Merry Christmas Cleveland: you get the Lakers

It’s all about Cleveland at LA on Christmas Day.  So in honour of the game, I re-wrote a famous Christmas season poem (apologies to anonymous!)… stay tuned post-poem for an interview with Cleveland Cavs blogger Brendan Bowers of Stepien Rules

‘Twas Hours Into Christmas
‘Twas hours into Christmas, and all through the nation
Ev’ry one was hushed with anticipation.
In LA the banners were hung in the rafters with care,
In hopes that another soon would be there;

Our little one snuggled warm in his bed,
Where dreaming of championships in his sweet little head;
And mama in her ‘kobe jersey’, and I in my Lakers cap,
Had just settled down to watch some old replay crap.

When on the TV there arose such a clatter,
I turned up the volume to see what was the matter.
Away to the East a city’s aspirations did clash,
Tied to LeBron, Cleveland’s hopes they did lash.

Was ’09/10 the last, and when would we know?
Would it be New York, or New Jersey he’d set all aglow.
Or even Miami? And give them good cheer!
But leaving Cleveland, without shedding a tear.

But now game-time ’tis, of December two-five!
Thanks to our NBA league pass – we’d be watching it live.
There out on the floor, hardwood polished to a glow,
A man dressed in scarlet, moved out oh so slow.

Face red and quite flush’d, belly big and so round.
Was it jolly Saint Nick in LA that we’d found?
Zounds no! It’s not he – it’s not Santa come back!
Whilst red, round and jolly, by Jove that is Shaq!

Bigger than life, like the whale out of Moby,
He’s back in LA trying to win without Kobe!
And hey – there’s LeBron! With Floppsy in tow,
The pride of Ohio, all here for the show.

And now it’s the Lakers, and run out they all came.
The announcer he shouted and called them by name;
“Now, Kobe! now, Bynum! Now, Pau and Odom!
On, Shannon! On Fish! on, Jordan and Ron!

To the top of the league! Without hesitation!
Put Cleveland away – you’re the best in the nation!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
Sweep away Cavs and bid them goodbye.”

The game it went on, and Kobe was firin’.
Hit 40 with ease, and did so without tirin’.
Pau did what he does, and got a dub/double,
Bynum was good, but played with foul trouble.

But ol’ Ron was the man, tonight he’s the hero.
He shut down LeBron – wins in LA this season zero.
Now the game’s all over, and Christmas is done once again.
All o’er the world, LA fans are happy – they beat ’em by 10.

Post-game with media, Shaq managed to joke.
He’s a former Laker afterall, and ’twas with mirth that he spoke.
And I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he walked out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
(Interview with Stepien Rules‘ Brendan Bowers after the jump!)

Now… to Brendan.  I asked 5 questions of him (and he five of me – they’re up at Stepien Rules), and I didn’t pull my punches!  Read on…

Don (With Malice): There’s been a huge gap between the way the Cavs started this season, and the way they dominated early on last season. Cleveland’s lost to some teams you’d expect them to use as a toothpick. Any explanations?
Brendan (Stepien Rules): There is certainly a difference in the way this year’s Cavs’ team came out of the gate when compared to the way last year’s team did, and I’d like to attribute that to a feeling out process of new faces, and new roles. Despite the fact that the Cavaliers return all five starters from last year, only two of those guys currently start: Mo Williams and LeBron James. Anthony Parker and Shaquille O’Neal are both new to the team, new to LeBron, and new to the starting line-up, and there is certainly a learning curve involved there with respect to figuring out how to play with each other, and more importantly, how to best compliment LeBron. J.J. Hickson didn’t see much time last season as a rookie, and while he’s had his moments as a starter this year, he has also struggled some – especially on the defensive end. But in addition to that, the three guys that started last season – Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West, and Anderson Varejao – are now forced with learning new roles as bench players this time around, and I think this process has led to the Cavaliers struggling some through the first 30 or so games of the year. That’s what I’d like to think the problem is, but I hope its not something else. Like maybe they think they don’t have to play hard every night now for some reason, because last year they never took a night off, and it showed.

Don (With Malice): With most stating that “Cleveland play better with Shaq on the bench” – is the O’Neal experiment a failure? Or can something be salvaged?
Brendan (Stepien Rules): It hasn’t gone exactly as I’d hoped so far to be sure, but I’m not ready to call it a failure. Truth is, at this point, Shaq is more of an asset type player for the Cavaliers, than a guy the team can be geared around in any capacity. What I mean by that is the Cavaliers currently have in Shaq, a healthy, powerful, presence in the paint, that still commands a double team even at the age of 37. They didn’t have anything like that on the roster last year, not even close, and it showed up for everyone to see against Orlando in the ECF. If that were to happen again, in a match-up with a guy like Howard, maybe Shaq can get you the couple more wins that proved elusive last season. In the meantime, throughout an 82-game regular season with match-ups that don’t always play to Shaq’s strengths, there might be some rough nights. But he remains a viable option for this team, and he has come into the season in great shape, and he doesn’t seem to be a distraction at all in the locker room or otherwise. So I guess, we’ll see, and yeah, something can be salvaged, but I will have to get back to you on what that something is specifically at a later date.

Don (With Malice): Who’s having the better season – Kobe or LeBron?
Brendan (Stepien Rules): Well, if you’re talking about the muppet commercials they both co-star in, I’d say they’re both down after that rapping reindeer basketball game. I’m still trying to figure that out…didn’t make any sense, and why was KRS One there? Anyways, as far as a better season, well neither’s having a bad one for sure. Kobe’s team is definitely playing better, but Kobe has much better talent around him than LeBron does. To that point, Kobe’s always had way more talent around him than LeBron has ever had. And Kobe gets Shaq in his prime, while LeBron gets him at 40…but I digress. Its probably a toss-up. If you ask a guy from Cleveland he’ll say LeBron, ask a guy from LA he’ll say Kobe, and both will be right. But I will say this. The year after Nash won his first MVP, he put up better numbers the following season, and he won the MVP award again. This year, LeBron is currently averaging more points and more assists than he did a year ago, when he won his first MVP, so does he get it again based on that?

Don (With Malice): Christmas Day, Cleveland come to Hollywood. Who wins?
Brendan (Stepien Rules): First off, what a game for Christmas day. You got the Cavs and the Lakers, Kobe v. LeBron with a little bit of a Shaq-Kobe side-plot in the background, two teams that could win the NBA championship, one team in the Lakers that will be in the Finals for sure…doesn’t get better than this one. Only way it could get better for me would be if the Cavs won, so I’m going to say they win. But a lot has to happen for Cleveland to do that, specifically they’ll have to play far and away their best game of the season.

Don (With Malice): Honest truth now: where’s LBJ next season? And if it’s not Cleveland, where do you think LeBron would most likely end up? And what would be the aftermath in Cleveland?

Brendan (Stepien Rules): Honestly, I don’t know, and I’m not sure he even knows at this point. I can tell you were he won’t go though: the LeBron to the Lakers thing was a complete crock if you ask me, no way he ever wants to share the limelight with Kobe, LeBron’s not wired that way. Additionally, no way he goes to the Clippes and plays second fiddle to the Lakers. No chance he goes to Jay-Z’s Nets at this point either based on how awful they are this season, and I guess he won’t go to Utah either (just kidding, kinda lobbed the Jazz reference in there for no reason). The two places he will / could end up: Cleveland, and as far as the other one, I can’t even bring myself to type it…you know what the other place is. The aftermath? The end of professional basketball in Cleveland.
Thanks Brendan, and I agree.  Should be one helluva game too.  I have LA by ten.