Prior to this NBA playoff series, you knew DeShawn Stevenson as -- that’s right -- DeShawn Who? Now you might know him as the guy who perhaps awoke one of the NBA’s sleeping giants from its slumber.

Prior to this NBA playoff series, you knew DeShawn Stevenson as -- that’s right -- DeShawn Who? Now you might know him as the guy who perhaps awoke one of the NBA’s sleeping giants from its slumber.

Stevenson is in his ninth NBA season and is best known for ... just about nothing. OK, give the Washington Wizards guard this much: He has the NBA’s second-longest streak of consecutive games started.

And he has the largest mouth in the NBA postseason.

This week, Stevenson said he had an easier job (guarding LeBron James) than teammates Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas (scoring points). Stevenson has to stop a 6-foot-8, 250-pound locomotive. The others get to be the locomotive.

A few weeks back, Stevenson said James was overrated. He didn’t back down from that statement this week. A guy who was just about considered a bust two years ago put this entire series on his back.

Now, who would you want this series riding on: Stevenson or James?

The best Stevenson can hope to get out of this trash talk is to motivate himself.

“I don’t need extra motivation,” James said after Friday’s final practice before the first round tips off this afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena. “It being Washington and them disrespecting our team, we’ll see what happens.”

James is a pretty grown up 23-year-old. He knows what’s at stake.

“Once you cross these lines, your mouth can’t get you out of trouble,” Cavs veteran Joe Smith said. “I don’t think it’s a wise move to motivate (James) any more than he already is. To kind of call him out, that’s adding fuel to the fire.”

James said there is nothing personal between himself and Stevenson. King James never called Stevenson a pawn or talked about his family.

“I don’t know what people go through outside the game of basketball,” James said. “Have I said something about his basketball game? Maybe.”

James said responding to an absurd comment by an NBA nobody would be like rap mogul Jay-Z responding to one-hit wonder Soulja Boy. I don’t even know if Stevenson can “Crank That.”

Stevenson’s words shouldn’t worry anyone as much as what James did say. He said he couldn’t say if this year’s Cavs’ team was a better team than the one that was swept in the NBA Finals last year.

Washington is a better team simply because the Wizards are healthier.

So why not just play the silent killer role? Because that’s not how the
Wizards roll.

“I motivate myself. I don’t need opponents to motivate me,” James said. “I go out there and play the same way I do every night.”

James has led a team that hasn’t been healthy enough to jell since a midseason trade changed its complexion. James is king in the postseason, too.

In 33 postseason games, he is averaging 27.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists. No other player in NBA postseason history with at least 25 games has done better than 25-7-6.

Last year, Stevenson’s defense helped hold James to just fewer than 28 points a game, including a night when James went for 45 points.

All this talk has created a storyline and added to the series. Stevenson has said so much, no one is even mentioning Arenas’ blog.

James said he is surprised Arenas didn’t say something stronger than he was glad the Wizards got the Cavs in the first round. Because, let’s face it, if you’re team has lost six playoff games in a row and been knocked out of the postseason by the Cavs the last two years, you’d want them again.

Sure.

Especially with DeShawn Stevenson’s mouth wide open and his fingers poking James in the eye.

Talking is easy. James has been here before. Stevenson watched him.

Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail todd.porter@cantonrep.com