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The Chat House
Sports News

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 31, 2008 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 31 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Arlington, Va.: Mike,

I have lived in this area almost all of my life (except for 2 years in NYC...) and being at that game last night to watch Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off home run win the game in our wonderful new baseball stadium has me floating. Sometimes reality does out do fiction, if anyone had written that script it would have been rejected as too corny.

Do you think Zimmerman might be one of those guys who has "it?" That ability to rise to the occasion over and over? It sure looks that way. He already has four walk-off home runs, and a bunch of other walk-off hits.

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...Happy to chat on a Monday following such a huge sports weekend...And of course, we'll start with the Nationals' victory last night...That's about as dramatic as it gets, isn't it? I don't want to get too carried away with making Zimmerman the next Babe Ruth...But he's clearly the face of the franchise right now, a handsome young slugger who is personable and for one glorious night performed the way we want our sports stars to perform...More than that? Don't get carried away reading things into it...Don't make him The Mighty Casey...You have to see a whole lot more than one game-winning, stadium-opening home run before he's Ruth or Mays or Aaron...But from the anthem by Miss Graves to the first pitch to the beginning of play, the whole thing was pretty special. I wasn't there; I watched a great deal of it on TV while channel surfing between the Nationals, Tennessee-Notre Dame women's NCAA regional final, the Wizards-Lakers and Warriors-Mavericks...I can't watch one baseball game exclusively anymore; they're just too slow...I can (and often do) watch three or four baseball games at once but didn't have that option last night...Still, the park looked great on TV. It was great seeing the shots of D.C. on national TV...Pretty cool stuff, even if it lasts only for one night.

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Washington, D.C.: The end of the Davidson game reminded by a lot of the end of Duke-UConn in '99 when Duke gave the ball to Trajan Langdon and asked him to find a shot off of his dribble. Both of those guys are incredible catch and shoot guys, not point guards. They asked them to win those games doing what they do worst. Wasn't there some other way?

Michael Wilbon: You raise the central question about the ending of that game. I watched the game with two high school point guards (my brother Don and my dear friend Neville, Sidwell Friends in the mid-70s) and the first thing they both said, before the kid got all the way up court, was, "Why is he bringing the ball upcourt?" It's easy to second-guess now...But it looks like the point guard, who leads the nation in assists, should have brought it up and they should have run Curry off a double- or triple-screen to free him for the shot, which would have also created enough motion to perhaps have somebody open had they run two guys at Curry...There was absolutely enough time to do all that stuff...It's too bad for people who like Cinderella or David stories...It would have made the tournament a whole lot better because I think it's been pretty drab...A bunch of double-digit blowouts. I see even Mr. College Hoops, our own John Feinstein, wrote very observantly about that in his column this morning...But Davidson was the only compelling story in the tournament to me...Yes, the NCAA men's selection committee should be commended for seeding properly. And 4 No. 1s mean those teams are worthy semifinalists...BUT, let's not pretend because we love the tournament that it's been a thriller. It hasn't.

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Reston, Va.: What an ending last night. I'm a proud Hoo today given Ryan Zimmerman's magic last night. Please tell me the Nats aren't going to play hard ball with him on a contract.

Michael Wilbon: I have no idea about the inner workings of the Nationals. You'd have to ask Barry or Boz about that. By the time the two basketball seasons are over the Nationals will be 90 games into the season, which I'll join very much in progress. Just try to enjoy what Ryan Zimmerman is doing now. Is that too much to ask? Do people have to obsess over everything else in the world the moment after one of the great evenings in modern D.C. sports history, or can they just sit back in the afterglow. Please???

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Washington, D.C.: Wilbon, hope fatherhood is treating you well and you're able to get at least a little sleep. Gotta ask a baseball question on Opening Day. What do you think will happen with Dontrelle in Detroit this year? The first year of an NL-to-AL move can be rough, and his recent numbers in Florida weren't terrific.

Michael Wilbon: I think Dontrelle and Detroit are going to be great...The lineup is stunning, though he's such a good athlete I wonder how he'll be affected by not hitting in the AL...Still, I think that division, the AL Central with Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota -- is a total powerhouse and Detroit's the class of it with a lineup including Renteria, Cabrera, Polanco, Ordonez, Sheffield, Pudge Rodriguez, Granderson when he comes back from the DH...And with Bonderman, Verlander, Willis, Rogers, Jones pitching...I'd like to see the White Sox make a return trip to the top of that division but the Tigers seem to be the team everybody has to go through.

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Baltimore: How does Tyler Hansbrough's game translate to the NBA. Where do you see him getting drafted?

Michael Wilbon: It doesn't really translate to the NBA very well...He'll be a mid-first round pick, I'd think. He's like Scott May's son, who led Carolina to a championship a few years ago...Great college player...great...Gives you everything he's got all the time...But that'll get you nowhere in the NBA where guys with superior talent (think, oh, Shaq, Steve Nash, Kobe, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard) have physical gifts AND play hard...I watched games this year where Hansbrough struggled to get his shot off against smallish Duke defenders...He can come off the bench for some effort minutes for a good team or a team that needs some toughness (Wizards?) But it's doubtful he can play big minutes in the NBA or help turn a bad team, which is expected of high draft picks.

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Davidson, N.C.: Watching those players this weekend, it's easy to forget that these young men are...well, YOUNG men. Kids in a lot of ways. See Stephen Curry walk over to shake hands with the Kansas players, biting down in his jersey, really brought that home. And knowing that that whole team was back in Davidson by 3 a.m. this morning and IN CLASS TODAY really makes the point. Stephen Curry is 19 years old. I wish I had his poise at MY age!

Michael Wilbon: Very well put...thank you. He's a remarkable young man.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Mike,

Congratulations on the birth of your son and continued recovery from your recent heart problem.

Question:

What are you hearing about Gilbert Arenas's return from his knee surgery? Are we to take seriously his comments of yesterday that he would accept a "paycut" for the Wizards to resign Antwan Jamison?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...I'm feeling great...and I'm happy this all happened before my son, Matthew, was born. He's six days old and fabulous. He's sitting beside me right now fighting sleep...just fed him and changed his diaper before starting the chat...He almost never cries (except for food and a diaper change) so I'm pretty damned lucky...He's been initiated already into the Baby Hoops Club...I sat here with him on my chest Friday and Sunday nights watching multiple games until I feel asleep with him on my chest asleep...I'm hoping he'll be interested enough in sports as he grows older that that general scenario will play out for a long, long time...

I haven't talked to Gilbert in a few weeks...But he's NOT going to take a paycut. I have a hard time imagining the Wizards asking him to do so...And he WANTS to come back but the team doctors, thankfully, have prevailed. The Wizards really and truly should have won that game against the Lakers last night, which would have made them 3-1 on this road trip with a trip to Utah to play the Jazz apparently without Okur and Kirilenko, two starters...If the Wizards could steal one tonight to go 3-2 they'd be sitting pretty...THEN, when they return home, they can figure out this Gilbert situation, whether he'll come back this season, and if so in what capacity. But with Caron Butler in there I like the Wizards' chances against either Orlando or Cleveland.

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D.C.: I know it's basketball and baseball season, but I want to know your thoughts on Pacman coming back to the league. Do you think he has earned his right to comeback yet?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know enough about what Pacman has been doing the last six months to know whether he's "earned" the chance to come back...Apparently, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys do...I wouldn't have him. I know good cornerbacks are tough to find, but I'd sure as hell try.

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Italy: Enough baseball . . . How do you see the Western Conference playoff race shaking out?

Michael Wilbon: As loaded as the Western Conference is, I think only the Spurs and Suns (I hope they don't play each other in the first or second round) can win three rounds and beat Boston in the Finals...The Lakers are showing some weaknesses suddenly. It's the Spurs and Suns who are the two best teams in the west...again.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike,

I know hockey doesn't get much play around these parts, but I just wanted to give props to the Caps for turning their season around. If they beat Carolina tomorrow they tie for first in the division and the 3rd seed in the playoffs with two games left against bottom-feeders Florida and Tampa Bay. Considering they were literally at the bottom of the standings in December, this extended hot streak has been remarkable for them.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for giving some dap to the Caps, who, if they win the division, might also produce a league MVP...

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Washington, D.C.: Congrats on your recent bundle of joy! So if lil'Wilbon grew up to be a professional athlete, which sport would you want him to play (if you had your druthers)?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...Okay, football is automatically out. My father didn't let me play organized football, and I might just follow my dad's lead on that one. I'll teach him baseball first and foremost because it's the most complex game...and my first sports love. But my hopes are he plays basketball and golf. With me just a hair less than 6-foot-3 and my wife 5-10 1/2, this kid might be 6-5, 6-6. He was 22 inches at birth, 9 pounds 11 ounces. So, he projects to have some size. Obviously, if he rejected all that for soccer or lacrosse I'd be just as happy down the road...My goddaughter, Brittany Wilbon, is a freshman at Northwestern and playing for the 3-time defending Division I NCAA Champion women's lacrosse team, so we've got that happening among the younger Wilbon family members...But if you're asking me my druthers, basketball and golf are mine...

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Milwaukee: Congratulations on fatherhood. But I have to ask, are you going to subject your son to becoming a Cubs fan and all of the misery that goes with it?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know. I've actually been debating that for weeks. My father didn't try and make me a fan of his teams (Dodgers, Celtics) when I was a kid...He let me find my way...into this misery, I might add. I don't know the answer. I love being a Cubs fan. I've loved all 45 years of it, even with the misery...I'm thinking of buying a ticket package to Nationals games to take him...If I do, he'll automatically become a Nationals fan...But I'm going to take him to Wrigley Field, as soon as next year, so it might take root no matter what I say...Question is: if the Cubs win this year, the 100th year since last winning, in the same year Matthew was born, doesn't he HAVE to be a Cubs fan for life? If MY KID breaks the curse, aren't we obliged???

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D.C.: What do you think about the Olympics in China this summer? From the protest so far, I think the IOC might have made the wrong decision. I know politics and sports shouldn't mix, but I think this summer might be a disaster.

Michael Wilbon: Almost every Summer Olympics is forecast to be a disaster...and fortunately there hasn't been a disaster in a long, long time. Nobody can afford to be cavalier about it, but I'm far from the point of thinking the IOC made a mistake.

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New Orleans: No love for the Hornets in the playoffs? Is it the experience that they lack?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...Playoff neophytes just don't cut it in the NBA. But I will say this: what Byron Scott and Chris Paul have done is incredible. If they win the toughest conference race in the modern history of the NBA (since the ABA-NBA merger of 1976-77) doesn't Paul have to be the MVP? I got plenty of love for them both...I've known Byron for a long time, and one of his assistants, Darrell Walker, is somebody I grew up around on the playgrounds of the South Side of Chicago...So, I'm very happy for those guys...But can they win the conference, beat the Spurs or Lakers or Suns in a seven-game series? I'm not going there...not yet.

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Washington, D.C.: Why does Shaq consistently get a pass for acting like a jerk? If anyone else said some of the things he does about former teammates they would get crushed, but with Shaq everyone just chuckles when he crushes guys.

Why do we act like Terrell Owens and Kobe, for example, are bad guys, but Shaq is just some goofy teddy bear?

Michael Wilbon: Shaq says if you heard the way he delivered the line he meant no disrespect toward those two guys on Miami and I am one off those guys who gives Shaq the benefit of the doubt because when he has done something mean-spirited (like dissing Yao when the kid was a rookie) he usually comes back and says, "Hey, I was dumb for doing that." T.O. and others don't ever inspect their own behavior. Shaq is a guy you can have back-and-forth conversation with...I'm not saying I would do what Shaq does or always agree with him...But I don't think this is the episode to jump him...

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Rockville, Md.: Wilbon,

Which local men's college basketball team had the "best" season? I'll take AU getting the monkey off its back and giving Tennessee everything it wanted in the first round.

Michael Wilbon: I'm good with that.

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DC: Eddie Jordan, Doc Rivers, Byron Scott. Which would you pick Coach of the Year?

Michael Wilbon: Rick Adelman, Byron Scott. I'm sorry, did Doc or Eddie, who have done great jobs, have a 22-game winning streak, second-best in the history of the game? And if the Hornets win the west, I might take Byron over Rick...Eddie's done an incredible job, what without Gilbert all season and Caron for, what, 16 games? But 22 straight and/or winning the west trump that, with apologies to another one of my peers from Chicago, Doc Rivers, who might just pass on all the individual awards to hold that O'Brien Trophy after the last game in June.

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Philadelphia: Congratulations on the newest Wilbon. I'd say that with your family's stated athletic reputation and your obvious love of both sports and knowledge, your son has, to borrow a Jay Bilas term, tremendous upside.

On to a serious question, can Coach Freese accomplish the seemingly impossible (ok, impossible 4-5 years ago) and bring College Park a second national title? They looked awfully feisty versus Vandy...

Michael Wilbon: I think Maryland can win...They act a little entitled, full of themselves at times, which is annoying...One title doesn't make you Tennessee; the Terrapin women are kinda like the Detroit Pistons in that way...But they've got the talent and the know-how...I think they'll win tonight and reach the Final Four. Look, winning once is great. Twice makes you special.

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Washington, D.C.: Based on how the No. 1 seeds have played in the tourney, who ya got winning in San Antonio?

Michael Wilbon: I picked North Carolina before the tournament...no need to change now.

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Bethesda, Md.: How about that ending to the Wiz-Lakers game. I decided to stay up to watch because I had a feeling the Wizards would come back from the half-time deficit of 11 then 17 mid-way through the third. What do you know, they did and man, did that game have a TON of 3s made. I counted 30 between the two teams. Were you able to catch the end? What do you think of the Wizards catching the Cavs for home-court in the first round? (And great article on the Wiz last week.)

Michael Wilbon: My only criticism of the Wizards last night is that I would not have let Nick Young take the critical shots with the lead in OT...I know the kid was on fire, but he's a kid...a rookie. Caron Butler had been on fire, too. He forced the OT in the first place. Jamison is on the floor, Stevenson's on the floor...I'm having one of them with the ball in his hands and if Nick is open, fine. But I hate the play that was run twice down the stretch in OT, and he threw it away once and I think missed once...Still, having said that, I like the way the Wizards play, the way they think, the chemistry and unselfishness that seems to characterize the team, the way they apparently respond to Eddie Jordan...Look, the Lakers were desperate to not lose a third straight at home last night, and the Wizards almost pulled it off...If they can steal one in Salt Lake tonight....I think if the Wizards have relative health (meaning Caron Butler had to be himself) the Wizards will beat Cleveland. The Cavs are 10-9 since the trade and Gibson, Ilgauskas, Big Ben Wallace, etc. have not been healthy. But the Wizards might have to play Orlando in a 6-3 matchup, which I think they can win, too.

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Burke, Va.: Hi Michael,

Who do you and TK have for "5 good minutes" today?

Michael Wilbon: There's NO PTI today...Baseball preempts us, which is great. I get to spend time with Matthew watching...uh...the Cubs. We're back Tuesday.

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Ashburn, Va.: Where does Stephen Curry fit into the current great players in college basketball? Davidson's run in the tourney and his play especially - he just seems on the level of a Beasley or Hansbrough as far as his ability to take over a game -- fair comparison?

Michael Wilbon: I'll take a guard in the tournament anytime over the big boys...Hansbrough is on a superior team. Imagine if Curry played for Carolina or Kansas...Curry's the best shooter I've seen in years and years...not as big as Glenn Rice, but money just the same. Yes, better than J.J. Reddick because Curry is better and catch-and-shoot. Boom! Gone...doesn't need time or space...He's not as complete a player as Reddick was because Reddick, at 6-foot-5, could get to the rack better...But Curry's amazing at the one thing that's still perhaps the most important thing in basketball: shooting.

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Rolla, Mo.: Stephen Curry's mom - Wow.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, boy!

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Hoboken, N.J.: Interested in the yo-yo of perceptions about the NFL draftees. Take Matt Ryan. He's supposed to be this hot prospect, yet now he's falling. How much of this is just filling newsprint in March, and how much is the "but he went to Boston College?" concern that you have to have -- i.e. how good could he really be if he went to a place like that?

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, no NFL here...not today, not next week, maybe the week after the draft. We talk about real sports in-season here in the Chat House.

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Washington, D.C.: How about those Memphis Tigers? Absolutely destroyed good teams in MSU and Texas.

There've been a lot of doubters (conference strength, free throws, etc.) - and I think that included you and Tony. I think this team heard that and decided to make a statement.

I can't tell you how happy all Memphians are right now. We've realized all year that this is a special team and I'm glad the entire nation is starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, they are the real deal.

(Oh, and on a scary note, they'll lose Rose and Dorsey but assuming CDR doesn't jump to the pros they'll have everyone else back next year plus some 5-star recruits.)

Michael Wilbon: You're on the money, about the perceptions regarding Memphis and the reality...I had them losing to Texas in my pool, just because they game was played in Texas...Memphis goes into the Final Four the way they went into the tournament: with a chip the SIZE of Texas on their shoulders.

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We all want to know...: what's the baby's name?

Michael Wilbon: Matthew Raymond Wilbon...My father's name was Raymond...My middle name is Ray. I didn't want a Jr. but I wanted the initials. Matthew won out over, let's see, Carson, Parker, Garrett and Shayfer (which was my close No. 2)...

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Arlington, Va.: Congratulations on the baby. Hope everyone is doing well.

Listening and reading the stories about the new Nationals Stadium makes me wonder if the D.C. area is the whiniest city in the world. There are crowds on Metro before and after games, and there is traffic leaving the game! Stop the presses - breaking news! My goodness, what do people expect? How close is the parking in Chicago at either baseball stadium, or Boston? Stop the whining people.

Michael Wilbon: I'd hug you if I could. Thank you. D.C. IS the whiniest city in the world. Kornheiser is the official D.C. mascot. All these people do is whine...I think it's why so many of us, no matter how long we live here, say we're from somewhere else. SHUT UP AND ENJOY THE STADIUM!

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Norwich, N.Y.: Any excuse for Louisville having to play North Carolina on the Heels' "home court"...?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, the NCAA doesn't care.

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Washington, D.C.: I know folks now love Stephen Curry, but for me it was just a treat to see a kid that had an unabashed love for the game. I say this because some of those layups the kid made were purely from a kid that learned how to play and improvise on the playground/driveway/backyard. A lot of that was gym rat, but some of that was Nerf, one-on-one with his bigger, taller father.

Michael Wilbon: I absolutely agree and think that's a great observation...Those of us of the proper age can raise a toast to Stephen Curry! Okay, I'm going to run...Little man is starting to fret behind me, which means he needs a bottle or a clean diaper...I never thought I'd be so enthusiastic about doing either one of those things, but it's just great...I've got the Cubs, Wizards-Jazz and Suns-Nuggets tonight, and an off-day...doesn't get much better than that...We'll chat again next week, as we approach The Masters, the last week of the NBA regular season and the NHL playoffs, which we all hope will include the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin...Be well everybody! MW

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