The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, June 26, 2006; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, June 26, 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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washingtonpost.com: Michael Wilbon is online now and beginning to take questions. Thank you for staying tuned ...

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Is it just me, or would trading Shawn Marion to the Bulls not be a great idea for the Suns? Marion seemed to disappear at times in the playoffs, and with Boris Diaw in the fold it seems like a small drop off.... Also, what if you threw DeMarcus Aldridge or Tyrus Thomas on the Suns? Is there anywhere better for a rookie to land than in Phoenix next to Steve Nash and a returning Amare Stoudamire?

Michael Wilbon: You're expressing my sentiment EXACTLY. Of course, I'm biased toward the Chicago Bulls. But, given my new roots in Arizona, my second favorite team is the Suns and I think it would be great for both teams for all the reasons you said. I really thought it might happen until I read quotes from D'Antoni that it simply isn't going to happen. Unlike a lot of NBA people, I don't think D'Antoni is posturing until a deal is made...though I still hope so. The Bulls with Marion (who, by the way, was an All-Star twice before Steve Nash arrived) would have a double-digit rebound guy who is a good on-the-ball defender. And Phoenix would dump $14 million in salary and get a young player who would fit exactly what the Suns do...

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Austin, Texas: Huge Skins fan from Texas and I love your column, show, bobble head doll, etc. I'm naming my kids Michael Wilbon (my last name is not Wilbon).

Anyways, to the question: I'm extremely skeptical about Brunell playing 16 regular season games this season and as a fan I've prepared myself for him inevitably missing 3-4 (or more) games. Assuming that Collins and Campbell remain competitive for the backup spot, who would you prefer to see throwing passes in the event that Brunell goes down?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. Given Joe Gibbs' love of veterans, I'd say Collins first...I agree with your forecast. I don't see Brunell playing all 16. But 12-14 would be great for the Redskins, no? The Redskins are going to have to see what the kid from Auburn can do, and soon...but not right now if they can help it.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Wilbon-hope you and yours are flood-free today.

I wanted to ask you an opinion question. Which is "worse"-drinking and driving or being disqualified to play b-ball due to your GPA? I'm sure you can guess why I am asking. Maybe I'm just being anti-J.J. But it seems to me that McCray got a ton of negative national attention (and judgment) for his situation.

Thanks for your comments.

Michael Wilbon: McCray lives and plays here. I don't write about Duke very often...usually during the tournament or when the Devils play Maryland or Georgetown...The Washington Post covers Maryland as a local beat...So Reddick isn't the No. 1 concern for our newspaper. Drinking and driving is something for which I have zero tolerance.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Any chance of you making it up to Pittsburgh for the All-Star festivities?

Michael Wilbon: Nope. Vacation, baby...vacation. Thomas Boswell is the man you want for the All-Star festivities, not me.

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Vienna, Va.: Will Gary Payton retire from the NBA? I thought he hurt the Heat more than help them win the Championship.

Michael Wilbon: It didn't come up in the immediate aftermath of the championship. But it would be a pretty cool way to go out, wouldn't it? Payton is not Roger Clemens, a guy with a ton left in the tank...Payton, as you suggest from his play in the Finals, is done.

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Rockville, Md.: Question about DC golf or the soon to be lack thereof...

What is up with the Tour stiffing DC on a tournament. DC seems like a good golf town, we are the Nation's Capital and have several wonderful major championship worthy courses. Why is it such a struggle to get and keep even a mid-level PGA tournament?

Michael Wilbon: It's not about that. The tournaments that have nudged D.C. aside have become must-play for players...meaning perks for them and perhaps their wives...private plans picking them up, whatever. I'm not saying Booze Allen should do this, but I am saying this appears to be the price of doing business. Also, big items and I'm not sure in what order but players HATE the golf course at Avenel and the ones who don't live in Florida full-time hate the humid weather. Last year Phil Mickelsen walked up to me, his shirt soaked to chest, and said, "How can you live this way?" Phil, of course, has lived in California and Arizona all his life so a 90 degree day in D.C. with 99 percent humidity had to horrify him. It horrifies me and I have lived here for 25 years...

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Don't want to drive home from DC: The World Cup is exciting, especially with Germany getting hot for the championship. It seems a shame that the focus has been on officiating and not the players/coaches who ultimately have more control over how a game is played. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I think there's enough air-time and space in the newspaper/on the computer screen to get at both. Especially since both things appear to be true.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

What do you think of Gilbert Arenas comments that he'll leave the Wizards if they don't build a championship contender?

Do you think he'll leave if they don't?

Michael Wilbon: I like those comments and I believe him. Why not? Management has a responsibility, if not to Arenas, then to the community the team serves.

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Washington, D.C.: The Wizards have a few holes to fill in their roster: center/post defender, a point (allowing Gilbert to move to the 2), outside shooter. Who do you like in this draft, and is there anyone on the board who could make an impact on the team THIS year?

Michael Wilbon: I like the big kid from UCONN, Hilton Armstrong as a ready-to-play-right-now rebounder. He could be available when the Wizards pick. Also, Shelden Williams could be there. Do you think Kevin Pittsnoggle could help when Arenas drives and he has somebody to kick it to??? Plus, there will be a half-dozen European/South American/African players we look back on in three years and go, "WHY DIDN'T THEY TAKE HIM!!!"

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Arlington, Va.: Is it just me or do college students graduate in May?

J.J. Reddick committed a terrible offense and was fortunate not to injure himself or anyone else. However, all the Terp fans foaming at the mouth should note that Reddick had graduated and the season had ended. I'm afraid you can't say the same about the G.P.A.-challenged Terrapin.

Michael Wilbon: Oooooh...them sound like fighting' words!

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Washington, D.C.: I know you're a fan of boxing, but have you ever given Mixed Martial Arts/UFC (MMA/UFC) a chance? It's slowly becoming popular in the States, and at the rate they are going, may be more popular than boxing.

Michael Wilbon: I've tried just a little bit...I don't like it...Too, too violent for me.

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New York, N.Y.: Do you miss me?

Michael Wilbon: Wow, I wish I knew who this was!

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Philly, Pa.: I know Ozzie Guillen obviously shouldn't have used a slur about homosexuals, but does he really owe Jay Mariotti an apology? Mariotti,both on television and in print, comes off as abrasive and at times mean spirited. It seems like sometimes some members (certainly not all) of the media cannot take the same type of criticism they routinely dish out, and the media should be held to the same type of criticism they hold what they cover. Also, if it's true (and obviously I wouldn't know) that Jay was writing about the White Sox without regularly attending games or speaking to members of the team, isn't that a perfectly legitimate complaint, even if it wasn't expressed in a professional manner?

Michael Wilbon: I've avoided this topic publicly, but no more.

Ozzie shouldn't have said what he said. He knows better. And I'm glad Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, has said if he can't clean up his act he'll be fired.

But Ozzie owes no apology to Jay, my friend for 16-plus years and someone I like very much. Jay can say all he wants that he's not welcome in the White Sox clubhouse...Really? He writes hyper-critical pieces and doesn't go in the clubhouse for years, then thinks he won't be resented years later?

Anybody who reads my column knows I write critically about athletes and coaches. It's my job. But I learned from Tony, Dave Kindred, Ken Denlinger, my longtime sports editor George Solomon, and of course, the late Shirley Povich, that if you're going to throw punches, you'd better be able to take punches. You show up the next day so that the player/coach/manager can take a shot back at you...even if it means a physical confrontation...And I've never had one of those because a player can walk right up to me and say, "I think you're full of .....!" Or whatever. If you know the player/coach/manager/GM and it's a local situation, it shouldn't even be a surprise. I've called people I know and said, "Listen, I've got to light you up for this in the paper." Sometimes they say nothing. Sometimes they say, "Hold on, let me give you my side." Sometimes they say, "I respect you for telling me."

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this, but not showing up in the clubhouse isn't one of them. It's inexcusable.

When you write tough, critical pieces you show up the next day.

I've switched off days to go to a locker room or practice the day after. I once drove out to Redskins Park on Thanksgiving morning to simply be there if Norv Turner wanted to go off on me...which he did...then we ate lunch and laughed about it. Had I not gone, how high might the resentment have risen? And how long might it have lasted?

This isn't debatable, it's no optional. It's mandatory. Go to the locker room, period. And Jay doesn't live by the code. And now, understandably, the White Sox are on his butt.

I once asked Rod Strickland why in the world he was chatting amicably with a writer who had ripped him that morning. And Rod said, "Oh man, Jack (fictional name)is cool with me. He's always there where I can find him. The guys I don't talk to are the ones who write stuff good or bad and don't show. I'm always cool with Jack."

I never forgot that conversation, which took place more than 10 years ago. And Rod's sentiment is the sentiment of 90 percent of the guys I've covered. Athletes respect people who are right there, available and accountable. And if you aren't, you get what you deserve.

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Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Hey Wilbon! I'm a Washingtonian living in South Florida. I love the Wiz, but my question is about my new favorite team--who will be back on the Heat next year and who will ride off into the sunset? What available players out there would give us the ammo to do it again next year?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...To come close to winning again, the Heat has to get more athletic...So I wonder about Payton (gotta be gone, right?) I wonder about Jason Williams....even about the heart and soul of the team, Alonzo Mourning who is a free agent. Riles certainly isn't afraid to make moves, as we saw after last season. Mourning told me two weeks ago he presumes Riles WILL make moves.

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Woodbridge, Va.: What would you consider the worst NBA draft year ever?

Michael Wilbon: 1986. The Len Bias draft...Chris Washburn, Williams Bedford. Brad Daugherty, a wonderful player, had his career cut short with back issues Kenny Walker, No. 5 overall, never panned out, though he's a wonderful guy. Roy Tarpley was undone by drugs, and he was a mega-talent. Ron Harper blew out his knee early and never became the prolific player he would have been...though he was a hugely important player on the Bulls and Lakers much later. Brad Sellers never panned out. John Williams was a terrible pick for the Bullets. Pearl Washington and Walter Berry, two of the 10 best players all-time in the Big East, barely played a week in the NBA...It's so, so sad.

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Washington, D.C.: In case you local college hoop fans didn't know, next year will be an exciting year for the Hoyas. Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and Jonathon Wallace are returning starters. The recruiting class includes Vernon Macklin, Jeremiah Rivers (Doc Rivers' son), and DaJuan Summers. Also, Patrick Ewing, Jr is on the squad. With UConn, Vilanova, Marquette, and Syracuse depleted ... the Hoyas could win the Big East!!

Michael Wilbon: This is what we call "way out of season." Calm down, Hoya dog...There's a ways to go...

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Rockville, Md.: Since I don't get home in time from work to see PTI, wanted to know if Mr. Tony is still around!

What's the next sporting event that you're looking forward to covering now that the NBA finals are over?

Michael Wilbon: Where do you think he is, Alaska? Of course, he's around. He's scared to go anywhere by plane or by boat...He's here...Where can he go? Delaware is as far as he can get. The next sporting event I'll cover, other than a Nationals game here or there and maybe a Mytics game here or there, will be NFL-related...either preseason or Monday Night when the Redskins make their season debut.

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Mclean, Va: In your opinion, what will the new NBA age guideline rules have on the college game? Carmelo Anthoney dominated his freshmen year.

Michael Wilbon: Some of these kids are so old, after prep school and repeating grades, that they'll be 19 by the time sophomore year begins. I was a 19-year-old junior. The big kid at UNC, Hansbrough...I think he's already 20...or about to be. So it won't have the impact it ought to. And, the age limit ought to be 20...

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: Mikelson's comments about the DC weather were on the mark, BUT, I remember changing planes in Arizona once in the summer, and spending 30 seconds in 125 degree weather - I'll take 90 degrees and high humidity every time. One thing for sure, neither DC nor Arizona can match Chicago winters!

Michael Wilbon: First of all, it's never been 125 degrees there so you're making that up. SEcond of all I have a home there, so I don't have to take your word for it because you changed planes there once. I played a full 18 holes two weeks ago, finished when it was 113, and while I knew the sun had tired me, I had no perspiration on me, was not soaking wet, and did no battles with mosquitoes and flies. None. No gnats, no bugs. I played 27 holes with Frank Johnson, the former Bullets guard, at 106...He shamed me out there and I was fine once I could see it wasn't bad...Those who make fun of the notion of dry heat are just to ignorant to know the difference between a 99 degree day with 7 percent humidity and a 89 degree day with 80 percent humidity. I'm with Phil 100 percent of the time (so is an increasing number of Washingtonians I see on the courses out there in the spring and early summer...

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Ouray, Colo.: Michael,

Where do you think Larry Brown will end up this fall (or do you see a year off before he latches onto a new team)? Do you see any truth to the rumors about him coming to DC (for the record, I'd prefer Eddie to stay here)?

Michael Wilbon: Larry Brown goes to Charlotte to play for Michael Jordan. Brown loves Jordan. Jordan loves Brown. They can have lunch in Chapel Hill once a week if they want (probably, they do). Charlotte.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm unimpressed with Arenas' attitude. Next time you interview him, ask him what he would do if he were Pollin to build a championship team. I doubt he'll have much of an answer.

Michael Wilbon: Pollin won't build a championship team. Pollin doesn't do that. Ernie Grunfeld, the man charged with responsibility of the team day to day, is the one who would do that and I think he can. And Arenas would be the critical player in the mix.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: "a 90 degree day in D.C. with 99 percent humidity had to horrify him. It horrifies me and I have lived her for 25 years..."

This made me smile. I used to live in Tampa, so when anyone here complains about the heat and humidity, it's all I can do not to laugh in their face. Now, non-stop cloudy days and wind chills in the single digits - THAT horrifies me.

Michael Wilbon: Amen, Bro. Amen.

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Burtonsville, Md.: What would your reaction be if a Coach, Player, or Manager called you a derogatory term like Ozzy Guillen did to Jay Mariotti? Do you think MLB did the right thing?

Michael Wilbon: I'd laugh. Seriously. Especially if it was that name. And I'm sure I've been called names. So what?

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Washington D.C.: Hey Mike,

Well, any final thoughts from hockey's first year back? Better game (TV issues aside)? And how about our local Rookie of the Year, Alex Ovechkin.

Have a great summer Mike.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, better game. Faster, more open. Yes, I loved it. Too bad hardly anybody knows how to find the games, on OLN. I spent some time in Miami with two NHL veterans, All-Stars, who were following the NBA playoffs, in person. And they said they got annoyed trying to find that games. That ain't good.

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Michael Wilbon: Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI...This is the last chat we'll do for awhile because July is my month to disappear. I'll take some vacation, then work as little as possible, then take some more vacation...We'll be back in August, which will excite some of you to no end since the Redskins will be in camp and we'll have plenty of 'Skins chatter...We'll see whether the Wizards have addressed their needs, whether Soriano is still here or on the way out of the door...whether Detroit and the White Sox are still ahead of the Yankees and Redskins, whether the Braves are really and truly out of it, whether the Mystics are in first place, whether Phil and Tiger have recovered. Enjoy the summer. I know I will. See you in five weeks. MW

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