Team S. Dot Timeout with Brendan Bowers: StepienRules!
The irony of being one of the worst owners in the NBA…
Somehow or another, I was going through my link list several months ago, and I was reading and basically having my normal day. I saw a link that took me to a Cleveland Cavaliers website around the time Delonte West started to relapse (?) with his “situation” and I made a comment about West on said site. I got an e-mail from a guy who ran the site, who indeed was the one who posted at the site that I made my comment, and soon enough, a genuine relationship came of that exchange of words (trust me, this isn’t Internet dating, people). That “guy” turned out to be Cleveland Cavs enthusiast Brendan Bowers, the principal blogger for the website StepienRules.com, a place that covers all things Cavs. I, myself, for the record, am not particularly a Cavs aficionado, but I get plenty of Cavs news through osmosis from being an Ohioan, and LeBron James being the phenom that he’s been for the past 11 years (I knew of him back in his freshman year at St. Vincent-St. Mary) helps to keep me in the know of all things Cavs, as well; in either case, in talking with Brendan and getting to have some good dialogue and an NBA discourse based on LeNike James fairly often, it’s fair to say we’ve become allies of each other in the NBA online world, and getting the opportunity to have my own forum here at SLAMonline has allowed me to introduce all who don’t yet know of his work to him and his own forum. This is Brendan Bowers of StepienRules. De rien, mes copins. You’re welcome, my friends.
(Note: This interview was completed on All-Star Sunday, February 14.)
SLAM: Brendan, for those who don’t know you, who is Brendan Bowers and what is StepienRules.com?
Brendan Bowers: I’m a lifelong Clevelander, passionate basketball fan, and current Cavaliers blogger of sorts. StepienRules.com is my Cavaliers blog, which I launched this past summer, and it occupies most of my basketball blogging hours. Always rooting for the Cavaliers growing up, I’ve been a basketball junkie my whole life, playing in high school as well as some non-descript minimal minutes for a small D-III school in college. In addition to playing, I’ve also helped coach a few junior high and high school teams through the years, but I mostly find that basketball fix these days through blogging about it. I’m a project manager for a real estate development company by day, but since graduating from college, I’ve also covered HS hoops for local newspapers, as well as college basketball for other blogs and websites on a regular basis in addition to talking Cavaliers at StepienRules.
SLAM: Where did your idea to dedicate your site to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ former owner come from?
BB: I wanted to come up with a name that reminded Cavalier fans of just how bad its been, and in turn, highlight the fact that–NBA title or not this season–these years we’re living in now as Cleveland fans are as good as it’s ever been. Sure, the Cavs got swept in the Finals a few years back, and upset last season in the ECF, but it’s been much worse around here, and never more-so than when Ted Stepien was at the helm. During his ownership reign, he almost singlehandedly ran pro basketball out of Cleveland for good, and made a number of unbelievably bad decisions regarding personnel. To highlight a couple, he fired Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly after less than a season and traded away the rights to James Worthy, in addition to–as most of your readers know–trading away a slew of 1st-round picks in a row. His decisions were so counterproductive the NBA had to step in a save him from himself by enacting the rule from which I named my site, the Stepien Rule, which still sits on the books today, and is the reason why teams can’t trade their 1st-round picks in back-to-back years.
SLAM: Where does your passion for Cleveland come from? Is it from the LeBron era? Childhood? Generally being an Ohioan?
BB: Cleveland’s in my blood, unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at that. I was born in Cleveland, and grew up in the Eastern suburbs, and have lived–but mostly died–with Cleveland sports my whole life. As a little kid, I remember watching John Elway’s Broncos drive right down the field to beat the Browns and go to the Super Bowl. As a teenager, I watched the Indians give away two World Series chances, and in my early 20s, I watched with shock and amazement as the Cavaliers won the lottery and the right to draft LeBron James. He’s all we got these days, in a lot of ways, and this city’s got just about every ounce of sports hope and fandom invested in the guy at this point, myself included. I’ll be a Cleveland fan long after LeBron’s gone, I just hope that time is a decade away at least.
SLAM: What are your feelings about the Cavs this year? What’s your honest assessment of the team and front office?
BB: Well, I’m writing this at 9 o’clock on All-Star Sunday and the jury is very much out on that as of right now. With the Stoudemire rumors exploding off the twitter wire in rapid succession, as well as the Jamison and Troy Murphy talk not going away[with Jamison since traded away], these next 72 hours will be interesting to say the least. That said, if they don’t make a move, I think they can win the NBA title this season as is. I’d say I’m in the minority with that opinion if you glance around the Cavalier blogging community, as most are looking for the Cavs to make a trade of some sort, but I’m good with the squad they have right now. The Cavaliers are the deepest team from 1 to 12 in the NBA, as well as the most versatile with respect to the ways they can beat you. Now that said, are they the deepest from 1-7, which is probably as deep as Mike Brown goes come playoff time, well that’s the question. Maybe they’re not, but I think LeBron James is a better player this time around–even better than his MVP campaign a year ago–and couple that with the additions up front with Shaq, as well as on the perimeter with [Anthony] Parker and [Jamario] Moon, and the Cavs are better than the 66-win team a year ago, in my opinion. While nothing is certain in this league, if the Cavs do make a significant move, they better win it this year, because they would have had a good chance to do so otherwise. So we’ll see.
SLAM: What do you feel is fair and best for LeBron, with respect to his current situation in Cleveland?
BB: My obvious desire for LeBron to stay in Cleveland aside, I think its best for him to stay a Cavalier. The Cavs have done everything they can for him–built a practice facility equi-distant between Quicken Loans Arena and the house he built outside of Akron, allowed his people anything they wanted within the organization with regards to access and input, and have done everything possible to build him a winner as soon as possible. He’s gotten all the endorsement deals that New York were once said to be needed to acquire–McDonald’s being the latest–and he’s close to his friends and family, which I think helps him stay as grounded as possible given his status. And not to go too far away from the basketball court with these last reasons, but he’s also about to put his kids in school in the coming years, and northeast Ohio affords him the opportunity to do that in a community that knows him, knows his family, and has known him his whole life. It might be more difficult to do that in a New York, Brooklyn, or wherever else. Not to mention you rarely ever see a negative word printed about LeBron around Cleveland, and if he enters a TMZ-fueled, New York City media market, anything can happen, I guess.
SLAM: History is obviously being written as we continue to witness the brilliance of LBJ and the raw “overachievements” of the Cavs, based off of his supporting cast…where do you think he will rank, based on what we might be projecting for him in years to come?
BB: This is going to sound real biased, and may cause a few people to stop reading, but I think he’ll go down as the best player to ever play. Now he has to win titles to be remembered in that ilk, but Michael Jordan–the standard bearer for this modern era–didn’t win his first title until he was 28. That’s often forgotten in the MJ-LBJ discussion, and LeBron being only 25, has already led his team to a Finals appearance, and looks to be on the verge of winning his first title–possibly–three years earlier than MJ. A lot has to happen there, I know, but to me, LeBron is a bigger, stronger, faster version of MJ combined with the passing skills of Magic Johnson. Now I’m aware that’s a heaping amount of praise, and it’s meant as no slight to Jordan, but in mentioning LBJ’s supporting cast, that team he took to the Finals is a team of essentially NBA garbage. A backcourt of Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic shouldn’t be in the NBA Finals–ever–and LBJ got them there. Not to say Jordan couldn’t, and not to say matching Jordan’s six titles doesn’t seem a bit overwhelming at this point, but it’s just my humble opinion that in 20 years, people will call LeBron the best to ever do it.
SLAM: What’s the most meaningful aspect of being able to cover Cleveland in such unique ways (via your columns and posts, podcasts, etc.)?
BB: Most recently, the Cavaliers granted me press credentials to cover a few games, and I had the opportunity for some up-close coverage of the Cavaliers prior to the Clippers-Cavs game a couple Sundays back, which was particularly meaningful. I had a chance to interview Anthony Parker and Jawad Williams one-on-one for a few minutes after shoot-around that day, and that was cool to talk with, and pick the brain of, a couple guys I’d been blogging about this season. In the pre-game podcasts we’ve done, it’s always interesting to me to interview other bloggers, reporters, and players to hear their perspectives on the Cavaliers, as well as the thoughts of people who follow along and comment in chat-room during the show, and comment on our daily blog entries as well. In addition to that, on a daily basis, it’s just been fun to share opinions with others around the NBA universe, like yourself, and engage in the back-and-forth debate that we all spend our time in between games doing.
SLAM: How far are you hoping StepienRules reaches in the blog world?
BB: To be honest, I’m not sure about how far it reaches, but I would say my goal for the immediate future is for StepienRules be considered among the many respectable NBA blogs out there. If I had to put a number on it, I guess I’d like to be a mainstay among top-50 NBA blogs, and while we’re not quite there yet, we’ve made some strides toward that since launching this past summer. But if you look around, there’s a lot of great NBA blogs out there, and I’m just primarily striving to be considered among them, and [to be] a reasoned, well thought-out, respectable NBA blog in our own right at that.
SLAM: Where do you see StepienRules going in the future? Is this a sort of “contract year” for sorts for you, in the shadow of the team’s uncertainty beyond this season?
BB: With some people around Cleveland having yet to officially commit to being here long-term, I’m not going anywhere as far as StepienRules is concerned. Now if a certain someone leaves next season, will anyone read my blog? No, probably not…with the exception of my mom. And even she might be too depressed to keep up with the daily happenings of the Cavaliers at that point, but nevertheless, forward we’ll go, regardless.
SLAM: Anything else you wanna share with the SLAMonline family?
BB: Just wanted to thank you, Sandy, for the opportunity, and also, thank you for your Cavaliers quarter term report cards offered a couple times so far this season on StepienRules. They’re a great, well-informed read as are all your offerings here at the Speak-Easy. I’ve been an avid reader of SLAM magazine for some time now, and as I peruse the web on a daily basis, there isn’t a day I don’t check you guys out here at SLAMonline. Your squad’s the best, and I appreciate you having me. Keep up the great work at the Speak-Easy, and all across the board here at SLAM.
SLAM: A sincere thank you, Brendan, and much love, respect and appreciation for your time and sharing your words with the SLAMonline readership. Keep it going, sir.
SLAM: …By the way, what do you think of Shaq complaining about Dwight Howard being “Superman II”, when Howard didn’t even give himself the nickname? And what’s wrong with there being a “Superman II” in the first place?
BB: The Shaq-Howard “Superman” thing’s just silly to me at this point…I think Shaq may be having a mid-life crisis of sorts with that, something about the younger big guy in those Magic pinstripes just getting to him, as he sits on the side watching his first All-Star game in over a decade and a half…and also yeah, didn’t they make like five Superman movies?! Can’t have two NBAers with that moniker? [laughs]
For more daily wisdom, game coverage, and general insight from Brendan about the Cavaliers, check him again at StepienRules.com.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.