washingtonpost.com
The Chat House
Sports News

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, May 22, 2006 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, May 22, 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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Vienna, Va.: Why couldn't the NBA schedule a double header for Sunday? If they put the Clippers/Suns game late on Sunday afternoon this would give the East Coasters a bit more chance to see a series that has been hard to follow.

Michael Wilbon: I couldn't agree more and was totally annoyed by it until I was told that the arenas in question were in use...I'm not sure about San Antonio's AT&T Center, but apparently there was some huge wrestling show here in Phoenix and the Suns couldn't host on Sunday...It was a total dud having one game, and tonight's Suns-Clips Game 7 won't start realistically until a few minutes before 11 eastern time...so it's scramble city for your friendly neighborhood columnist tonight with deadlines...Still, I can hardly wait.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: What do you think of Martina Hingis' great comeback? What does it say about the sport? Is it less competitive or is it more exciting?

Also, why are Serena and Venus more criticized than other players? Venus is back and playing well. Recent pictures show that Serena is fitter than she's been in years (however, there are no pictures of her practicing...only ones of her frolicking on the beach). Why are most sports columnists so hard on them? They seem to be harder on them than other top players. Do you think it has to do with race?

Michael Wilbon: They are not fit and not playing well...I'm not sure what you're talking about. They pull out of tournaments all the time and their rankings have dropped off the table...Please, let's not just make it up on Venus and Serena...They hardly have interest anymore in playing a full schedule of tennis. That's not a criticism; it's fact. They have other interests...And that's fine. It's good. But let's not say they're at the top of their games. And it's not just them. Women tennis players just go away by the time they're 25 years old, like Hingis did, like so many have...almost all of them other than Davenport among the post-Steffi players. It certainly wasn't Monica Seles fault, but her best years came before she reached 20 and she's now retired at what, 30? It's a disappointment to a lot of people--and I don't know how many sports columnists you read--but most of them don't even write about Serena and Venus at all anymore. Tennis is only a good column when stars are pulling in viewers, but that's not the case for them right now. Personally, I'm disappointed because I LOVED watching them play (except against each other, which was not for them and terrible for the viewer because the tennis was horrible...) They were big-time players and big-time stars and their shelf life, like that of their peers, is about over. Capriati came and went and came and is done again. Tracy Austin played about what, 10 really good years and she started at 14. What happened to Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario? How long was she around? It's the entire sport. They start too young, burn out, then find other interests. Almost all of them. And the Williams Sisters are no exception.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Is it possible for Jason Campbell to be the starting quarterback in Washington when the season starts?

Michael Wilbon: Only if Mark Brunell is injured. Only then.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Mr. Wilbon,

Do you happen to know the reason behind putting both Game 7's tonight, instead of playing the Suns/Clippers last night. Game Six in this series was Thursday night and it seems that a Sunday night primetime game would be a ratings bonanza. Instead, this game will probably not begin until 10:45 and a large amount of fans will be fighting off sleep when the the second half begins. Did both team really need that third day of rest, especially with no other games scheduled for Sunday night? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: One more time...and I hope everybody is listening this time...The arenas in San Antonio and/or Phoenix were not available. I'm told a huge wrestling show occupied the U.S. Airways Arena here in Phoenix and was definitely not available...Thus, the double-header tonight, which I hate. Sunday was the time for the twin-bill, not Monday night. The NBA lost a chance to really showcase another good series and pull people into the tent.

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Re-Pistons: Was that the scare the Pistons needed to remind them this isn't a cake walk.

Game 7 looked like a "This is what you can expect from now on" type of game.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, except the Pistons have been doing this all season. I think expecting them to now keep it turned on and play that way consistently is like expecting the Wizards to suddenly play defense because we saw them do it once or twice...Nope, I think the Pistons are simply not as good as they think they are or as most of us believe they are...They're really, really good...but not great. Having said that, they might still win the whole thing.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you think about the Redskins for 2006-07 season?

Darryl W. Harris

Michael Wilbon: I don't...not while playoff series as good as these are going on. Try it. Look at some other athletic competition and try to follow it. It won't kill you. NASCAR is totally on fire right now with all the rivalries and intensity. Baseball just had a great weekend, even if you hate Barry Bonds...The Nationals just won a series from the Orioles, right? Am I right about that? The Redskins are for August and beyond...not May for sure. Not here anyway.

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Michael Manassas, Va.: Afternoon Michael,

Love you on PTI. I hate to pull the race card, and I know your not a Barry Bonds lover nor am I, but would the same dislike and hatred be thrown at McGwire if he were still playing and approaching the record? Or was I the only person, saying out loud, when he approaching the home record that he has to be taking steroids?

Keep up the good work!

Michael Wilbon: Were you the only person? McGwire was torched at the time. So people no longer remember anything that didn't happen this morning? He was killed, justifiably. And by the way, when Roger Maris was sent all that hate mail and had his life threatened when he approached Ruth's record 60 in 1961, causing his hair to fall out in clumps, what was the reason? People couldn't have looked at blond-haired Roger Maris and thought he was black. Hate is stupid, hate is often racially-based, but it ain't exclusively racially based. Bonds has made his own bed by being an arrogant jerk for years and years and years. Some of it's related to race, and a ton of it is he's been a jerk.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Wilbon,Are you a college lacrosse fan? Do you ever watch any of the games, now that the NCAA tournament is televised? I'm really just wondering if the sport makes your radar.Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: I know that Northwestern's womens lacrosse team, the defending Divsion I champ, has reached the Final Four after whipping North Carolina's behind the other day, and now we (that would be Northwestern) get Duke in the national semifinal...I believe up in Boston on Friday. I'd love to be there in my purple...and the Northwestern women have presented me with my own official lacrosse stick...so there!

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Detroit, Mich.: Now that the Pistons have "survived" the LeBron and the Cavs. Do you think the Pistons will get back to basics, more specifically the defense, heart and hard work they have come to epitomize? While the Cavs did a wonderful job, I truly think the Pistons's nonclalance, complacency,lack of a killer instinct and arrogance were responsble for keeping the Cavs in it til the end.

Michael Wilbon: A month ago I thought there was no way the Miami Heat would challenge Detroit...But for all the reasons you just mention, all of which I agree with, I think the Heat will seriously challenge Detroit and perhaps beat the Pistons. Shaq has been resting for nearly a week. He should be pretty darned active and energetic in the first two games up in Detrroit.

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Arlington, Va.: Michael,

The decision to save the horse: Business, Emptional, Both?

Michael Wilbon: For whom? The owners? I don't know what point of view your asking for...Often, I make disparaging jokes about horses but you certainly won't read any here today or anytime soon. That's a very, very depressing thing that happened at the Preakness, and Andrew Beyer's column yesterday on how people turn away from horse racing for awhile when they see something like this makes me wonder what the reaction will be.

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Springfield, Va.: I'm hoping for a Clippers win, just because I would like more people to see what a great player Elton Brand is nowadays. He seems to be forgotten by the casual viewers.

Michael Wilbon: Bingo...You are spot on. Brand is a great player, and a particularly smart, engaging, funny person. I like him tremendously...I also like Steve Nash and Raja Bell just as much so I'm staying out of the rooting business...Though Mavs owner Mark Cuban has now nailed me for "rooting" for the Suns because I spend some of my time in Scottsdale, Az...Hmmm, I suspect he's right, but Brand and Sam Cassell, who I first watched play in high school, are two of my favorite people in all of sports...So I'm certainly not going to be sad if the Clippers win.

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Westminster, Md.: Who do you think will give the most polarizing performance tonight? I'd love to Duncan drop 50 or Nash put up some crazy assist number. Is it wrong to automatically expect the best players to have the best performances in game sevens, or are let downs more common, like Lebron or Kobe this year?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...I think the great players play great more often than not in Game 7s. So while I won't attatch numbers to any prediction, I do see Duncan, Parker, Nash, Brand, Cassell, Nowitzki playing very well tonight. And a couple of those guys could turn in prolific performances.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Quickie: What's your favorite?

NCAA hoops tourney or NBA tourney?

I got to give the edge to the college hoops cause they can be so unpredictable although the NBA is doing a good job at it this year.

Michael Wilbon: I'm seasonal. I love March in March. I love the NBA playoffs in May and June. That's why you won't see me taking Redskins questions in the spring. March, April, May and June are for basketball. I love it all. August through January are mostly about football, college and pro, though I like the NFL more than the college game. But college hoops and pro hoops are supposed to be different. The single-elimination element in March is what makes March Madness so compelling. Then again, I like the adjustments and chances and ebb and flow of a 7-game series. Now that real heavyweight prize fighting is virtually dead, the best thing to me, in all of sports, is Game 7...

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Michael,

Speaking of pro tennis, can you think of any other pro sport (maybe golf?)that has been as radically changed by technology, i.e. racket materials? ML Baseball will never allow bats to be made of anything other than wood - would be nice to see pro tennis go back to the wood racket era.

Michael Wilbon: Not maybe golf. Definitely golf.

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Re-Barbaro: It was something to see and I admit very emotional.

But do you want to break it to all those people putting up "We Love you Barbaro" and "Get well soon Barbaro" signs that horses can't read?

Michael Wilbon: No, if that makes them feel better, then fine. I wouldn't do it but I understand some people just want to believe in something or support something no matter how others may feel about it.

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Cambridge, Mass.: If Dirk is too fast for Duncan to guard when the Spurs are playing defense, then why isn't he quick enough to guard Duncan when the Mavs are playing defense? Since Duncan's shredded every defender Dallas has thrown at him, it strikes me as odd that they haven't tried this matchup. What do you think about it? And how do you think the seventh game will play out?

Michael Wilbon: The Mavericks don't have a second truly great player. So it's tough to ask Dirk to score 35 tonight, which the Mavs will, and ask him to expend the max energy trying to guard Duncan. And with Duncan it isn't about quickness necessarily; it's about guile and savvy. Duncan is crafty. Like Kevin McHale was crafty. Those guys need to be guarded, in a perfect defensive world, by players who are specialists who want to do primarily that. And there just aren't many of them out there now. Dikembe Mutombo a dozen years ago would have been a nice match up with Duncan. Maybe Alonzo Mourning 10 years ago...But you can't ask Dirk to do it other than in specialty situations. It would limit the energy he has to play offense, and then what? Dallas would have no chance it seems to me. And I think Dallas can win tonight with Jason Terry back in the lineup. Goodness, what a series that has been.

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Washington, D.C.: I think saving the horse was a financial decision first, and a PR decision second. I say financial first because as reported today, the owners stand to make $100,000 for each foal sired. Also, as Beyer states, most other horses would be put down right there.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the comment.

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Manassas, Va.: Do you think the Wizards can be a better defensive team without a coaching change? I think that Jordan needs a defensive specialist in his assistance or he needs to go. Some coaches (Nelson, Alderman and Jordan are not defensive oriented).

Michael Wilbon: That doesn't necessarily mean a coaching change. It could mean a coaching addition. Teams do it all the time. The Kings, for example, added Pete Carrill (sp?) The Bulls and Knicks in the 1990s added specialists on the bench all the time, guys like Dick Harter or Johnny Bach...I'm sure NBA franchises can afford an additional assistant coach's salary.

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Virginia: Hey Mike. Love your PTI program. Now I know you are a Cubs fan, but I am curious...what was your reaction when you first saw the Cubs-White Sox brawl, and particularly the Barrett-Pierzynski incident? Personally, I think Barrett was clearly in the wrong, but I couldn't help but laugh when I saw him jack Pierzynski in the jaw. What's your take?

Michael Wilbon: Barrett should be suspended for 20 games, period. Yes, I'm a Cubs fan but that was inexcusable...We'll ask A.J. about it today since he's scheduled to be our guest on PTI.

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Fairfax, Va.: See the Cubs/White Sox game this weekend? Although that was a sucker punch from Michael Barrett, there is no love lost between the two and this is probably now the best rivalry in interleague. You got to admit, that was a true brawl.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, it was a true brawl. But the White Sox are so much better than the Cubs right now...The two teams have got to be a little more even competitively for it to be a great rivalry...I'm going to one of the games to be played in Wrigley at the beginning of July. Can't wait.

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Laurel Md: I know your not a fan, but any love for Barbaro?

JEL

Michael Wilbon: I don't have love for horses. I feel for the animal and his owners, trainers, rider, etc.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of the NCAA tournament, what are your thoughts on expanding the field to upwards of 80 teams, as is being discussed? I think it's a valid idea if more mid-majors are selected instead of using the extra slots on middling majors, like Maryland the last couple years.

Michael Wilbon: I'm not for it. I like 64 and that's it. Do we not love March Madness as it is? Why? For what? So that on-the-bubble coaches aren't on the hot seat? Sorry, I like it the way it is. And I totally see Jim Boeheim's point about more play-in games...If we get a few more play-ins, I'm for that, but not an increase to the general pool.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you see a double standard between how lots of people view Kobe and Lebron's respective game 7 2nd half performance? Kobe being selfish for "refusing" to shoot and "giving up" on the game, while Lebron valiantly tried to get his teammates involved?I don't have an opinion myself, but I'd like your thoughts on it. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: LeBron is a playmaker...That's who he is personally and by position. Kobe is a scorer who had 81 points in a game this year and 62 points in three-quarters of a game this year. His makeup and mentally and purpose are totally different. Their objectives are different. LeBron is more like Scottie Pippen and Kobe is more like Jordan. So when it comes time to score, score. Jordan never would have taken one shot in the fourth quarter of a game when his team was getting whacked.

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Scottsdale, Ariz.: MW - I went to the Capital Grille here in Scottsdale over the weekend. They do a pretty good steak. It's at the corner of Frank Lloyd Wright and Scottsdale road, next to Maggiano's. For my money Flemings does a better steak though.

Michael Wilbon: I was across the stret at Morton's with Charles Barkley one of those nights this weekend (Saturday)...There are great restaurants all over that neighborhood, including the Ocean Club (my fave), and Capital Grille and Morton's and Zinc Bistro...Plus up the street a little there's Eddie V's and Mastro's...There's way too much good eating here for the good of my waistline!

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Alexandria, Va.: "Look at some other athletic competition and try to follow it. It won't kill you. NASCAR is totally on fire right now with all the rivalries and intensity."

NASCAR is athletic competition?? You've got to be joking.

Michael Wilbon: It's competition and it's the second most popular competition in America right now after the NFL. Your smugness won't change that fact, jack. And add the World Cup to that list of things to watch this summer instead of clinging to your burgandy-and-golf blanket.

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New York City: You columnists seem to run in the same circles, and dine at the same restaurants, and drink the same cheap scotch, so tell me:

Would you rather discuss the state of sports in America at a bar with Phil Mushnick of the NY Post, or Stephen Smith of Philly? What do you think of Mushnick pointing out Smith's reckless reporting, and Smith's response to that criticism by calling Mushnick a racist?

Follow-up: The mound. Raise it 5 inches to pre-'68 levels or keep the same?

Michael Wilbon: You don't know what circles we run in or whether they're the same at all. I doubt you know more than one sports columnist, if that. Your comment was too revealing. I've had dinner with Stephen A. many a night because we're friends. I don't know Phil well, though I have talked to him more than a dozen times and often enjoy his column...They're both opinionated, loud and can handle themselves. I have no interest, none whatsoever, in refereeing their dispute.

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Washington, D.C.: So did the Pistons actually show some championship-level character and defense by shutting down the Cavs yesterday or are they just cruisin' for a bruisin' in the next round?

Michael Wilbon: Once more on the Pistons: They show championship-caliber things of all kinds when they want to. Question is, can they continue to advance with a turn-it-on-when-we-want-to attitude. The Lakers tried that two years ago and got bounced by...The Pistons.

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Laurel, Md.: It is nice to see the WNBA in it's 10th year. How long do you think the run will last?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...Yeah, I'm a fan of the WNBA. I don't write about it often but I watch it. I know quite a few of the women, and I know how dedicated and how professional they are about their athletic careers. Put it this way: they're a lot more professional than their male counterparts overwhelmingly. And I think it's here to stay indefinitely. I certainly hope so. And I cannot imagine the NBA pulling the plug. That's unthinkable.

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Atlanta, Ga.: It seems like more and more people are watching Nascar. What do you like most/least about the sport? Do you have a favorite driver? Why has Nascar become so popular recently.

Michael Wilbon: Great point, to which I'm going to post a loud, aggressive NASCAR hating message in a minute...Anyway, your question is important. I don't know the answer. I watch increasingly for professional reasons and I don't have a favorite NASCAR driver. I have a favorite Indy Car driver, Danica Patrick for a host of reasons and don't send your petty jokes to the Chat House. But it's hugely popular and it seems to me entirely because of the drivers. People identify. I don't. They don't move anything in me, but it's undeniable that people identify with them, will buy whatevet it is they're selling from personality to products. It's amazing and it's changed the culture of sports in America. Speed plus personality seems to be a winning formula.

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NASCAR: The car is doing the work, jack, the driver is doing the physical equivalent of playing a video game in a sauna where if you wipe out, you don't get to reset. NASCAR ain't a sport, and that's a fact. Doesn't matter how popular it is. Poker is pretty popular right now also, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone of sound mind calling a poker player an athlete.

Michael Wilbon: okay, here's one view

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Re: NASCAR: "It's competition and it's the second most popular competition in America right now after the NFL. Your smugness won't change that fact, jack."

Thank you! For the previous poster, how about you drive next Saturday in 90 degree weather for 600 miles with no AC, then try and say it's not a competition. Props to Wilbon for saying it. (Now, can we get a teeny bit more coverage in the Post?)

Michael Wilbon: Here's another view. And don't ask me about coverage in The Post. Editors determine what's in The Post (and write headlines). I have nothing to do with that and never will, thankfully. But I understand your frustration.

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Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Should they go on to defeat the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals, do you think the Oilers have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup against either Eastern Conference juggernaut (Carolina or Buffalo)? Seems Chris Pronger and Mike Peca are finally hitting their playoff stride.

Michael Wilbon: If we've learned or re-learned anything about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's that any team that makes it has a chance. No. 8s knock off No. 1s all the time in the NHL playoffs, so of course the Oilers have a chance. Of course...They're in the conference finals; why would they not have a chance?

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Washington, D.C.: LeBron's talent is undeniable, but is he developing a reputation for being a bit of whiner in the league? I'm not sure I've ever seen somebody so demonstrably object to nearly every call against him. It got rather tiresome to watch.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I'm tired of the constant whining. Bad thing is, everybody is scared to say anything to the kid, lest he might cut somebody off, from his coach to all the sponsors sucking up to him. Michael Jordan, thankfully, had Dean Smith and then Phil Jackson. Who says to LeBron, "Hey kid, you look like a fool when you complain about every call. Just play. You're the greatest thing since the satellite dish, so just play and cut the facial expressions." Nobody will say that to him. Nobody.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I heard Andy Pollin say that for there to be a true sports rivalry you have to have two teams regularly competing for the same title and that's why Nats-Orioles will never be a rivalry. Is that the thinking in Chicago, for instance?

Michael Wilbon: yeah, I think there's something to what Andy is saying...Sox-Cubs is a limited rivalry...very limited. It's not Bears-Packers, not even close, not even for Chicagoans.

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Washington, D.C.: Could the Heat beat the Spurs?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know...Great question. I really don't. Two weeks ago I would have said there's no way. I'd favor the Spurs. But I'm done counting out Miami. They seem to be coming together at just the right time and D. Wade is a great, great player, nearly as good a player as LeBron though surely not the playmaker.

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Springfield, Va.: "burgandy-and-golf blanket"

Is this anything like Barkley's "ball smoting accident" a few weeks ago?

Michael Wilbon: burgandy-and-gold...my fingers went too fast. and I have no idea about your Barkley reference...

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Annapolis, Md.: "Brand and Sam Cassell, who I first watched play in high school, are two of my favorite people in all of sports."

Is Cassell really a great guy? Everytime I see him he looks like he is whining and complaining. Complaining to the refs is one thing, but a lot of the time his visible frustration seems to be directed at his teammates.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know if he's a great guy. He's one of my favorites. I JUDGE WHO MY FAVORITES ARE based on MY CRITERIA, not yours. I like Sam. He has faults, but who doesn't? He's one of the best players to talk to about basketball I've ever met. We talked for 30 minutes before Game 6 and it was great just to hear what he was thinking before the game. Yes, one of MY favorites all-time in any sport. Doesn't mean he's going to the Hall of Fame or is the best point guard going or any of that. I like him, period.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike,I love PTI...but neither you nor Tony ever talk about the NHL...why is that? Don't you like hockey?KTK

Michael Wilbon: The NHL is geting a rating of less than 1 on a network fewer than 50 percent of viewers get in their homes. In Southern California, a great many of the Anaheim Ducks games received a 0.0 viewership. We're talking something like 1,500 people watching a local playoff game. So, please don't expect us to give time to the NHL playoffs when, say, Cleveland-Detroit had 7 million viewers yesterday. Why would we do that?

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Washington, D.C.: I saw a great documentary on the History Channel a little while ago about how Prohibition and moon shining produced the first NASCAR drivers (they learned to drive fast on ridiculously souped up cars to outrun law enforcement) So literally some of the the first NASCAR drivers were bootleggers. Interesting perspective on the "sport"

Michael Wilbon: You waiting for the History Channel to tell you about the first NFL owners or first MLB owners. You think they were all lovely men? Uh, no. They weren't. They were hustlers of their time, a great many of them if not most of them. And there are all kinds of stories about what they did, sometimes to get their teams.

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Pete San Diego, Calif.: Mike,

Just because something is popular (Nascar), doesn't mean we should feel compelled to watch it. You should agree with that based on your feelings towards American Idol and other shows... (I feel the same way!). On the other hand, the NHL is having its best season in a long long time, yet gets no coverage. (Being on OLN instead of ESPN isnt the only reason.) Its more exciting than ever! Let your readers know about it as well!.

Michael Wilbon: I don't cover the NHL playoffs unless the Capitals are in. And trust me, I know who my readers are a lot better than you apparently do. My readers and our readers are much more interested--yes, much more--in the NBA playoffs than the NHL playoffs. By more than a 10-1 margin. You don't want to debate this with me because there's too much hard evidence as well as anecdotal evidence. There are a handful of cities in America where the hockey is as popular as basketball...St. Louis is one. Detroit sometimes, though not this year...Philly sometimes and probably yes, this year. But not in the main. Take a look at greater Washington and compare the number of people who play and consume basketball with the number who do the same thing with hokey...Seriously, find hockey coverage you can live with, in The Post and elsewhere, and try not to tell us how popular the NHL is compared with the NBA or MLB or NASCAR or soccer. It's not. And it's not close, not in and around Washington, which this newspaper and this web-site serve.

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Oakton, Va.: A few weeks ago on this chat, you essentially called Pat Riley a fraud and washed up coach, citing the fact that Miami was "struggling" with the Bulls. Care to reconsider, or at least give him credit for coaching his team to the Conference Finals?

By your standards, Flip Saunders and Mike D'Antoni must be bad coaches too since they've struggled in closing out lesser teams.

Michael Wilbon: I've already reconsidered. Look up, on this web-site, a column I wrote last week from New Jersey (a week ago today) on Riley and the Heat. Look it up. Okay...gotta run to do PTI. Next week is Memorial Day, so we're out. But we'll chat some day next week as soon as The Bosses tell me when. They'll post it and away we go. Enjoy the week everybody. And let's hope Barbaro's surgery went as well as possible and the horse can have as good a life as is possible. thanks. Mike

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washingtonpost.com: All Shaq and Wade Needed Was A Little Help From Their Friends (Post, May 15)

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