- The Washington Times - Friday, May 2, 2008

The bad blood between the Wizards and the Cavaliers is genuine and not merely because LeBron James is full of himself and an air-sickness bag is required each time Mike Brown starts extolling the virtues of this “special human being.”

By the time Brown has completed one of his sermons, James morphs into a combination of Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi and George Washington.

That is an incredible standard to uphold, although it is one James routinely meets as he performs a double axle in the manner of Scott Hamilton en route to the basket.

The three referees usually score this maneuver a 10, and the LeBrovah Witnesses in the stands break out in convulsions and spasms similar to the Shakers.

It can get to be too much, all the quivering and out-of-body experiences, plus the revelations that the basketball-skating prophet has arrived. It can be downright maddening if you have a stake in the proceedings, as the Wizards do.



It is in this context that DeShawn Stevenson called James “overrated.” The Cleveland media laughed in response. Both the criticism and the laugh were correct, given the antithetical perspectives of the two cities.

James is bordering on being a saint among his worshipers in Cleveland. If so, he is “overrated” because most savvy personnel executives would not trade a patron saint straight up for James. To make a James-patron saint exchange work, you would be obligated to request cash, future considerations and Jay-Z from the Cavaliers.

If the subject of James is limited to basketball, he possibly is the most extraordinary talent in the NBA. The smirk to “overrated” is understandable in that context.

Stevenson did not really start the bad blood, as he tells it. It started after word leaked back to Stevenson that James viewed him and the Wizards as so many chumps.

That observation is not out of place either. Many NBA observers, starting with Charles Barkley, see the Wizards as one-trick ponies.

Because of their high skill level on offense, the Wizards can win enough games in the regular season to reach the playoffs. But once there, critics view the Wizards as marshmallow-soft jokes.

The Wizards are diligently trying to shed this label.

Ten technical fouls have been issued in the series, six to the Wizards. Brendan Haywood was ejected in Game 2 after being assessed a Flagrant 2 foul because of a so-so hit on James.

Stevenson delivered a tomahawk chop to the head of James in Game 4. He also incurred a $25,000 fine after making the throat-slashing gesture in the game.

Darius Songaila earned a technical foul in Game 5 after pimp-slapping James, who recoiled in horror and pain and possibly will have to play with his jaw wired shut in Game 6 tonight.

Even two rappers have joined the fray, which reached a crescendo at Love nightclub just off New York Avenue in Northeast last Friday night.

The hostilities undoubtedly will resume in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood tonight, with James and the Cavaliers almost convinced they were robbed at the end of Game 5.

James thought he deserved a foul call on his last shot attempt, and perhaps he did.

Yet to be fair, Caron Butler was pushed on his game-winning shot moments earlier.

And before James elevated to shoot the ball on the last play, Zydrunas Ilgauskas pushed Songaila into the path of James.

To recap the noncalls in a technical sense, Butler earns two free throw attempts, the Cavaliers lose possession of the basketball because of Uncle Fester’s shove, Songaila goes to the free throw line and the Wizards win Game 5 without the scare.

That finish probably would not have satisfied the LeBrovah Witnesses either.

In defeat, the Chosen One is the Persecuted One, destined one day to wear a crown of thorns in a game.

It is not hard to understand how an opponent could become testy in this upside-down environment.

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