He’s the man behind the DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post. He’s in town for game 5 of the Cavaliers/Wizards series, and we couldn’t resist getting his opinion of this outrageous series.
Full disclosure. I like Dan. Never met him before, but you can get to know him through his writing. I like that. I like that he doesn’t take himself or his teams too seriously. He seems to get that he has a good thing going over at the Post, and he’s going to ride it for all it’s worth. He has an audience, and that audience happens to be Wizard fans right now. He’s been critical of some local writers (Patrick McManamon and Bill Livingston for example) but I wonder, is he adding fuel to the fire?
WFNY- For the record, where would you place LeBron when it comes to his talent or performance in the NBA? Top 5? Top 10? 41st?
Dan Steinberg- Well, I’m no GM. At this exact moment in time, I’d say Kobe, Chris Paul and LeBron seem to be the three players most able to influence a game by themselves. I’ve never thought LeBron was overrated, and I wrote write after DeShawn’s comments that he was pretty stupid to say that. I think I did, anyhow. (He in fact did.)
WFNY- Is all of the extra-curricular stuff good for the game? Does that matter? Do you find it more entertaining this way?
DS- Good for the game of basketball? I’d guess probably not. People who like that stuff already like the NBA, and I’m sure it turns off some old school types. Do I find it more entertaining? Absolutely I do. First-round series last, what, three weeks sometimes? And that’s just the first round. If you can mix in back-and-forth banter and famous rappers, it sure makes the time go faster. What worries me is the possibility of seriously hurt feelings and/or confrontation, instead of mostly playful banter, and I’m not sure how to tell when that line is crossed.
WFNY- Do you get a sense that most or any of the Wizards would rather Stevenson tone it down a notch?
DS- Well, definitely Antawn Jamison and Eddie Jordan. I’d guess others as well, but I don’t know for sure. I’ve found it pretty fascinating that these others haven’t managed to make Stevenson stop yet.
WFNY- I know a few guys that truly just like to push peoples’ buttons. Is that DeShawn? Is that why he wears a Vick jersey today, or is he just that insensitive to how it will portray him?
DS- Not really sure. DeShawn has been a pretty funny dude since he’s been in D.C. (two seasons), but he’s never done anything remotely approaching this since I’ve been around. I mean, nothing even close. I’m not sure what’s motivating him right now. He said he’s been a Vick fan for a long time and wasn’t trying to push any buttons with that. Take it for what it’s worth.
WFNY-We’re getting a lot of Wizards fans commenting on our site, and they come at us from one of three angles- LeBron is overrated (yet they compare him to Jordan or Kobe) LeBron is a crybaby, or the Cavs will just get beat next round. Of course my personal favorite is telling us to enjoy these next two years because LeBron will leave in 2010 anyway. Does LeBron have a beef about the fouls?
DS- I think what turns people off is the facial gestures. I know a lot of superstars do the same, but they also get criticized, probably to a greater degree (Tim Duncan, for example). He just looks so outraged when he doesn’t get calls. I think lesser players can get away with that, because they’re not on TV as much and they don’t have the same images, but when a guy who seems to get some of the natural benefit of doubt given to NBA superstars looks so tortured by the calls he doesn’t get, it rubs some people the wrong way.
WFNY-Why the venom towards the Cavs this year? Is it strictly because of the last 2 playoff appearances? Before Stevenson made his comments about LeBron I can’t really recall any bad blood between these two teams?
DS-Wiz fans were pretty broken up about the way last year ended: the two best players inactive, and a humiliating playoff sweep. I think people really thought this year would be different, even with Gilbert still hobbled. I’d say the venom (at least from fans) is more about frustration than anything else.
WFNY-You’ve commented frequently about the Cleveland and Akron media during this series, do you think this is a case of cultures not understanding each other? I mean, I bet someone had to explain to Patrick McMamamamama who Soulja Boy was in the first place…
DS- Well, I’m just trying to have fun with it. I’m not sure how serious the Cleveland people are. I think in almost all cases, media–who spend so much time around a team–tend to see things through a mild home prism, even if they don’t mean to. It’s just so hard to avoid. I know nothing about Patrick McNamamamana, but with some journalists there’s a generation gap too. I’m sure Michael Wilbon hates all the extracurriculars, but he’s 20 years older than me (I think).
WFNY-If this series goes back to Washington, what’s the next step? How will it escalate further?
DS- My first step would be finding a babysitter for my daughter. I’ve promised my wife that I’ll almost definitely be free Friday night. But I don’t think this can really go much further; even the Vick thing was completely unrelated to the Cavs. I’d guess a Game 6 wouldn’t have many sideshows.
Thanks Dan for taking a some time today. If you’d like a little more background on Dan, Bullets Forever did a pretty extensive interview a while back. Check it out.