Cavs Report: Hudson takes long way to NBA
Lester Hudson’s road to the Cavaliers was hardly paved with gold. Hot coals and bare feet would be more like it.
From about the time he hit college, the odds were against Hudson in the NBA. Or at least, against Hudson having made the impact he has for the Cavs so far.
Hudson is a native of Memphis and began his college career at something called Southwest Tennessee Community College, a two-year school in his hometown. After that, it was on to Tennessee-Martin.
Never heard of Tennessee-Martin? Don’t feel bad. It’s a mid-major program that competes in the Ohio Valley Conference. Nothing wrong with the OVC. But its best teams typically are along the lines of Murray State, Morehead State and Austin Peay State — whose fans fittingly root on their squad by cheering, “Let’s Go Peay!”
Meanwhile, UT-Martin didn’t introduce men’s basketball until 1993. The Skyhawks have won just one regular-season conference title and have never made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
So Hudson wasn’t exactly sharpening his skills in the Big East, ACC or any other power conference. But he did fare well in his own conference — winning OVC Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons (2008 and ’09).
Among his other accomplishments: Becoming the first college player to record a quadruple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals) in ’08. He also scored at least 30 points 11 times that year.
Still, Hudson was barely on the radar of pro scouts. He was viewed as a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, something that has never really existed in the NBA. Especially when you consider Hudson is actually a lot closer to 6-1.
Boston gave Hudson a (long) shot, anyway, selecting him with the No. 58 pick in the ’09 draft. For the uninformed, there are only 60 picks total.
Hudson played just 16 games with the Celtics that year, spending most of his time with their D-League affiliate in Maine. He was waived right after the New Year, then claimed two days later by Memphis.
Things didn’t go much better there. Hudson was immediately assigned to the Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate in North Dakota, then released by the Grizzlies (after nine games) in July. The next season, he played for Washington, with the results largely the same (11 games, 6.6 minutes per).
By Hudson’s own admission, he was tentative while in the NBA. He didn’t play his game, which consists of fearless driving and aggressively looking to shoot. He didn’t want to upset the veteran players who had been playing in the NBA for years, or come across as a young gun who only wanted to hog the ball.
But after more stints in the minors, and China, Hudson promised himself he wouldn’t be timid if he ever got back to the NBA. He’s 27 years old, and he has decided to do the things that made him successful in the past, to play his game.
With the Cavs, he’s done exactly that, staying active, looking to shoot, heating things up off the bench. In two of the past three games, he’s buried his team’s biggest shot, sending the game to overtime with less than two seconds remaining each time.
“He’s been through the ringer, being in and out of this league,” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. “He wants to make sure he doesn’t leave.”
Hudson is now on his second 10-day contract. He has played in eight games for the Cavs. In the past six, he’s putting up averages of 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists. In the two games the Cavs have won since Hudson joined the team, he’s averaging 24 points (compared to 12 in the six losses).
All this and he has yet to play alongside regular starters Kyrie Irving or Anderson Varejao. Instead, it’s been Donald Sloan and Semih Erden.
But it’s the NBA, and Hudson is having success. He’s giving Cavs fans a reason to watch and the rest of the league reason to pay attention.
That’s a long way from Southwest Tennessee Community College, and with any luck, it will last a lot longer for both Hudson and the Cavs.
— Backup center Semih Erden suffered a sprained ankle in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Pacers and did not travel with the team for weekend games in Indiana and Washington. The Cavs also play Sunday at home vs. Orlando.
— It is also unlikely that point guard Kyrie Irving (shoulder) or forward/center Anderson Varejao (wrist) will return to the team this weekend.
— FOX Sports Ohio broadcaster and Cavs TV play-by-play man Fred McLeod has added to his title. McLeod is now the executive producer of multimedia. He has been the Cavs’ voice since 2006-07. Before that, he spent 22 years with the Pistons.
— Sloan confirmed he will join the Cavs’ summer-league team in July. He has been starting in place of Irving, and is likely to be joined on the summer roster by Hudson, rookie forward Tristan Thompson and possibly even Irving, the frontrunner for NBA Rookie of the year.
— The Canton Charge's first game in the D-League playoffs will be broadcast on the radio by WHBC-1480 AM. The Charge open the playoffs Friday against the Springfield Armor. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO