well while I'm out," Hughes said. "I look forward
to getting back as soon as possible."
The Wizards have entered a difficult part of the schedule, with a two-game road trip to Texas and road games against Indiana and Cleveland in eight
days. Without a consistent low-post scoring threat, the team had regularly needed each of the Big Three to contribute every game.
Now it's a Big Two plus Juan Dixon, who is expected to start in Hughes' spot at shooting guard. Dixon has played well in the last two games, scoring
13 points against Milwaukee and 26 against Phoenix. Anthony Peeler and Laron Profit would back up Dixon.
The Wizards have constantly been victims of bad decisions and bad luck since the 1980s. Last season was derailed by long-term injuries to Hughes,
Arenas and Jerry Stackhouse, and Hughes' latest setback is eerily reminiscent of an injury to Michael Jordan that sent the promising 2001-02 season
into a spiral.
The Wizards were 26-21 after a victory over Western Conference powerhouse Sacramento and appeared a shoo-in for the playoffs, only to learn later that
Jordan hurt his knee in the game and would be limited the rest of the season. The team went 11-24 the rest of the season and missed the postseason.