Feb 6, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives against Charlotte Bobcats center Brendan Haywood (33) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Do LeBron James, Brendan Haywood Have a Beef?

Can LeBron James and Brendan Haywood coexist? The question is absurd, yes. Particularly for a Cavaliers fan base rightly more preoccupied with the acquisition of Kevin Love. Or how another ball-dominant perimeter player will affect Kyrie Irving’s catch-and-shoot percentages. Or at what ungodly hour Dion Waiters is tweeting. Haywood is a wild card on a team of wild cards, an already-limited 34-year-old with in excess of 18,500 minutes on his 7-foot frame. The former Cavs first-rounder hasn’t played since 2012-13 because of a stress fracture in his left foot, and his status for 2014 is up in the air. The draft-night Haywood deal, which also net the Cavaliers No. 45 overall selection Dwight Powell, was officially announced July 12, the day after LeBron’s “I’m coming home” letter hit SI.com. These two Cavaliers have a history. And it’s not a friendly one. Back in 2008, the Cavs and Wizards were gearing up for a first-round series for the third straight year. In 2006, LeBron’s first foray into postseason basketball, Cleveland dispatched Washington in 6. (But not before Haywood appears to have channeled his LaVar Arrington to LeBron’s Reuben Droughns.) In 2007, Cleveland swept the injury-riddled Wiz en route to the NBA Finals. 2008, though, was different. Cavs-Wizards had become one of those “rivalries” that’s not really a rivalry because one team usually dominated the series. Sort of like Miami-Indiana the past three years. In March of that year, Washington beat Cleveland, 101-99, in a TNT game at the Verizon Center. Afterward, DeShawn Stevenson, said of James: “He’s overrated. And you can say I said that.” Then, of course, the rappers got involved. LeBron likened the difference between him and DeShawn to Jay-Z and Soulja Boy. And his boy Jay-Z released the pretty epic “Blow the Whistle” track, which was played at a D.C. nightclub, apparently upset Caron Butler and implicitly ripped Stevenson. Fast-forward to April. The Cavs were coasting to a Game 2 blowout victory when, midway through the third quarter, Haywood shoved a defenseless, in-flight James, knocking him onto the baseline floor. It did not resemble anything close to a basketball play. Haywood was given a flagrant 2 and ejected. (In fairness to Washington, LeBron hit Andray Blatche with a pretty dirty elbow in Game 1.) After Cleveland’s Game 4 win, which featured another hard foul on James by Stevenson, LeBron told reporters: “I guess that’s what they want to do — hurt LeBron James in this series. It’s not working.” The following day, Haywood mocked Cleveland’s star. “Awww, they are trying to hurt me,” he told reporters. “… No one is trying to hurt him. Everybody is trying to play basketball, trying to play tough. Play basketball and leave it alone.” He did acknowledge LeBron was a “great player.” [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGRzk_duhj4&w=600&h=450] The series got even weirder back in D.C. for Game 6. After another Wizard, Darius Songaila, was suspended one game for a foul on James, T-shirts emblazoned with LeBron’s No. 23, “CRYBABY” and the Papa John’s logo were distributed to fans at the Verizon Center. Papa John’s later apologized to Cavs fans by offering 23-cent one-topping pies at 40+ Cleveland-area locations. (Author’s note: Nobody in my immediate family has bought Papa John’s since that game. Author’s note II: Nobody in my immediate family had bought Papa John’s before that game.) That ‘07-08 season remains the best of Haywood’s career. He started 80 games, averaging 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and an 18.3 PER. Ironically, he, Stevenson and Caron Butler reunited in Dallas for the 2010-11 season, when their Mavericks finally dispatched LeBron in the NBA Finals. The big man from UNC averaged 15.3 minutes during Dallas’ 18 postseason games. All those hard fouls and throat slashes later, the status of the LeBron-Haywood pseudo-beef is unknown, at least to us. Unlike every other aspect of the Cavs’ roster not named Andrew Wiggins or Anthony Bennett, it was not addressed in LeBron’s letter. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see. (For what it’s worth, Stevenson apparently has moved on; last August, he openly campaigned on Twitter his desire to play for the Miami Heat.)

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Tags: Brendan Haywood Cleveland Cavaliers DeShawn Stevenson Feature Lebron James

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