A Daily Babble Production
Two playoff match-ups are set for sure in the Eastern Conference. One of them most certainly needs no introduction seeing as it features the team for whose fan base from which this website bears its name. We'll most certainly be getting into that one as the week goes on. But for today, it's worth getting excited about -- believe it or not -- that other Eastern Conference playoff series.
To use a phrase largely reserved for describing Brett Favre in the world of spurts punditry, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards are going to be having some fun out there next week. And I'm going to be having plenty of fun watching them.
The crazy part? DeShawn Stevenson is going to be one of the biggest reasons why.All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog. Check him out!
It's rare that I'm much of a booster of dudes who shoot their mouths off and don't have all that accomplished bodies of work in this league. In some regards, DeShawn Stevenson certainly qualifies.
We're talking here about a two-guard who has shot less than 43 percent from the field, less than 36 percent from deep and less than 71 percent from the line for his career. Never averaged more than 11 points per game in a season. Averages 8.7 points, 2.4 boards and 1.9 assists in 24.4 minutes per game for his career. Nothing to write home about all around.
Yet somehow, I can't help it; I love this guy.
He has gone from being a nuisance of a talker to being one of the faces of Wizard craziness, most especially in the battle against the LeBrons from Cleveland.
The goofball act is certainly fun enough: the curious dressing, the Mr. 50 nickname from last season, the weird crush on Lindsay Lohan, the wacky birthday parties, the waving his hand in front of his face after every big shot, the bet with Drew Gooden about who could grow the longer beard (those manes are nasty!). That stuff has all added to the once-obscure shooting guard's public persona.
But far more importantly, Stevenson's efforts this season have added to his meaning to his basketball team.
After a terrible start to the season offensively, Stevenson has recovered in many ways. Despite a rough shooting year by the numbers, Stevenson has absolutely no reservations about taking the big shot or making it -- the one in particular that comes to mind is Stevenson's dagger trey to send the Wiz to victory in New Orleans earlier in the season. This is a guy with all the confidence in the world, one who won't be backing down when the presssure's on
Even more significantly to this team's success has been Stevenson's growth as a defender. By all accounts, this is a guy who has put the time in, listened to his coaches and turned himself into a much more tenacious player on the defensive end of the floor, which is certainly a part of the game the Wizards (particularly the back-court) have not been known to specialize in. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Stevenson has earned himself a reputation as a rugged player who will go toe to toe with anyone. That reputation was only solidified when Stevenson successfully took a charge from Bron himself in order to seal a nationally televised victory over the Cavs back in March.
Of course, it's worth remembering that Stevenson also called LeBron out as overrated in the interviews after that game and that he has since managed to boil any bad blood left over from consecutive Cavs-Wizards first-round match-ups over the last two seasons. Since then, Stevenson and James have gone back and forth in the media, with the long story short being that Bron made some analogy to rap artists Jay-Z and Soulja Boy, and each swingman ended up guaranteeing that his corresponding rapper would be there to watch his team in the playoffs. A bit much, I know.
But here's the thing: It may not be a bit much for this Wizards team. As dopey as Stevenson can sound sometimes, this seems to be exactly the sort of posturing swagger that this team thrives on. This is a team coming off of two demoralizing defeats in two years to the Cavs, including one two years ago in which the trash talk maven himself (Gilbert Arenas) was so psyched out by LeBron that he missed two critical free throws in the final seconds of the deciding sixth game of the series. With the Hibachi shut down with injuries through most of the season, Stevenson has provided that edge for the Wizards in his own right. While he might not do enough walking the walk to truly back up his talk, he has certainly progressed further in that direct as the season has gone on.
Sure, most of the time I really wish these guys would cut the dopey smack talk and just play the game we all love so much. But there is something about DeShawn Stevenson and this Wizards team. It might be foolish. It might be goofy. Perhaps it's crazy. But it also is without a doubt...fun.
And with the Wiz as hungry as ever for revenge, LeBron as motivated as ever to beat them and the words and bodies expected to be flying every which way, that is exactly what this series looks like it will be. By the boatload.