We all know what transpired the last time the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers really faced each other in the playoffs on May 5th of 2006. LeBron James talked trash to Gilbert Arenas before two crucial free-throws. Gilbert missed both. Damon Jones hit a deuce with four seconds left and the rest is history. Cleveland won 114-113 that night and took a very hard fought series in six games. Leaving the Verizon Center, my buddy Chris and I had only one choice: drink our troubles away in Chinatown with a boatload of scotch.
Even last year when the Cavs swept the Wizards without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler in the playoffs, all seemed quiet on the Eastern Conference front between Cleveland and Washington….until 2008. Below is the time-line of the trash talk that’s gone since.
February 22, 2008
The Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Wizards fresh off completing a blockbuster trade, a minute before the 3pm NBA deadline, and were left with only eight players. Two of those eight were signed from the NBDL to meet the NBA roster minimum. Of course the Wizards, without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, only suited up nine players. With 15 seconds left, the ball in his hands and Cleveland down one, 89-88, LeBron James drove to the basket and received a superstar call. James’ two made free-throws and a DeShawn Stevenson missed layup at the buzzer gave the Cavaliers the 90-89 win. Some of the Wizards took exception to Cavalier attitudes during the game. I’m sure LeBron’s ball toss up to the scoreboard, celebrating like he just won a championship, was a contributing factor.
March 14, 2008
The Wizards beat the Cavaliers at the Verizon Center in DC in a game which came down to the last second.
- Stevenson engaged in trash talk with James and Damon Jones all night long. At the end of the first quarter, after James missed a layup while he was defended closely by Stevenson, James starting barking in Stevenson’s direction. [Here’s a YouTube of that.]
- DeShawn was obviously holding back in that session with reporters around his locker [after the game]. When he was leaving the building, Mike Lee was chatting him up and mentioned LeBron again. DeShawn has obviously heard enough of that. “He’s overrated,” DeShawn told Mike. “And you can say I said that.”
- [LeBron] also didn’t like getting knocked to the ground by Brendan Haywood late in the game. The foul wasn’t all that bad but James reacted as if Big Brendan crushed him. He had that scowl he gets and he was looking at the ref like the guy forgot to mow his lawn or something. If you remember, Brendan gave out a similar hard foul in the playoffs during the 2006 series. For a guy who always talks about how he played football in high school, LeBron sure doesn’t like contact.
And that’s not the only talk from that night, here’s some notes from my game blog on Bullets Forever:
- 3rd Q: 1:40: Nick Young hits a 3 in LeBron’s grill, after James hit a 3 on the previous Cavs possession. Bean Burrito proceeds to do a little talking to Bron-Bron up the court.
- 4th Q: 20 seconds left: 96-94 Wizards after 1 Joe Smith FT…..and DeShawn Stevenson draws a charge on LeBron James. It’s about time a call didn’t go LBJ’s way. Of course, it was a tough call to make at that point in the game, but LeBron made it easy on the refs by not only dropping his shoulder, but also sticking a lil’ chicken wing out there. Play of the game by the Lock Smith.
- 4th Q: 8 seconds left: Damon Jones hits a trey….the Wizards lost him as they put their full concentration on LeBron. Cavs down 1, 100-99….as the teams go into a timeout. Jones gives the “can’t feel my face” move followed by a neck-slash as he walks by DeShawn.
- Cleveland ball. Seven seconds left. Down 101-99. LeBron obviously has the ball….DeShawn gets low…..the Cavs clear out…..Brendan Haywood tentatively ready to help. NOPE! LeBron mails the game in by taking and missing a three pointer which would’ve sealed a win for Cleveland at the buzzer. Guess he figured that the Cavs shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. Yea, yea….maybe you go for the win on the road, but in every other game, wouldn’t you like LeBron’s chances of driving and at least getting fouled better? Oh well, his mail delivery is our win.
Notice Stevenson walking towards the Cavalier bench after the miss?
And more from Brian Windhorst’s Cleveland Cavaliers blog:
- [DeShawn Stevenson] was carrying on with LeBron and Damon Jones all night. In the first half, Damon made a 3-pointer and waved his hand in front of his face to mock what Stevenson does when he makes 3s. Stevenson didn’t like that and in the second half when he made a couple 3s he looked over at Damon and mocked his “three on a platter” and how Damon sometimes slaps his butt when he hits shots. Damon just stood up and glared at him.
March 17, 2008
To follow up on DeShawn’s “overrated” comments, the Cleveland Plain Dealer had this to report:
- James said: “With DeShawn Stevenson, it’s kind of funny. It’s almost like Jay-Z [responding to a negative comment] made by Soulja Boy. It doesn’t make sense.” For those readers not cultured in hip-hop, Jay-Z is a hip-hop mogul while Soulja Boy is just a rapper.
After all Soulja boy did do some talking of his own: Soulja Boy Claims He’s The Hottest MC In the Game — Better Than Jay-Z, Kanye … [MTV News]
March 19, 2008
Wizards Insider continued the role of hype-man with two different posts:
- First: “I hope we play Cleveland,” Stevenson said. “I’m going to get Soulja Boy courtside seats and have him wear a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. Maybe (James) can have Jay-Z there since LeBron’s all on his (shorts) anyway. And tell LeBron to cut that beard off and stop copying me.“
- Second: Apparently, James said something about DeShawn to former Cav Drew Gooden, who recently related that information to DeShawn. He didn’t appreciate it. “We’re all in the same profession,” Stevenson said. “We don’t need to talk bad about one another. So, that’s how it happened. I was ticked off and that’s why I said something to him at tip-off. So, it goes back further than people think.” I asked DeShawn if what James said was basketball-related or personal and he said: “It was both. I won’t say what he said. I said something back and we’ll leave it at that.”
March 24, 2008
Does it end there? I believe Whitney Houston would say: “Hells to the naw,” before doing some crack. More reports from Brian Windhorst of the Cavs beat:
- Stevenson and James might indeed have some personal stuff behind the scenes. Stevenson has dated LeToya Luckett and Farrah Franklin, both of whom were members of R&B group Destiny’s Child. Of course, James is very close to former Destiny’s Child member Beyonce Knowles, who is engaged to close friend Jay-Z. James’ friend and manager, Maverick Carter, also dated Kelly Rowland, another former Destiny’s Child member. Who knows what all that means, but the point is James and Stevenson move in the same social circles and it has no doubt carried over to the court.
But what does Gossip Girl Drew Gooden have to say about his relaying of messages?
- When asked about it Saturday in Chicago, the usually talkative Gooden went running from the topic and declined to answer. No doubt he’s not thrilled he’s been pulled in and is now probably also in James’ doghouse for passing along the comment.
Doghouse? I guess that LeBron shouldn’t have run his mouth to Drew in the first place. After all, he knew Gooden and Stevenson were boys from the west coast hood. And when you’re beard contest brothers, you just gots to share information.
But wait, the Destiny’s Child connection doesn’t end there. Here’s an entry from Gilbert’s blog after attending a Beyonce concert this summer:
- At the end, I got back stage. Come on, it was at the Verizon Center. The security guards know whose picture is on the building. I got all access. She gave me a hug and I had her autograph my Wizards No. 1 jersey with ‘B-E-Y-O-N-C-E’ on the back. There’s no scandal behind the hug. Me and Jay-Z are good. We’re good peoples.
April 11, 2008
Gilbert Arenas’ blog:
- “I think everybody wants Cleveland in that first round. They’ve been a .500 team ever since they made that trade and everybody wants a chance at that matchup. We want Cleveland for our own reasons, we don’t think they can beat us in the playoffs three years straight. It’s hard to beat a team three years straight. We want to try our luck.”
- ‘‘Yay, that is so fun, I am excited,” James said with heavy sarcasm. ‘‘I wanted to play somebody else, but if we have to play somebody, I’m glad it is Washington.” Then he mixed his cliches about the verbal jabs the sides have been taking at each other. ”This is the third straight year of trash talk,” James said. ”I’ll read the clippings and it’ll help me get some more gas under my belt.”
April 15, 2008
Gilbert Arenas’ blog:
- “I’m excited because Cleveland is the last team I played against in the playoffs and the last memory everybody has of me from the playoffs are the free throws I missed and the shot by Damon Jones. So I get a chance to redeem myself for that series.”
Charles Barkley on the Wizards (during a TNT NBA Playoff conference call):
- tyle="font-style:italic;">“I think the Washington Wizards have got to be the dumbest team in the history of civilization. I think for them to rile up LeBron, who is the second best player in the NBA, I think that’s just stupid.”
- “I thought they had a chance to win that series…I don’t think so anymore. I think Cleveland was just going through the motions once they knew they were going to be the number four seed and now I think they’re ready. I think that was just stupid for the Wizards to talk all that trash when they call LeBron ‘overrated’ in the middle of the season when they played. For them to think they are going to go into Cleveland (and win), they just riled up LeBron, the Cavaliers and all the fans.”
- Stevenson was asked about this weekends upcoming showdown with LeBron James and he gave a tempered response of, “He knows I’m serious. He kinda sounds like he doesn’t want to talk to much, so maybe he’s scared.”
More Wizards Outlet on Barkley:
- Stevenson said “Are we really going to listen to a guy who said that Yao Ming wasn’t going to be in All-Star in this league? Really? Really?”
- Brendan Haywood warned his teammate that he couldn’t go after a Hall of Famer if he himself wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but Gilbert Arenas said it was OK as long as he was going after his thought process and not his basketball skills. Agent Zero asked exactly what Barkley had said and Haywood relayed the comment. Gil, strutting back to his locker, said “That’s cute. That’s cute. They might have the No. 2 player, but they don’t have the No. 1 end of game, end of period, end of half player. Uh-hu, know what I’m sayin’?”
- Haywood said “Oh, we’ve got Kobe in here?” and Arenas replied, “He does not have more end of game, end of quarter shots than me, but I like your thought process.”
Same scene from Wizards Insider:
“He knows I’m serious and I know he’s serious so let’s do it,” Stevenson said as two Wizards’ PR staff folks hovered nearby, practically begging him to not say anything crazy. “There’s no need to say too much more.”
As for his invitation for SouljaBoy to sit courtside in a Stevenson jersey for Game 3 or 4 at the VC, I still can’t tell whether he’s serious. “Maybe SouljaBoy will show up,” Stevenson said. “If you do see him, you’ll who got him there.”
Stevenson and the Wizards are aware that Charles Barkley called them out yesterday.
Stevenson (PR staff still hovering, getting more and more nervous): “Tell Charles Barkley to chill and worry about other things. Don’t worry about the Washington Wizards.”
Hmmm….what is one to think? Will the Wizards have the last laugh? Stay tuned.