NEWARK, N.J.: In his first 10 days on the job with the Cavaliers, Lester Hudson accomplished something only Antawn Jamison and Kyrie Irving can match.
Now he’ll get another 10 days – at least – to see what else he can do.
The Cavaliers lost to the Nets on Sunday in overtime 122-117, but it wasn’t Hudson’s fault. On the final day of his 10-day contract, Hudson scored a career-high 26 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter and a dramatic 3-pointer with less than a second remaining in regulation to force the overtime.
Hudson made six 3-pointers, tying Irving for the most in a game this season, in surpassing his previous high of 23 points set two days ago.
No other player on the team besides Jamison and Irving has scored 49 points in consecutive games. Irving, in fact, has only done it three times. All of that scoring, on a team desperate for offense, has earned Hudson a little more time in Cleveland.
The Cavs can either sign Hudson to another 10-day deal today or just extend him for the final 18 days of the season. Regardless, he’ll probably be back at practice today at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
“I’m pretty sure Lester will be in a Cavaliers uniform for the rest of the year,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said after the game. “Especially the last two games, he’s been fantastic. I’m happy for him because he plays so hard, he’s a good kid and he gave us a chance again tonight.”
Hudson had eight points within two minutes off the bench Sunday, but fell into foul trouble and had to sit all but 46 seconds of the second quarter and half of the third. He made up for it in the fourth, scoring the team’s final five points.
Manny Harris grabbed a rebound off a Nets miss with nine seconds left and brought the ball down the floor. He passed off to Hudson in the corner, who sank the off-balance 3-pointer while he was falling over and had Deron Williams’ hand in his face with 0.3 remaining, tying the game at 109.
He even took the 3-pointer at the end of overtime to force a second session, but his shot from the wing was off the mark.
In the span of 10 days, Hudson has risen from a Development League unknown into one of the Cavs’ top scoring threats. It’s been a whirlwind he never thought possible, but he still believes he can play better than he has displayed.
“It’s not my best basketball overall,” he said. “I could move my feet more and play better defense. I can do a lot. Tonight I had a little hot hand and hit a couple shots, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t win.”
Hudson is outplaying Harris, who is starting at shooting guard while Anthony Parker nurses a bruised sternum, but Scott has no plans to shift Hudson into the starting lineup.
He still isn’t very comfortable in the Cavs’ system because he has practiced with the team only twice, but beyond that, Scott loves the scoring punch he brings off the bench. It is an injection that has been sorely missing since Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson were inserted into the starting lineup.
“I love what he’s giving us off the bench right now,” Scott said. “It doesn’t matter that much about starting. It’s about finishing. He’s out there when it counts at the end of the game and that’s the most important thing.”
Jamison matched a season high with 34 points and Thompson had 15 points and 15 rebounds, but the Cavs have dropped 13 of 15. They are at least competitive in games again, however, because of unknowns like Hudson and Donald Sloan.
Sloan struggled with his shot, but had a career-high 14 assists and played gritty defense on Williams, holding him to 8-of-19 shooting. He is already signed for the rest of the season, and with 18 days left, Hudson won’t be far behind.
“Both of those guys played well,” Scott said. “They’ve stayed within themselves and accepted the team concept of what we’re trying to do. Neither one is still 100 percent comfortable with everything we’re doing, but for the most part, they get it. They’re going out there and competing and that’s the bottom line.”