Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 21, 2008 1:15 PM
Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 21 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.
The transcript follows.
NBA Finals: Hey Mike-
What a weekend! What do you say to all the NBA haters who claim March Madness is better and that the college game is more fun after the first games of the first round of the playoffs? March Madness is great, but c'mon, after three years of great playoffs in the NBA followed by "boring" title games, we are set up for a dynamic and fun couple months ahead. After this weekend, I vowed to my wife that I would abstain from any predictions until the Finals. Don't want to jinx any of these teams...
Thanks for your time.
Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...I'm coming to you live from Cleveland, where the Wizards and Cavaliers will play tonight...And we'll jump right into the weekend in the NBA playoffs...It was amazing, really...The Suns-Spurs game, while Phoenix blew it big-time, is perhaps the best and most dramatic Game 1 I've ever seen in 40 years of watching basketball...Never seen anything like it...I was drained afterward and I know I'm not alone among people who watched it...The Pistons did just what I thought they'd do, which is give away a game in all their arrogance...I think Detroit will come back to win, but this is their m.o...sleepwalk through a couple of games when they don't respect the opponent, and they didn't respect Philly...probably still don't. I'm one of those people who thinks the Hornets don't have enough playoff experience, and I look dead wrong so far, given what Chris Paul did to Dallas in Game 1...
As for your assertion that NBA haters should take notice, yes, you're right...But the self-righteous folks who have a feeling of superiority about college basketball aren't dealing in reason, just their emotional response to their own agenda...so I don't bother with them much anymore. I love both postseasons...I wrote a lead that appeared in Saturday's column that took a total shot at college basketball sycophants...just because I could and they need it every once in-a-while...
LeBron...: I find myself not liking LeBron much at all. He seems to spend a lot more time flexing, playing to the crowd, and whining than comparable superstars of the past. I know that my view is influenced by being a Wizards fan, but watching him again in game 1 just reinforced my feelings.
I assume I'm totally wrong on this?
Michael Wilbon: Ahhh, yes, you're totally wrong. LeBron has taken the high road with the Wizards despite their silly talk...Stevenson and Gilbert took their shots, and LeBron said, "Look at the scoreboard." I'm going to be sorely disappointed in the Wizards if they lose this series...not because I picked them but because LeBron has no team and the Wizards have three All-Stars...If the three of them plus a pretty darn good bench (that played terribly except for Gil on Saturday) can't neutralize LeBron, shame on the whole team...By the fourth quarter, the Wizards were soft as Charmin, settling for long jumpers and letting LeBron bolt the lane at will...They have to play the game hard for 48 minutes, not 35, 37...
Silver Spring, Md.: Michael,
In your opinion, are the refs intentionally giving LeBron favorable treatment because the NBA wants him in the playoffs as long as possible?
Michael Wilbon: LeBron didn't get ANY favorable treatment. He whipped the Wizards butts...again...Stop with the whining...Every player and every coach, great or scrubbini, whines in search of an advantage...Let the Wizards play LeBron in the fourth quarter the way they played him in the first and we won't be talking about the refs.
Washington, D.C.: Assuming the Wizards don't make it past Cleveland (again), if you're Abe Pollin, do you start putting out feelers to Larry Brown?
Michael Wilbon: I think Larry Brown will be gobbled up already, to tell you the truth...Coaching isn't the problem here...I'd be looking to rearrange some of the roster, but that's just me...But we've got plenty of time here...Let's see how this series plays out. I picked the Wizards in six and I'm not changing just yet.
Washington, D.C.: Two questions: could you name an athlete (current or former) who you like in person, but consider dirty as a player (like Laimbeer or Bruce Bowen)?
Also: how about someone you hated when you were rooting for your childhood teams but ended up liking in person?
Michael Wilbon: Great questions...great...Bruce Bowen, not that I would call him a "dirty player" is one of my favorite people in the NBA. And I got to meet a great many of the Packers players I grew up hating as a Bears fan, men like Ray Nitchke (sp?) and Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston...I met them all and loved being in their company as an adult. Who knew?
Washington, D.C.: Good idea or bad idea for when the Cavs come to Verizon this week: Chant "over-rated" every time LeBron touches the ball.
Now I'm thinking it's a bad idea. He seems immune to any kind of mental games teams try to play with him. Who was the biggest superstar (in any sport) that was most affected by various head games opponents tried to play with him/her? Has there ever been a superstar whose potential went unfulfilled because opponents messed with their head?
Michael Wilbon: A superstar? No...There are good players who stop short of great who don't measure up to the biggest moments, but not the great ones. There are people who have tough postseasons, like A-Rod and Barry Bonds early on...Remember, the Lakers of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor got to the Finals all the time and lost to the Celtics...But no chant is going to reduce LeBron James...Did you watch last year's playoffs?
Dulles Airport: Who is to blame for the Denver Nuggets lack of defense, the players or the coach?
Michael Wilbon: Good question. Both. That team is going to have to be tweaked. They're fatally flawed...Not only do they not play defense, but they have no discipline. And I think George Karl is a really, really smart coach. But they have no interest in playing basic defense, other than Marcus Camby...How frustrated he must be.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Wilbon-
Yesterday during the Lakers game, Jeff Van Gundy made the comment that he was "sick of saying foreigner's names", and then he quickly apologized. That apology was followed up by a series of jokes by Mark Jackson and Mike Breen. Did you hear this? And if so does this bother you on any level? I can't decided whether its petty for it to still be on my mind, or if my discomfort was legit.
Michael Wilbon: It made me squirm, but I'm not about to hold someone to the standard of perfection when speaking into an open microphone. Do you ever slip up in your speech? Something ever make it just past your lips and you regret it? Of course the answer is yes. We all do. I live in fear of it every day...Jeff Van Gundy has evolved very quickly into a terrific analyst...He and Mark Jackson won't be together long because Mark will be off to the Knicks soon...But they're fabulous together...I know Jeff, have a decent sense of who he is and what he's about, and I'm not about to make something out of what I consider to be nothing.
Washington, D.C.: Hello Michael,
I read your column Saturday and as an avid follower/reader of yours over the years I know how much you enjoy/love the NBA.
But as a huge college basketball fan (all 42 years) can you give me 3 reasons why I should watch the NBA?
I have tried watching in the past and cannot understand the fascination with the game.
I would like to know what it is I should look for in order to enjoy the game
Michael Wilbon: First, if you're going to watch and not just do it with resentment, then put your bias away about what you believe it to be...Since D.C. isn't the most fanatical town in America, you can easily go and find a ticket and be in the arena to watch the game...That's the best way to introduce you to it...If you want to simply object to it because of some loyalty you have to college hoops, don't waste your time. Just open your eyes, and watch the artistry, the speed, the power, the precision...Watch Spurs-Suns tomorrow, and if you don't like that, leave it alone because chances are you're tied to an agenda more than you want to watch basketball...
Arlington, Va.: Who wins the Caps game tonight?
Michael Wilbon: If I knew, I'd be on the phone to Vegas...but I don't, and I'm not. I don't know...I'd like to see the Capitals win...but we're talking Game 6 in Philly. It's going to be a huge challenge. Huge.
Falls Church, Va.: Bernard Hopkins, who lost this past weekend to Joe Calzaghe, said beforehand that he would "never lose to a white boy." Not only did 'Nard lose, but is he also a racist, or just stupid?
Michael Wilbon: Just crude and ignorant and also shrewd when it comes to marketing himself and having people react to what he says...Very, very, very rarely do I listen to boxers. I watch them work...I don't care to listen to them very much. Hopkins ain't Ali, is he?
Petaluma, Calif.: Thoughts on Danica winning?
Michael Wilbon: I'm very, very happy Danica Patrick won her first IndyCar race...She's brought a ton of attention to IndyCar it otherwise would not have gotten. She's a talented driver, a good promoter, a good sport. She's good for IndyCar...I've talked to her several times, some for PTI, and I know how much she wanted to be more than just a novelty, and the only way to do that is to win...So, I hope this is the first of a great many victories for her. I can't imagine how difficult it has been for her to crack the old boys club...I think she's great.
New Orleans: Do you think Isiah Thomas will ever coach in the NBA again?
Michael Wilbon: Uh, no. Absolutely not.
Baltimore: Mike, I look at Matt Ryan and I see Joey Harrington. Tall. Articulate. Photogenic. Weak-armed and thoroughly mediocre. What am I possibly missing?
Michael Wilbon: Time to do something more meaningful like watching the NHL playoffs or the NBA playoffs or MLB, or anything actually in-season. Sorry, the NFL draft to me is the most overrated, overhyped, overreported thing in the history of sports.
Oak Hill, Va.: Michael,
What would it take to get the Wizards to get past the first round consistently, year after year? Gilbert has been an outstanding player for us for years now but I don't believe he is the answer to take us to the championship.
Michael Wilbon: I'm not sure I disagree with you at all. It's going to take a great player, probably, and it appears the Wizards don't have one. There's a difference between being an All-Star and being a great player, which we see every time Gilbert goes up against LeBron. Detroit is one of the few teams that has won without a truly great player, though Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton are incredibly clutch, and the old Ben Wallace and Rasheed bordered on great when the Pistons won in 2004...That ensemble cast appears to be the exception.
Washington, D.C.: Thanks for calling people out on the whining and LeBron hating. He played well and he drove to the basket aggressively, which is what the Wizards should've been doing!
I am very impressed with his maturity and the way he handles himself on and off the court, for the most part, especially in comparison with someone like Carmelo Anthony.
Full disclosure, I am originally from Cleveland and a Cavs fan and not a fair weather one either! I remember the days when Ricky Davis was one of the only reasons why I watched the Cavs and I also remember the days of Mark Price/Larry Nance/Brad Daugherty when Michael Jordan used to kill our playoff dreams every year.
Wizards fans need to look to their own team's failures as the reason why they lost the game!
Michael Wilbon: Hard to argue with that.
Washington, D.C.: If Phoenix can't make it past the Spurs, is Shaq's career basically over?
Michael Wilbon: Boy, that's a fair question...Let's see what happens in that series tomorrow night. Shaq has to lead the toughest stance the Suns have had to make in the Steve Nash era...The Suns have to win that game, or the serious second-guessing starts. I don't know what to expect. I think the Suns, most of whom I've gotten to know personally and like tremendously, are an inch away from becoming Team Heartbreak, in that they play these epic games and seem to lose them all, especially to San Antonio. They're the new Sacramento in that regard...To be anything more, they've got to win tomorrow night and get about the business of beating the Spurs in this series.
Tough Job: I was thinking about how difficult a job it is for NBA refs to deal with players like LeBron and Shaq. They are huge strong men who make power moves and get grabbed and fouled all the time. But the rules don't say that stronger players can just push through a weaker one WHO HAS POSITION AND HOLDS IT. I don't know how they are able to correctly call the game. It seems to me like the power players do get the benefit of the doubt and position is less important than strength. Not that I have any way around it.
Michael Wilbon: Your confusion over it is the same as mine, the same as the guys calling the game...And there's never been a clear answer as to what the hell to do about that.
Philly: Hope fatherhood continues to treat you well. It seems that some people have downplayed KG's defensive play this year and instead attributed the incredible improvement to the Celtics' defense to Tom Thibodeau. It seems to me that KG is just insanely good in the defensive scheme used by the C's. So, do you think the success of Boston is due to scheme, KG's gifts and total dedication to defense or combination of both?
Michael Wilbon: Of course, it's a combination of both. TT is a great defensive coach and KG has had a great defensive season in that system. The night the Celtics stopped Houston's winning streak at 22 games, I walked into the Rockets dressing room...Tracy McGrady looked at me and said, "Make sure you give Tommy T. big credit for what he did tonight." That's a star player crediting a system. The Celtics committed three players at almost all times that night to stopping McGrady, and that's the coach's game plan. KG doesn't implement that. BUT, Tommy T. can't execute it; KG does that. There's enough credit to go around...The old Bulls played fabulous D, but Johnny Bach, who coordinated it, deserved tons of credit, as did MJ and Scottie and Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman.
Evanston, Ill.: Wilbon - a NBA related question for you. Isiah Thomas as the head coach at Northwestern. He's a Big Ten and Chicago guy, and let's be honest, we need a new coach! What do you think?
Michael Wilbon: Boy, I don't know...I'd really have to think about it, but I don't see it...
Arlington, Va.: If Isiah Thomas is out as coach of the Knicks, why are they keeping him in the front office? I thought he had a little trouble with his fellow employees a few months back...
Michael Wilbon: Because the owner, Dolan, wants Isiah to stay and he's paying him millions.
Washington, D.C.: What do the Wizards have to do to bounce back in Game 2?
Michael Wilbon: Play the entire game the way they played the first half, which is to say converge on LeBron, keep him out of the lane, make others hit jump shots and knock him down time after time after time...AND, get to the basket. Establish Brendan Haywood early, get to the basket and stop settling for threes...
Washington, D.C.: I liked your shot at the college hoops fans, but I miss the 5 game series. There was so much intensity and urgency to those first round series. I'd prefer to have a shorter, more intense series.
And, as a father of toddlers, let me tell you it's hard to get that free pass from family duty to watch a full 7 game first round series, followed by another 8 weeks of playoffs. My wife ain't having that.
You're gonna miss some highlights while on diaper duty.
Michael Wilbon: I hear you...I like the 5-game series, too. Although, this postseason, I want to see some 7s just because of the matchups...But the best-of-5 first-round series were better...
Washington, D.C.: Michael,
Did you see the David West finger tap to the face of Dirk Nowitzki? What would you have done if you were Dirk, nothing to avoid suspension (like he did) or at least grab his hand and defend yourself?
Michael Wilbon: I'd have waited for the right opportunity and planted an elbow that sent Mr. West to the ground for 10 minutes.
Washington, D.C.: Gilbert took the Wizards to the second round of the playoffs the one time that he was healthy in the playoffs. Isn't it a little quick to write him off?
Michael Wilbon: This postseason will probably determine what I'd do with Gilbert coming up to free agency that HE IS pursuing.
Columbia, Md.: With respect to David DuPree's assertion that an NBA team can always take one opposing player out of the game, why does it seem that the Wizards can't take LeBron out and force Cleveland to win with Z or outside shooting?
Michael Wilbon: Because they Wizards don't consistently execute the plan to commit to defense. It's simple. They took LeBron out early, didn't they? What happened late? They got casual. They stopped swarming him...You do that, LeBron will kill you...
Suns fan: I am in the house of pain Mike. First the Joe Johnson injury, then next year, Amare's and Kurt Thomas' injury, last year -- David Stern. It took me three months to get over the playoff loss to the Spurs last year, but the 2OT loss in Game 1 hurt me bad. You think that loss did any psychological damage to the Suns' psyche? Another concern -- which the media has underplayed -- is Grant Hill's groin. His defense will be affected with that injury.
Michael Wilbon: Yes, yes, yes to all you just stated. Grant has to be on the floor longer Tuesday...maybe three extra days will have helped that injured groin. But you're on the money, Holmes.
New Orleans: So what did you think of CP3's playoff debut?
Michael Wilbon: It's the best debut ever. Okay, Magic had a triple-double. But 35 and 10? On Jason Kidd and a veteran team? Wow.
Mclean, Va.: I heard your comments about the Pistons on Kornheiser this morning...what makes you think the Pistons are so arrogant? Is it something they said? Or are you just assuming that their underachievement stems from arrogance?
Michael Wilbon: Look at what they do every postseason since they won in 2004. They give games away, play with disinterest in the playoffs. They did it last season after going up 3-0 on the Bulls, then sleepwalking through two games...Charles Barkley, Magic and Kenny Smith said it best last night. If you're clowning around at the end of a playoff game the way Rasheed Wallace did when he was poking his face into the Sixers huddle and then laughing...just before the ball came to him and he missed the two-footer to tie the game...you're not taking the opponent seriously enough, which is a cardinal sin and an absolute unmistakable sign of arrogance.
Arlington, Va.: Do you get tired of people and the media constantly perpetuating the myth that the Spurs are boring? It's in The Post again
Michael Wilbon: Let's just say I agree with you 100 percent. I'm not sure what Desmond was doing with that piece...It wasn't heavy and serious, and he's entitled to his opinion. As someone who's covered playoff basketball for 25 years, let's just say I don't share it. It's a common sentiment expressed by people casually interested in basketball because Tim Duncan has been so stoic over the years (though not Saturday). But Ginobili and Tony Parker are boring? No, nobody who covers basketball seriously for a living believe that...nobody I know...But we're not the only ones who can express an opinion.
Washington, D.C.: Tim Duncan...for the 3...to tie...
Prior to Saturday's stunner, would you have taken that bet?
Michael Wilbon: Well, probably not. Champions find a way...When he was lining it up I thought he'd hit it...
Da Big Hurt : As a native Chicagoan, I'd love to hear your assessment of Frank Thomas. The man has had a great career. But I have always had the sense he could be a little aloof, a perception reinforced by what just happened in Toronto; I think he was right to view his demotion critically, but worn to start "smashing the furniture"... Think he will end up elsewhere?
Michael Wilbon: He's a great player, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and a world class jerk. He's behaved like a bum much of his time in baseball and people don't just get annoyed with him, they despise him. And that's too bad. The stories are too plentiful to just dismiss. He was a bad actor for so long people just didn't want to put up with him. But I think he can still hit. He had 95 RBI last year and I think he can help an AL team now at DH.
Atlanta: Michael, would you care to comment on the firing of the Washington Post staffer for his writing on a popular NFL blog?
Michael Wilbon: As I have said many times, simply don't read blogs. Don't have time, and usually not the interest unless somebody points something specific out to me...Sorry.
Sterling: Gaack, both the Caps and Wizards are on at the same time. What to do my man, what's a sports fan to do!.
Go Caps, go Wizards!
Michael Wilbon: TiVo...
Washington, D.C.: How about some dap for Danica Patrick?
Any chance we might see her for "5 Good Minutes"?
Michael Wilbon: Not today...But we've had Danica on for 5 good mins. several times during her short career...I'm a huge fan.
Paris, France: Michael;
Let me start off by saying this--
If David Stern wants to do business in Europe the way that he has done Seattle, I really doubt that any European city will want to do business with him in an expansion.
The Sonics' situation is just plain DUMB on his part. He has two guys who can't tell the truth as owners, and then he says that he believes Bennett acted in good faith with the city. Uh, NO. Then he trashes the mayor and Slade Gorton.
I know that there are some people who worry about La Commish saying that they won't go back there anytime soon. My question is, why would Seattle and King County want to deal with someone who is being dishonest and stubborn (Maybe its just me, but Steve Ballmer might bring a little more to the league--at least, a little more HONESTY--than McBennett have)?
My personal hope is that Seattle, King County and the state--after they get finished pursuing McBennett--pursue legal action against Stern and then make the point that they will not/not consider pursuing a franchise until Stern is gone from the league. Failing, of course, that Stern grows a brain and realizes that Ballmer just might get a new facility done...with something other than city funds...
Michael Wilbon: This opinion needs to be aired, in my opinion. You've got a head of steam going, so I give over my space to you on the issue of the Sonics leaving Seattle, which I think is sad...just sad.
New York City: Michael... can we please have all of the Wizards players just shut up and play ball?! What's up with Stevenson, Agent Zero, and the rest of the "having only won one playoff series" mouthing off about the defending Eastern Conference champs?
As a Wiz fan, I do want to see them win. But, goodness, can they just shut up and make some baskets late in the 4th quarter of a close game?!
Michael Wilbon: I think that's a fair way to wrap up the chat today...Gotta run, doing PTI from Cleveland Browns Stadium before rolling over to the Wizards-Cavaliers game...This really is my favorite time of year...Can't wait for tonight's game...See you guys next Monday...Thanks for chatting. MW
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