The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 17, 2006; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 17, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

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Arlington, Va.: Have you had a chance yet to ask Arenas about his post All star comment to you that his scoring average was going to drop because he wanted to get the other guys rolling? When they got blown out by Atlanta last weekend, Jamison shot 11-32 and was 1-2 from the line, and Arenas was 11-27 shots including 11 attempts from 3. I saw the game, and many times, Arenas took 3's with a guy in his face and the rest of the team standing around watching because they knew they weren't going to get the ball.

Michael Wilbon: You know, I did. I asked him yesterday, not that it was pertinent to the column I was writing. And he told me he really wanted to go about the season the way he said at All-Star weekend. But the Butler injury changed that for a bit...and the Wizards, other than Arenas, aren't the most assertive bunch. There was a lineup change away from Brendan Haywood, who shoots more than Etan Thomas and Michael Ruffin...So developments overtook Arenas' original post-All-Star weekend plan to shoot less, pass more.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael, Tell me why I'm wrong that Eddie Jordan (of whom I'm a fan) should get a grade of C at best for his development of the bench. Yes, they don't have powerful depth, but as I recall they've gotten decent contributions at times from Taylor and recently Thomas at the guard, particularly in energy and defense, and drawn praise from the coach. The Big 3 will take the Wizards as far as they can take them but keeping most of the reserves glued to the bench for most of the 2nd half of this season, calling on huge minutes night after night from the 3, I submit, has kept the bench underdeveloped and led to the Zards tiring at the end of games, a situation I see plaguing them in getting past their 1st round opponent. My perspective. Yours? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: I think a big problem regarding the bench of the Wizards is that Ernie G. traded Juan Dixon and Steve Blake...Don't get me wrong, I like Antonio Daniels off the bench...but Dixon proved himself in the playoffs last year, having several big games...Daniels plays better defense...And the Chucky Atkins thing was a disaster, and he's capable of running a team if Arenas is hurt or in foul trouble. So, we're talking Thomas, Daniels and Ruffin, primarily, right? That's 8 guys. Blatche is a high school kid, so it would be tough to go with him as a 19-year-old rookie out of high school...And a key player, who is not available, is Jarvis Hayes...So, they've got a little depth, but not a whole lot. Who, however, does have big depth in today's NBA?

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DC United Fan: Freddy Adu's bringing it, and DC United is undefeated. Are you going to check them out one of these days? We'd love to see you out at a game...

Michael Wilbon: I'm not going to get to United games anytime soon. Even though columnists are generalists, there are still areas on which we concentrate. Just as Tom Boswell is baseball and golf it's pretty obvious to those who read The Post regularly that my primary areas are basketball and football (both college and pro). From now until the end of June, 80 percent of the columns I write will be about pro basketball... With the Wizards in the playoffs for at least four games and as many as, what, 12 or 13...I'll be doing that almost exclusively with the possible exception of the NFL draft. I'm not even sure, by the way, that the Redskins have picks in the first couple of rounds. With the free agents they've already signed the draft hardly matters for the Redskins. So, there's the NBA playoffs, maybe an NFL draft column or two, then vacation...So it'll be awhile before I see Mr. Adu in person...unless I meet him on the golf course, where he says he can take me...He probably can. Not only is he smart and good-natured, Adu is a fabulous athlete in general. Word is, he breaks 90 and has done so at my home course, so we'll just have to see...

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Washington, D.C.: Am I the only one not terrified of the Nets? Yes, they're playing great ball lately and have three top players, but there's no way they are in the same league as the Pistons and Heat (at least when it comes to the Wiz). I think the Wiz could give them a run for their money.

Michael Wilbon: I USED to think the Wizards could give the Nets a run, but that was before the Nets won 13 straight or 14 straight or whatever it was...The Nets, I think, can beat the Heat in the second round.

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Bowie, Md.: Although you are not a big soccer/DC United fan, will you cover the 2006 World Cup in Germany? Do you even know any of the players in the other countries? Actually, do you know any of the players in OUR country who will be on the team?

What do you think USA chances are to make it past the first round?

Michael Wilbon: I know the famous players, but that's about it. I'm not about to sit here and handicap the field, because right now I have zero idea. I'll cram-study in the two weeks or so before World Cup begins so that I can watch it as an interested observer, but that's it. No, I won't be going to Germany...I'm sure The Post will send several people, both from D.C. and abroad, all of whom have been following qualifying tournaments and international competitions for months.

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Alexandria, Va.: Do u think that they are picky on Barry Bonds because he is black? Alot of people will be mad if he breaks Babe Ruth's record. He has NEVER tested positive for sternoids. So, why are they always worrying about him.

Michael Wilbon: I think Barry Bonds is being investigated legitimately becasue his trainer and associated were the target of a Grand Jury investigation into BALCO...because Bonds is thought to have lied to that Grand Jury, and because there is reasonable suspicion that Bonds used steroids. Just because baseball was too incompetent to catch Bonds and McGwire and many, many more doesn't mean the lawns of the United States of America weren't in effect. They were. And steroids, boys and girls, were and are illegal. Hiding behind race, which is all Bonds and his sycophants are doing, offends me and I'm black. Bonds is black in color only...Let's not allow him to turn himself into Jackie Robinson because his skin his brown. He's black in much the same way O.J. Simpson was black...when in trouble, he's black. All the other time, he's just rich and unapproachable and obnoxious and not particularly any color. I'm tired of this garbage.

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Alexandria, Va.: I hate to look ahead to the NBA offseason, but what are the chances that Ben Wallace hits the market? And what would be the chances that the Wizards make a run at him?

In my opinion, he brings exactly what Washington doesn't have and desperatley needs: Size and defense (although Haywood has impressed lately).

Michael Wilbon: Ben Wallace will draw quite a bit of interest, one would think. Do the Wizards have money for Ben Wallac? I don't think so. If I'm the Wizards, who would I send up there in a sign & trade? I wouldn't trade much...There are teams like Orlando and Chicago who have money and a spot for Ben, as well.

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Bowling Green, Va.: Michael, didn't the Wizards draft that big center from Puerto Rico who helped to knock off the USA during the Olympics? Where is he and why is he not in D.C.?

Michael Wilbon: He's here. He's on the bench. Peter John Ramos, I believe, is his name and all 7-foot-3 of him is here. I saw him yesterday. Apparently the word "project" was meant for him.

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Burke, Va.: What's going to happen in the West this playoff season?

It looks like the Spurs and Mavs are the cream of the crop, but there are so many strong teams from 3-8 that could mean for some long series. Could the intense competition in the west mean whoever comes out of the east would have the edge? Could Jason Kidd finally get his ring?

Michael Wilbon: I think the winner of the west will come from Spurs-Mavericks, which sadly is a second-round series...I think the Suns will beat the Lakers but will have their hands full with Denver. I'd like to see Spurs-Suns, but I think we could be looking at Spurs-Nuggets. The Suns fortunes will rest with how much that team gets from Tim Thomas and whether everybody on the playoff roter can stay totally healthy.

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Louisville, Ky.: Mike,

I'm not sure why people expect you to be a soccer expert. Considering soccer is still a niche sport in the US, it seems like expecting any major columnists to have any opinion on the World Cup is asking a bit much.

That said, what do you make of the Wizards' chances over the Cavs?

Michael Wilbon: No, it's not a bit much. There are plenty of columnists at big newspapers who played soccer growing up. A few played in college. Many, whether they played or not, love soccer. I'm fine with soccer. I don't find joy in taking shots at soccer, like my colleague TK. I watch the World Cup closely...I even woke up in (or stayed up until) the wee hours four years ago to watch the games televised from Asia...It's just not one of the sports I live and breathe, as opposed to hoops, football, golf and in most seasons baseball...

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Shallotte, N.C.: Thinking ahead to the NFL draft, where do you see Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt going?

Michael Wilbon: I don't believe in mock drafts, so I'm not about to give you a specific team and claim I've seen their draft board. But if his arm is as big as the scouts claim, why not the Raiders if Leinart and Young have already been taken? Cutler, the kid from Vanderbuilt we've been asking guests about on PTI for months, is going somewhere in the first round...probably the middle.

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Terp fan in Virginia: Maryland athletic director Deborah Yow is reportedly being courted by Stanford regarding its vacant AD position. That's upsetting to me as a Terrapin fan, given how she's built the entire program -- but what's nearly as upsetting is that a large number of Terp fans on message boards WANT her to leave, claiming she's had disagreements with Gary Williams (I'm sure they haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but they've coexisted for 13 years) and has held his program back (nonsense). Of course, a lot of these people have taken the Duke obsession to ridiculous depths (would students have caused a ruckus on Route 1 if the women had beaten LSU for the national title?) and have embarrassed the university in many ways.

Michael Wilbon: AMEN to your question/comment. Look, I like Gary Williams and have for 25 years. He's one of the first coaches I ever got to know as a sportswriter and people who read this space or my column no how my blood boils when people, particularly Maryland boosters, want to put Gary on the hot seat when he's the only coach to get that team a national championship...Having said that, if people think Maryland's success athletically isn't tied in some way to Debbie Yow are fools. She's been very, very, very effective and if Stanford calls, I hope she listenes. It's Stanford. I've always thought Stanford has the best combination of academic and sports in America.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Mike,

What guests do you and Tony have lined up this week for PTI?

Michael Wilbon: Today, the one and only Ozzie Guillen!

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think that either the Lakers or the Wizards would choose to undo the Kwame/Caron trade at this point? It seems like both teams got what they needed . . . and so did the players involved.

Michael Wilbon: If you're the Lakers, what did you get but a 7-footer with the greatest body of all-time who doesn't give you much of anything but heartache.

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Ashburn, Va.: Mike, I can still remember going nuts when the Sixers stole Game 1 of the 2001 Finals. That seems like ages ago. Now, it seems like the age of AI in Philly could be over. Do you think he's somewhere else next year?

Michael Wilbon: I think A.I. is gone. Yep, I think the 76ers are going to try to move Iverson. But where? You have to rebuild your entire team around him. Trade him where? Could he play with Ray Allen in Seattle? Who in the east would want him? Orlando is young and loaded for bear. The Wizards don't need to go in that direction. Atlanta and Charlotte have young players they need to develop. The Knicks to play with Larry Brown? Hmmmm maybe. I think Kevin Garnett and Iverson will be in different uniforms next season.

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You brought up the subject...: What did you think of Daunte Culpepper's little bit of blacksploitation in the Lake Minatonka case?

Michael Wilbon: What in the world are you talking about?

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Herndon, Va.: Michael,

I went to the Wizards game last night. What I saw was a team that played differently in the fourth quarter than it did in the first. It seemed to me the Wizards had good rotation with the ball, set up plays, and played stout defense in the first. In short, they played what coaches call 5-on-1 basketball. By the fourth, however, players gave up (by in large) on playing team basketball for 1-on-5 basketball. There was very little set up on offense and late rotation on defense. Am I wrong about this? Is this the Wizards' M.O.? And are the Wizards' planning for an early exit?

Michael Wilbon: I think you're right. I thought the same thing. It's not by designs...It's just that they come into games beautifully executing the coaches' plans...then break down over time. I think a lack of size is the primary reason. It's takes an insane amount of discipline for smaller, lighter players to stay the course for 48 minutes without being literally bumped off course by bigger, stronger players of similar talents. You have to have some easy possessions during the course of a game, some easy baskets, some easy stops from your big, strong players who sometimes impose their will. Instead the Wizards are always the ones being muscled. I wonder if playing more like the Suns would help the Wizards. They're not going to stop ANYBODY in the playoffs, so why not just jack it up...with a plan, of course.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Will you be wearing a Sox jersey for your interview with Ozzie today?

Michael Wilbon: No. I wore a Sox jersey last year because I told Kenny Williams if the White Sox won I'd gladly wear the jersey on the show, and I did...happily.

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Burke, Va.: Which one do you have in your ride, Sirius, XM, or Marvin Gaye on your i-Pod?

Michael Wilbon: XM in my house, courtesy of DirecTV. Sirius in my SUV...which isn't nearly as good as XM. Sorry, it's not close. Too much talking, they cut the songs off early, and the music I care about--R&B and Jazz Cafe--are downright inferior to XM. You wonder if the Sirius people even know. They have all these Hip-Hop stations, perhaps not realizing that the people who buy certain vehicles are mostly over 40 and not listening to uncut Hip-Hop 24 hours a day...So I was totally disapointed to see my SUV came with Sirius and not XM...I'll give Sirius credit for the Disco channel, No. 37. And there's always Marvin, Luther, Chaka and some Elton in or close to my CD player in the car and at home...Throw Toni Braxton in there, too. I love vocals. Voices.

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Richmond, Va.: The Wizards were playing well before Butler got hurt. If he can stay healthy, why can't the Wizards beat the Cavaliers and maybe upset the Pistons?

Michael Wilbon: Beat the Cavs, yes. Upset Detroit? Have you been watching the season? The Wizards have no size and toughness (beyond Caron Butler)...Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI. We'll be in NFL draft week next Monday. Talk to you then. Thanks for chatting.

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