The name of the show just rolls off your tongue, huh? It's times like these where we're glad our parents decided not to hyphenate names upon getting married.
Anyway, as some of you may know Brian and I have been part of ESPN's podcasting roster (or as we do it, "podKasting," with a "K") for quite some time. The launch of ESPN Los Angeles and the Land O' Lakers blog, won't change things one bit, except we'll be doing so more frequently. So we're excited about that and hope the Laker Nation feels the same. And with that, I present the first show in the new ESPN Los Angeles era!!!
The show focuses mostly around a discussion with the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst, Cavs' beat writer and interview subject extraordinaire. With the Christmas game less than 48 hours in the distance, we break down some important matchups, talk about the Kobe Bryant-LeBron James "rivalry," and why the team hasn't gotten off to the same dominant start as last season. One reason? To be honest, the problem lies at least partially with Shaquille O'Neal, and as a few excerpts below demonstrate, Windhorst is equally honest in evaluating this stage of the big fella's career:
Windhorst, On Shaq's struggling since joining the Cavs. Is it adjusting to LeBron? Adjusting to new frontcourt teammates? Age?
- "I gotta be honest with you. It's age... J.A. Adande wrote a really good column about it. It's kind of sad to see Shaq in this stage, because not only is he not playing anywhere near the level that he was playing even last year, his attitude has changed. He's no longer brash about his play, because he knows that right now his play can't even back up his usual words. That's kind of a melancholy moment. No matter what you think about Shaq, he's been an incredible influence on the NBA for two decades. Not just with his play, but with his personality. His personality has been limited somewhat this year, because he's not playing as big of a role."
The one thing that I thought was going to happen and I was going to monitoring very closely was that Shaq made it really clear that he wanted a new contract. He wanted to keep playing past this year. With the Cavs, he was not going to get as many minutes or as many shots as he was in Phoenix. I was very interested to see how that played out because everybody knows that if Shaq's not getting his shots or his role's not right, he's not afraid to crack on Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, much less a guy like Mike Brown who does not exactly have the same resume. Shaq's not that played well and he, from day one, has taken a backseat to everything else that's going on. I kept waiting to see whether he got frustrated when he only gets six or even shots a night, and he's not. We're not even halfway through yet, but I think maybe part of it is, he may say this outwardly and may not see consciously, but he may be coming to grips with, I can't do that anymore. Not only can't I be as bombastic as I used to be, I can't necessarily even complain about not getting shots.'
It's a different Shaq. It's a different Shaq on the court. It's a different 'Shaq's attitude.' It's just different. But all that said, the Cavs do not need him to average 25 points. They need him to play really well against the teams with big centers and deep, big front lines, which, not ironically, happen to be the best teams in the league. If Shaq can play well and be a difference maker against the Magic and the Lakers and help against the Celtics and get the Cavs to where they want to go, the entire city will be elated and they may give him a contract just to say thank you for helping us keep LeBron. But this is not the same Shaquille O'Neal in any sense of the word. Forget about L.A. Forget about Miami. He's not even the same guy he was a year ago."
Windhorst, on Ron Artest and LeBron matched up against each other...
- "I'm telling you, man. There's only like two or three people in the league that have every gotten LeBron out of his game, offensively. And Artest is one of them. Really, there's only a couple of guys in the league that from a size standpoint can match LeBron physically... These two guys have had some real battles... When LeBron and Artest play each other, it's a physical matchup as much as it is a skill matchup, because Artest is just built like a bull, and so is LeBron. And it's really fun to watch the two of them go at it, because Artest obviously don't care about anything. He's not afraid of anybody, so he'll go right at LeBron. He's not worried about getting four fouls in the first quarter. He won't, but he's not going to play afraid. So that's always a really good matchup."
Like I said, good stuff. Plus, Brian and I talk a few additionally intriguing story lines and accidentally stumble upon a brilliant way for the Staples crowd to get inside LBJ's head.