LeBron Takes Swipe At Wizards
It's a tired cliché to say that a rivalry cannot exist if one team always wins. I contend that a rivalry is very much alive so long as both sides continue to share hatred and contempt for each other. The Washington Wizards lost three consecutive first round series to the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2006-08, but the venom has never subsided (mostly because the Wizards believe they outplayed Cleveland in 2006 and were not at full strength the last two series).
The bad blood between the two teams likely won't end anytime soon, so long as the principal characters on both sides keep taking swipes. And leave it up to the newly crowned most valuable player LeBron James to bring up Washington while the Cavaliers are overpowering teams like a Manny Pacquiao left hook this postseason.
You'd think that the Wizards would be long forgotten, with Washington finishing with the worst record in the Eastern Conference and hoping for some lottery luck and the Cavaliers a championship-caliber team staring down an unimpeded path to the NBA Finals. But before the Cavaliers smashed the Atlanta Hawks 105-85 -- Cleveland's sixth consecutive double-digit win this postseason -- James was asked about the suspensions the league levied on Orlando's Rafer Alston and the Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher and used the opportunity to needle the Wizards.
He mocked the Wizards for trying to get tough with him last postseason, a tactic that led to Cleveland Coach Mike Brown pounding tables and some amusing face scrunches, constant lip-touching and nauseating over-acting by James. The crack-the-could be-king tactics also failed to slow down James and the Cavaliers, who beat a banged up Wizards team in six games.
"Washington tried something and it didn't work," James told reporters in Cleveland last night. "They lost in the first round again. We all know Washington is not a physical team. They tried to be physical and they lost."
James got knocked down more times in the first quarter of Game 1 of last year's first round series against the Wizards than he has been against Detroit and Atlanta this postseason, when he's been basically been an endless loop of highlight reel dunks.
In that series against Washington, Andray Blatche fouled him in the mouth; Brendan Haywood got ejected for knocking him to the ground while setting a screen and standing over him; Haywood later shoved him and sent him soaring into photographers along the baseline; DeShawn Stevenson nearly took off his head -- although he did knock off James's headband -- while attempting to block a shot; and Darius Songaila got a one-game suspension before the decisive Game 6 for striking James in the neck and face after he got tangled up with James.
But while Brown contended that James was hit so much that he "could've played for the Browns" and James said the Wizards "try to hurt me," you could argue that James actually had the best hit of the series -- when he retaliated to Blatche's hard foul by clubbing Blatche in the face with an errant right elbow. James only got a flagrant foul penalty one -- a few days after the game, which the league never officially announced.
I've tried to watch Cleveland play this postseason, but it's been unbearable. It's been unfair to classify their games as competitions, they've been so lopsided. I cannot figure out if the Cavaliers are that good or if their opponents are that bad. I'm sure it's somewhere in the middle. They got a uninterested Pistons team that already had vacations planned to start after Game 4, and now they have a Hawks team that has already lost five playoff games by double-digits and is decimated by injuries to starters Al Horford, Marvin Williams and now Joe Johnson, who sprained his ankle in the third quarter last night.
I can only give the Cavaliers their props because they are incredibly focused and have been handling their business in a major way, eliminating all suspense before halftime of all of their games. But I get the feeling that James and the Cavaliers are pretty bored and wish that they had the Wizards to challenge them -- or at least offer some entertaining fodder.
This is the second time this postseason that James has made a comment about Washington. Before the Cavaliers played Detroit, James talked about how the motivation to beat the Pistons was simply to win and advance, unlike their previous first-round matchups against the Wizards.
"We really hated them," James said. "It was easy to dial in against them."
Who says this isn't a rivalry?
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