Blogger extraordinaire and LeBron James Cleveland Cavalier fan, Brendan Bowers ain’t mad at us about LeBron. In fact, he is extremely confident that LeBron is going to be in Cleveland for a long, long time. So maybe we should be mad at him. But Brendan, the founder, editor and head writer of Bloguin’s Stepien Rules, is a good sport who we were able to catch up with and exchange some questions and answers before tonight’s game in Cleveland. Check out our Q and A on his site here, but more importantly you can’t hurt yourself by visiting Stepien Rules often to keep up with the next wanna be NBA champs.
KNICKS FANATICS: The Cavaliers are on a roll. What has Mike Brown done to make the integration of Shaq into the system easier than it was in Phoenix?
BRENDAN: I think a couple things here. First, Shaq’s a more natural fit in Cleveland, and probably should have been the last player Phoenix thought could fit into their no defense, run at all cost system. But secondly, .and maybe more important, is that the Cavaliers have brought Shaq along slowly. They sat him out a couple games earlier in the year with maybe only a hint of injury, and seemed to let him and his teammates learn how to best incorporate him into the system almost prior to really doing so. What I mean by that is, Shaq hasn’t really started playing key minutes, and bigger minutes, until probably the last 10-15 games. And when he has, the offense has gone through him some. Not so much that he was the scorer, but the Cavs have been able to throw it into Shaq, let the double team come, and cut off him. As a result, he’s been finding shooters off those double teams, and more importantly, LeBron cutting to the basket. To counter, when the double team’s don’t come, he’s sorta looked a bit like a younger version of Shaq, in that he can still beat anybody one on one in deep. I have to think the fact that he’s relatively fresh to start the second half of the season is a big reason why he’s moving so well. Hopefully he still moves like that in June.
KNICKS FANATICS: What is different this year about your bench play that has you feeling more confident about coming away with the O’Brien trophy?
BRENDAN: Well the main thing different about the bench play this season, as compared to last, is the fact that the players are just better. Ben Wallace, Wally Szcerbiak, and Sasha Pavlovic – for example – have been replaced with three guys that were starters last season on a team that won 66 games: Varejao, Delonte, and Z. That’s huge, coupled with the emergence of guys like Jawad Williams – who nobody saw coming this season, as well as guys like Jamario Moon who has been explosive off the bench this season when healthy in his own right, makes this team – in my opinion – as deep and as versatile as any in the NBA. To that point, not that he’s an All Star, but Daniel Gibson was probably the best player off the Cavs bench last year, and this season, he couldn’t get on the court until Mo Williams and Delonte West got injured, despite playing the best basketball of his NBA career. As the third string PG, he’s hit some big shots as of late, and scored double figures in the last 6 games. But the truth is, once those guys get back, he’ll go back to racking up DNP after DNP.
KNICKS FANATICS: Do you see any similarity between what Gilbert Arenas went through and the incident involving Delonte West? Were both individuals treated appropriately for their behavior?
BRENDAN: Actually I don’t see any simalarities really, despite the fact that they both had guns. Now that aside, they were both wrong, but as far as the NBA’s treatment of the players I think they were treated appropriately for their behavior for this reason: I feel like the NBA didn’t suspend Arenas for having the guns in the lockerroom, they suspended him for making a gun with his hand and flashing it in the camera at a 76ers game, calling out David Stern during the post game interviews after the last game he played, and giving off the public perception that he didn’t take what he did seriously. They probably would have suspended him eventually, after the legal stuff was concluded, but I think he got suspended now rather than later for those reasons. To that point, Delonte will be suspended, he just gets to wait until after the legal preceedings because he didn’t say a word after his arrest. He will be punished by a court of law at some point, and when he does, the NBA will impose their suspension then. There’s no way to say for sure, but if Arenas hadn’t made any noise about it, the NBA may have waited to suspend him until after his legal preceedings were completed too. Both guys wrong, both incidents unfortunate, but different and I think they were both treated fairly as a result.
KNICKS FANATICS: Has ownership done everything it possibly and legally can to retain LeBron and if so, why is he so coy about staying?
BRENDAN: I think they have. I don’t think there’s anything left to do from an ownership and team standpoint. They built a practice facility equi-distant between his house in Akron and Quicken Loans Arena, Dan Gilbert can be often seen sitting next to Maverick Carter at home games, and he’s pretty much free to do whatever he wants. As well he should be, and I think its good the team did all that. As far as why he doesn’t commit? I’d say part of that is for the attention. I wrote this on my site in the preseason and still think its true: If he commited to Cleveland in the offseason, just think about how many nights Sportscenter wouldn’t have opened the show with his name, how many stories wouldn’t be written about him, and how much less people would be talking about him. Now I know he’s a mega star, and people will talk about him regardless, but with him remaining non-committal they still do talk about him more no matter how you want to look at it. That’s has to be good for the business of being LeBron James, and with his marketing firm, and aspirations to be a billion dollar athlete, I gotta think every little bit helps. That’s what I like to think at least. Hopefully its not that he doesn’t know yet, or worse, does know…
KNICKS FANATICS: What is the likelihood that LeBron stays in Cleveland versus bolting to join DWade in Miami or Danilo Gallinari in New York? What are you going to do, as a fan and a prominent blogger, if LeBron does leave the Cavs?
BRENDAN: I’d say its 95% he stays 5% he leaves. But if he does leave Cleveland, especially if he goes to you in New York, I’d probably move, because unfortunately, he’s all we got about now. Unless you want to count foreclosed homes, unemployment rates, a baseball owner that doesn’t spend money and a football team that’s been awful for 10 years, because we have that too…so, hopefully he stays I guess.