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The Chat House

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 28, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 28 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

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The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Iowa: I saw a question a couple weeks ago about whether Shaq's career is over with this year's playoffs. He was one of the players who seemed to come into his own as a superstar when Jordan retired. A handful of others also seemed to benefit. With that in mind, who do you think is the best post-Jordan player in the NBA?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...We'll jump right into the NBA and talk surprisingly little (for a long-time NFL writer) about the NFL draft, since I didn't see one moment of it...More about that later...But as for the question on the table...It's a good one. If we talk championships, you have to start with Tim Duncan and Shaq, right? Each has four. Shaq was one fluke minute (D. Wade suffered a rib injury) from another trip to the NBA Finals in 2005, his first season in Miami...Has to be one of those two, then Kobe right behind them. I don't know how else you'd measure it, without going to championships first.

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San Diego: In the busy world of Mike Wilbon, how do you find the time to participate in these chats?

Michael Wilbon: These chats began when my world wasn't nearly as busy. The chats are responsible, to some degree, for there being a PTI. Tony and I, while we bantered back and forth in the sports department on the 5th floor of The Post, started in a more official way with our co-hosted chats more than 10 years ago when neither of us even had an e-mail address...I'm guessing it's 10 years ago, though I'd have to look it up to get the exact time. Maybe 8 1/2 years...I just know the man who would become our producer, Erik Rydholm (the real brains behind PTI, with an enormous assist from Matt Kelliher) used to read our chats and had an idea about how the banter could translate to other platforms...So, at one point I was exclusively a reporter, then reporter who occassionally appeared on TV (while covering the NFL), then columnist who appeared more frequently on TV, then columnist who chatted, and did more TV (WRC-TV, more ESPN), then it all got crazy. But The Washington Post is where I've worked since 1980...coming up on a 28th anniversary which is hard to believe. None of this other stuff happens if not for our lives at The Post, and Tony and I are damn sure aware of it and grateful for it.

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Bethesda, Md.: Where do you hang out during the game on your ABC basketball set? I picture a lounge with recliners and flat screens showing all of the sporting events going on and you and the guys kicking back.

Michael Wilbon: You got it...Well, there are two rooms. The first (where we watch the first half of the first game) has chairs and big tables and there are, let's see...four enormous screens (in HD, of course) we watch while stuffing our faces immediately after the show. The second half and the second game we watch in a "green room" with sofas and chairs...One large flat screen and four smaller screens we have tuned to who knows...Yesterday it was women's golf, men's golf, the NBA game, Cubs-Nationals and Rangers-Penguins...Varies Sunday to Sunday, depending on what's on. But there's never an excuse for being out-of-the-loop. Stuart Scott, Jon Barry and I set there like you'd expect, screaming at the screens, each other, and people on the phone. Even though Sundays from late January to late June are all away from home, I can't sit here and honestly say it's not fun. It's a blast, actually.

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Rockville, Md.: Do you think that local product Johnny Dawkins is any more likely to succeed at Stanford than prior Coach K assistants (Amaker, Snyder) did as head coaches? If so, why?

Michael Wilbon: I think Johnny Dawkins is a GREAT hire for Stanford. It's a loss for the Blue Devils, but I'm glad to see Johnny, who I've known since he was a kid at Mackin High School, become a head coach. Johnny has to be, what, 44, 45 years old? He played nine years in the NBA, most of it for the 76ers. He's one of the nicest, most earnest people I've known in my career. He's a terrific coach, has been so much a part of what Coach Mike Krzyzewski has built at Duke. I don't know how this will work, but I'm rooting like hell for him to do well at Stanford. Seems to me like a great fit.

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Kensington: Mike, I am a big fan of your writing. I also think you do a good job on tv, where restraint seems to be passe among talking heads (except PTI, of course). Do the producers of your NBA gig ever tell you to be more boisterous?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you, and no. That's not my thing. My mother would say I'm too boisterous already. The producers of the NBA shows knew what they were getting when they asked me to participate. I can be loud enough...I was worried I was over-the-top a couple of times yesterday. ABC and ESPN are very different in who they're catering to, and I'm aware of that without any reminding...Maybe I'm just all shouted out from 5 days with Tony to have any volume on Sunday afternoons.

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Dulles Airport: What did you think about Gibson and Delonte West hitting big shots down the stretch yesterday? Do you think they have the talent to one day get Lebron and the Cavs a NBA title?

Michael Wilbon: No, I don't really. They're good enough to beat the Wizards, perhaps scare the Celtics a little bit. But as great as LeBron is, the Celtics (Cleveland's next opponent) has at least one great player (Kevin Garnett) and one player nearly as good (Ray Allen) and another multiple-time All-Star (Paul Pierce)...LeBron is a wonder, he really is. But I don't see Cleveland taking out Boston in the next series.

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Derwood, MD:

Despite saying "there is no LeBron-DeShawn" rivalry, LeBron's behavior suggests there is (getting Jay-Z involved, talking about playground fights, post dunk mocking), and he's egging it on in his own way. Your thoughts on this wanna-be-tough-guy-high-school drama and how it is overshadowing the Cavs-Wiz series? How far away is LeBron from acting like a true professional in the vein of MJ, Magic, Bird?

Michael Wilbon: It's not overshadowing the Wizards-Cavaliers series; it's a major part of it. Don't try to turn pro basketball into some overly serious overly reverent thing...like pro football. They're different games, they appeal to different cultures by and large. Basketball is more confrontational by its very nature...so much of it is one-on-one. And it's got a level of showmanship that pro football disdains, in fact legislates out. So, I'm enjoying the attachment of Jay-Z and Soulja Boy (did I speel that correctly?)...I won't enjoy it for much longer, sadly, because I don't see the series going past Wednesday's Game 5 in Cleveland.

As for LeBron, I think he's a wonder, as I said earlier. The Cavaliers don't have anything without him. He's taking out three Wizards all-stars by himself. Suppose LeBron played with Carlos Boozer (who Cleveland let get away) and a shooter...say Ray Allen? Are you kidding me. I don't care who the other 9 guys on the team were, they'd be the favorites in the East. He's tremendously mature, despite whatever you might think about the rapper confrontation. Yesterday after dishing to Delonte West for the game-winning three, LeBron tells Lisa Salters that the biggest thing about the play was the West now knows LeBron has confidence in him to pass him the ball, and both of them know he can hit the shot, even on the road in the playoffs. That's not the right answer, it's the ONLY answer...I've gotten to talk to LeBron more the last month than ever...locker room conversations, hallway conversations, stuff like that. He almost always says the right thing. He thinks about playing the right way... He likes a tiny bit of the sideshow, but never gets immersed in it...

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Chicago: Thoughts on the way Chris Paul has abused Jason Kidd?

Michael Wilbon: Chris Paul might be the third best player in the NBA. Kobe, LeBron, C.P. I'm serious. If you want to take a big guy, Dwight Howard looks like Moses Malone and you might take him next if you were starting a team. But Chris Paul is a bigger, stronger version of Isiah Thomas. I can't believe I'm saying that, because I believe Isiah is the greatest 6-foot or under player ever (listed at 5-foot-11)...Paul is 6-3, and he's a killer. He destroyed Dallas...KILLED the Mavs at home in a playoff game they had to win. I want to see how he's going to do against Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pop next...Seriously, you need to watch this kid if you like basketball because he's almost without flaws.

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Washington, DC: Hey Mike. Love the chats.

On your advice I have been watching the NBA Playoffs again after taking a break from the NBA. I have really enjoyed watching Chris Paul and New Orleans.

However, the question that I have is about the Lebron/Stevenson/Jay-Z/Soulja Boy storyline. Do you think that stories like this contribute to the negative view that many people have of the NBA?

Michael Wilbon: Good and legit question. If people have a negative perception because these are black players and rappers, then too bad. You're not bringing up that element; I'm taking this opportunity to do it. Jay-Z is a self-made half-billionaire. If they were rockers and not rappers would it be okay? The Pistons have this relationship with Kid Rock and I never hear a peep of an objection. What would be negative about Jay-Z and Soulja Boy (whose "music" I wouldn't know if it was playing right now in my office...I'd never seen him before the other night at Verizon)...I'm not into Hip-Hop...it doesn't speak to me. But what do we want, LeBron to be forced to listen to Sinatra?

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Arlington, Va.: As a product of the new "Caps Craze" in DC, I really hope to see the fan support continue. Do you see that happening, or will the highs from the amazing run to the playoff fade before next season?

Michael Wilbon: Depends almost entirely on whether the Capitals continue winning. If they don't make the playoffs in '09, what Caps Craze? It'll go away.

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BREAKING NEWS: Pat Riley is stepping down at Heat coach.(so says AP, official word to come later)

Not really a big surprise is it?

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for bringing it up...I'm sitting here waiting for the press conference (now we're told it'll be at 4 p.m.) The new Heat Caoch is Erik Spoelstra, one of Riles' assistants...Don't know what this is going to mean for D. Wade, who's a free agent after next season...But no, Riley not hanging around for a rebuild? No surprise there.

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Old Post Office Pavillion, DC: Looking forward to seeing you at UMD tonight. Should be a fun time. Do you think the Wiz can do what no team has done before? I saw a good chunk of yesterday's game and it was a heartbreaker. Looks like the Cavs are the same for the Wiz as the Penguins are for the Caps a lot of the time, always in the way. Also, thanks for the dap for us Caps fans. Between the two teams the V Center was rocking this week.

Michael Wilbon: I'm looking forward to the gig at the University of Maryland tonight, too...Teams have come from 3-1 down before...I think 8 times in NBA history...It's been done...not frequently, but it happens. Do I think that will happen in this case? No. I don't see it. The Wizards simply aren't as good as Cleveland, and I thought they would be...

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Washington, DC: If the Mavericks end up losing to the Hornets 4-1, is it a clear indication that the Jason Kidd trade was a mistake? And/or is it an indication that the team will not win with the current makeup of players and thus needs to be taken apart?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. I'd blow up that team. I'd TNT it...I'd try to keep Dirk, Jason Kidd, and that's it. Josh Howard has so badly devalued himself with this marijuana revelation...It was just stupid. Why say it? He won't bring in return as much as he would have two months ago. Still, I'd start over with those two and a new coach. This didn't work with Avery, who I know will get another job (and very much deserves to) and probably do well. But the Mavericks were emotionally damaged from the last two post-seasons and aren't going to recover with this grouping...I don't think...It's a little sad because Mark Cuban did a great job bringing the Mavericks back to life from nothing, and they were such a worthy team for three-plus years...My bet is Cuban, if he chooses to renovate this team, will do it successfully and much faster than other owners. He's that smart.

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San Jose, Calif.:

Mike,

LeBron is truly a great player, but there is no denying that he very often travels, yet the Refs NEVER call him for traveling. Why not?

Why don't the refs in general call anybody for traveling?

Michael Wilbon: They just don't. So why obssess over it. If they all travel, who gets an advantage?

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Baltimore: Did you have any issue with Josh Howard's comments re: marijuana/NBA players? What he said is not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, is it?

Michael Wilbon: No, it's not earth-shattering at all. A friend, who works at for an enormous company, told me yesterday if all the under-30-somethings who smoked weed were outed there wouldn't be enough people to keep the business running the next day...Now, that's a revelation to me...and I'm sure an exaggeration. But his point was, don't kill Josh Howard for this. Okay, I won't. But it was pointless to get into. For what? During the playoffs? I'm not saying it's a big deal. I'm not naive. Hell, I went to college in the 70s...But talking about it during the playoffs when you're playing like garbagio in the first place...

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Laurel, Md.: Surprised that Hansbrough decided to return to Carolina for his senior year? Isn't his stock as high as it's gonna get?

Michael Wilbon: Hey, if the kid likes college and finances aren't an issue, why shouldn't he return to college? His stock probably won't rise, but suppose he leads UNC to a NCAA championship? How cool would that be for him? He's not going to be a great NBA player no matter when he comes out of school. He'll make the league and probably play quite a while. So life's good either way for Mr. Tyler.

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Washington, D.C.: If Miami turns it around quicker than most expect, how soon until Erik Spoelstra decides to spend more time with his family and Riley returns?

Michael Wilbon: Ha ha! I love that. Thanks for the laugh...

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Shady Grove: Mike, appreciate your perspectives on things. Want to ask you to weigh in on player-turned-front-office. For a generation of NBA fans who know nothing about the playing days of Isiah Thomas and Wes Unseld, but only know them as GMs, they sadly represent an image of failure and incompetence. Do you think the same fate awaits someone like Jordan unless the Bobcats can get out of the tank?

Michael Wilbon: Well, Jordan's not the day-to-day boss, in a GM role the way Thomas and Unseld and, say, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and Joe Dumars have been...Different role. Suppose Larry Brown goes to the Bobcats and lifts the team into serious contention?

_______________________

Dee-troit Basketball: Should Rasheed just intentionally draw technical fouls just before halftime, to wake up his team? It sure seemed to work for the Pistons yesterday.

Michael Wilbon: Fear woke up the Pistons yesterday...fear of going down 3-1 and having their arrogant butts face elimination by a team that couldn't even finish .500 in the regular season.

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RealSports: Did you see the piece on Obama that Bryant Gumbel did on his show. I thought it was a terrific spot and had to laugh at what appeared to be a "no fouling the Presidential Candidate" rule during the pickup ball game they showed.

Michael Wilbon: Real Sports is my favorite sports TV show and while I didn't see it yet, I will before the week is over.

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Detroit: As a Pistons fan, I am so tired of their lack of heart, arrogance and laziness. I almost feel like rooting against them out of spite. They are the opposite of everything the Bad Boys symbolized -- Joe D, Zeke, Laimbeer, Mahorn, the Microwave must be shaking their heads.

Michael Wilbon: Amen...That's the truth.

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Wheaton, MD: Is Larry Brown going to Charlotte? If he is, how much of a difference will he make?

Michael Wilbon: That's the rumor...A BIG rumor...Sounds like it's close.

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Washington D.C.: Hey Mike

Love the chats, PTI and anything to do with you and Tony. About people not liking the NBA. I for one, don't feel it has to do with the players or the game. My beef goes higher up. Ever since that Sacramento-Lakers series from 2002, I've had a hunch that the league rigged playoff games. I mean if you watch that game again now and see some of the fouls that were called, it was ridiculous. The same thing happened when Miami beat Dallas in the finals. Then you have the whole Donaghy scandal. I think the icing on the cake is how Seattle is getting FLEECED out of their Sonics and David Stern sits by and I think has an implicit stake in moving the team to the boondocks. It's not about the Hip Hop style......it's a lot more than that. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: You bring up very legit concerns. I covered that 2002 series between the Lakers and Kings. I didn't think it was fixed. I just don't believe that. But I railed against the calling of the game in Los Angeles that I feel was stolen from the Kings with some of the worst officiating I've ever seen. I'm not saying the league doesn't have it's issues; it sure does, and you mention things that are enormous things to confront. Leaving Seattle, in my opinion, is an embarassment for the NBA. I just don't throw Hip-Hop battles into that category, and I'm glad you don't either.

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New Orleans: It seems that Wizards play better without Arenas. He takes poor, low percentage shots and tries to make plays that aren't there leading to a turnover. Agree or disagree?

Michael Wilbon: Well, I agree but only to a point. We haven't seen this group with a healthy Arenas. He did, remember, make the game-tying basket...The attempt to tie the game at the end was a bad shot, and I would rather have seen Antawn, Caron or DeShawn take the shot because they'v been shooting the ball better from 3 lately...So has Roger Mason. The Wizards have a dilema. Gilbert, coming off an injury-decimated season, isn't a max player. Not for the Wizards, not for anybody. I said in November I would NOT trade him. I would now for the right offer. I'd have to go into next season with a front-court defensive-minded player and a big defensive guard who might replace Stevenson.

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Nuggets into Pebbles: More distressing than the pathetic performance against the Lakers and the repudiation of Carmelo Anthony's correct analysis that his team quit was the alarming notice that management confirmed George Karl would return for the 2008-09 season.

How dysfunctional is a team in the middle of a playoff series quelling rumors about the head coach's job?

Are the players a bad mix on the court? In the locker room? Is the Nuggets problem a matador defense?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. Denver's a team with a lot of talented players who don't fit properly. The Melo-A.I. thing hasn't worked well. J.R. Smith is a one-dimensional player on a team that has enough of them. The team doesn't even ATTEMPT to play defense. I think George Karl is a terrific coach but not for that team. That might be a blow-it-up situation, too, even though the Nuggets won 50 games in the regular season. I guess it depends on what the owner there expects of the team...To be entertaining and competitive? Then keep everybody, To seriously contend in the west? Renovations needed.

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RE: Everybody travels, so who is ganing an advantage?: Mike, this is EXACTLY why I refuse to return to watching the NBA. A league that won't enforce one of the basic rules of the game is the very defintion of arrogance. Call it something other than "basketball", if basketball isn't the product you are selling, would be my suggestion to the NBA.

Michael Wilbon: Does the NFL enforce the holding rule on every play? No, it doesn't and it can't but you're not whining about that, are you?

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Baltimore: Michael: Please make an exception to not discussing the NFL at this time of year to share your thoughts on Steve McNair at his retirement. And do you think he is set for a trip to Canton? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: WE'll end with this question. I might have written some of this already. Ed Hill, the sports information director at Howard University for many years, called me 15 years ago, maybe more and said, "We're playing Alcorn State in St. Louis...why don't you come and see this kid Steve "Air" McNair play against us. Ed's always on the money with interesting stories and up-and-coming players to see, so I went. And I watched McNair and was mesermized. I got to know him then, and as a rookie, and not only did he have an impressive career, he was loved by his teammates and respected by opponents. He was about the toughest QB out there, physically. He took so much punishment, playing for a coach (Jeff Fisher) who was a safety as a player in the NFL...He never played in an offense that took advantage of the "Air" in his game. His offenses were grounded. The Titans came within inches of winning a Super Bowl...probably the greatest ending in SB history. McNair left everything in him on the field, and players say there's nothing greater anybody can say...I doubt he'll reach the HOF but that shouldn't be the primary way his career is measured. He was everything you'd want a leader to be in the time he was out there.

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI and today's guest, the one and only Charles Barkley!

See you next week.

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