The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, May 5, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, May 5 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


Upper Marlboro, Md.: I believe the logic in your column Saturday is a bit flawed. First, I don't think you can compare teams in today's NBA to the teams of the '80s and earlier. The expansion of the NBA has so diluted the talent that one great player can get you to the finals in a weak conference. Second, Magic, Bird, Zeke, Hakeem and Jordan did not have to do all the heavy lifting. They played alongside Hall of Famers. Parrish, McHale, Kareem, Worthy, Drexler, and Pippen are each among the NBA's 50 greatest players and Dumars, Aguirre, Laimbeer and Rodman were no slouches. You don't attribute the Wizards' loss of the series to not having Arenas more than the Cavs having LeBron?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...coming to you live from Los Angeles where the Lakers and Jazz are engaged in a playoff series and I'm working for ESPN/ABC...probably warmer and sunnier back in D.C. than it is here...The league, like every league, is diluted by expansion...Still, you have to start with the one great player. You want to deny that Tim Duncan is a great player? Part of the reason Ginobili and Parker are All-Stars (part of the reason) is that they play with Duncan and play off of him. Laimbeer hadn't done anything in Cleveland...his career blossomed in Detroit, playing with Isiah. Parish hadn't done anything in Golden State...his career hit a championship level playing with Bird in Boston...Of course, Pippen was a great player but he didn't get Portland or Houston to the NBA Finals, did he? No. Only with Jordan. LeBron made Bobbie Gibson and Wally S. look like All-Stars Friday night because he's such a great, great player.


Washington, D.C. : Mr. Wilbon, Congrats and love your work. Is the NBA getting too soft? In Game 7, Williams is given a flagrant two and ejected for fouling Rondo on a breakaway lay-up. Garnett gets a foul for the pick he lays on Scola. Rule as written, Williams has to go, but that pick was clean and legal, Scola simply didn't have his head on a swivel. I remember what the Bad Boy Pistons did to Jordan playoff series year after year, what is the deal?

Michael Wilbon: Other than mistaking Pachulia (spelling?) for Scola, I'm with with you...Williams had to be thrown out because that was a dangerous foul...And I think he'll be suspended the first couple of games of the regular season, at least. But KG's pick was a good one...The league is in a tough spot because it doesn't want skirmishes and fights, as used to take place all the time in the old NBA...But it has to allow some physical play in the postseason...Darius Songaila shouldn't have been suspended for a game; that's a joke...There were four fouls in that series harder that his, more obvious in intent that his...That was just wrong...Still, I don't want to hear that the Wizards lost because of that...Don't want to hear it.


Washington, D.C.: Where do you see Carmelo Anthony's career heading from here? Do you think that bringing in Iverson maybe stunted Carmelo's growth as a team leader? Or is it that, while he is a terrific scorer, he's just not a superstar-caliber overall player?

Michael Wilbon: I can't figure out why Denver isn't better, what with all that talent and a really good coach in George Karl...Iverson is the only one who plays up to form in big games...The team doesn't play any defense...doesn't even try. You know how a team like New Orleans is greater than the sum of the parts? Denver is so much less. Kenyon Martin is done as a big-time player; injuries have killed his legs. He used to be a ferocious defender. J.R. Smith is only interested in scoring, as is Melo...A.I. simply defies time, both with his effort and the results...but he has to be on a different team, and I don't understand why...And Melo is just a great scorer. He's not good enough in the other areas that can affect the game. No force of personality...Just the opposite of LeBron.


U Street: I know the NBA playoffs are going on, but, given your love of golf, did you get a chance to watch two great young golfers this weekend? First, there was Kim's win on the PGA. Second, and perhaps more impressive, was Paula Creamer's win -- in a playoff -- on the LPGA. With all of the noise and bright lights surrounding Michelle Wie, it seems like Creamer is not getting the attention she deserves. Isn't she the best young US female golfer? And how exciting would it be if she and Ochoa develop a rivalry?

Michael Wilbon: I watched both the men's and women's golf yesterday (with 1-handicap Jon Barry and avid swinger Stuart Scott...this is what we have on the 'other' TVs while the NBA game is on every Sunday) and I agree with you in both cases. Paula Creamer has everything the LPGA Tour wants...she's got loads of talent, is smart and very attractive and easy to market...And the PGA is in BIG need of some new stars. Maybe Anthony Kim is that...Fanatics like me will watch golf no matter what, but still...the PGA without Tiger is pretty stale right now. I hope both these two have big summers.


Ellicott City, Md.: Mr. Wilbon,

I am a college student who reads The Post every day, your column in particular. I also regularly read Deadspin, and while I do cringe at some of the content on there, the vast majority I find to be funny and light-hearted. For many of us, newspapers and blogs are not an either/or proposition; we enjoy both perspectives. Do you not think that newspaper people like yourself should spend more time extolling what newspapers can bring to the public, instead of trashing blogs all the time (esp. when you admit to never reading them)? While I personally love the insight of yourself and many other columnists, all that Buzz Bissinger's rant last week accomplished was to turn even more younger people away from newspapers, which I think is rather sad.

Michael Wilbon: First, thank for a perfectly reasoned question/comment. I don't trash blogs; I admit right up front I don't read them. What I do trash is irresponsible "reporting" in any form and personal attacks in any medium...And I won't read stuff in any form if I don't trust the source. That's just me. That's my way of weeding. You sound like you enjoy both forms of expression, which is fine. I don't, for the most part, though I now look at Deadspin and HoopsHype and a few other sites...Is it going to become habitual for me at my age? Probably not. But I'm not Buzz B. on this issue.


Halifax, Mass.: On the Bob Costas special and PTI last week, you stressed that your main problem with blogs is that you don't know the credentials of bloggers. Now, I agree with you about news reporting on blogs (as it's unlikely that most bloggers providing news reporting follow the same standards as traditional media outlets), but I think you're way off base on sports commentary.

My question to you is, what difference does it make that someone has been a sports reporter for X years for his or her opinion to matter more than that of a blogger? While such reporting experience may have mattered even 10 years ago, it's less and less relevant today because fans can see every game for every major sport if they want due to the various season passes available online or through cable providers. Also, fans have access to just about the same information as reporters (i.e. 15 years ago, it would have been hard for someone who wasn't a reporter to get statistics on how often a football team made a first down when it was third down and short versus third down and long, but now, such data is available with the click of a few buttons). The only information that a member of the mainstream media has that the average fan does not is inside info from team personnel. And, as Bill Simmons and Will Leitch have both argued, such personal access isn't necessarily a good thing, as these personal relationships have no doubt have an impact on what columnists write.

More importantly, isn't the ultimate criterion to judge a column or a blog is whether or not it expresses interesting, compelling, insightful, or unique observations about a matter regarding sports? If it's good, it's good, and it doesn't matter who the author is.

Michael Wilbon: Good question. Easy answer. When I write opinions they overwhelmingly are based in information about the subject...First-hand info...Or second-hand if we're talking about getting information from someone. Opinions, on their face, aren't worth a damn. What do you know. I don't come to the games to just write about the games, and if that's your premise then you don't read my column. The opinions that come out of engaging with people affect (or should) how I feel about hiring, firing, winning, losing, race, gender, the community, the team, the manager, the owner. If you've never had a conversation with Kobe Bryant or any of his teammates or referees or scouts, why the hell would your opinion be as legit as someone who's done all that. You want opinions or informed opinions? I know what I want. Most bloggers don't have information to back up or support their opinions. They're just spewing. I don't care to read that. If you think that's about covering a game then we're in different universes. My opinion about Joey Crawford throwing Tim Duncan out of a game, whether you agree with or not, is informed because I talked to both men 10 minutes. after the episode.

I'm not talking about stupid sports bar arguments like, "Who's MVP?" or "Should the Wizards have made a trade?" I'm talking about substantive issues of the day and I want to be engaged by someone who knows the subject matter, not just somebody who has a "take." Not interested.


Manassas, Va.: So far I'm thrilled that a week has gone by and my wife has not been mentioned in connection with Roger Clemens.

Seriously, at what point do you think Clemens should have stopped making noise? He was the star of the Mitchell report, so he couldn't just let it slide without some comment? At what point did he go too far?

Michael Wilbon: Clemens, from all appearances, is just a bully and a fraud, which I've been saying for years. He went too far when he threw the bat at Piazza but there were always people defending him and anything he did. And he was enabled and emboldened by that...encouraged even. It's too bad. I don't ever need to mention Clemens. He's totally unimportant as far as I'm concerned. I spend no seconds thinking about him. I don't care about what he does in his bedroom or with whom. I just think he's a fraud on every level and has been for years.


Annandale, Va.: At the beginning of the season there was talk of trading Arenas and possibly Butler for Kobe Bryant. Isn't it obvious that this would have been a good trade in hindsight? You even wrote an article recently how one superstar is better than three All-Stars.

Michael Wilbon: The Lakers wouldn't have done that because Arenas was injured. It would have taken Butler and Arenas and something else and I didn't think that would work for the Wizards, who didn't consider such a deal in the first place.


Bethesda, Md.: Wilbon,

I think the Wizards need to cut DeShawn Stevenson. He embarrassed himself, and more importantly, the Wizards organization with his antics before and during the Cavs series. Say what you want about how the little dustup with LeBron got started, the fact is he was out there showboating after every shot he made, while LeBron was running circles around him. He looked like a complete fool.

Michael Wilbon: Except for the part about being cut (you must be primarily a football fan who doesn't know the difference between the NBA and the NFL player contracts) I agree with you entirely. LeBron made him look silly...I give a standing O to Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler for telling him (and Gil and probably Brendan Haywood) to shut up and play before Game 5 in Cleveland. I bet they wish they could have had the same impact earlier in the series.


Chicago: I hate to bring up football in May, but I'd like to get your opinion on Cedric Benson. Yes, he's been a bust (though I don't think anybody could have produced with the Bears OL from last year) but the way the Chicago media is killing him right now is ridiculous. Ced clearly isn't the best teammate, but doesn't his side of his arrest deserve at least some consideration? It seems plausible to me that a black celebrity in the heart of Texas wouldn't exactly get the fairest treatment from the police.

Michael Wilbon: Was the boat in Texas or on the Great Lakes? Either way, Cedric Benson was a bad draft choice, and it was incredibly stupid of Jerry Angelo to trade the best offensive player to the Jets and keep Benson, who at best seems to be an irresponsible prima dona. I can't wait until the Bears get rid of him. He's a waste, line or no line.


Rochester, N.Y.: Michael, do you think the Celtics Big 3 will be better able to handle LeBron than the Wizards big 3? Who do you having winning this series and in how many games. Thanks

Michael Wilbon: I still have the Celtics, but I think it's going fewer than 6. LeBron knows how to get the best he can out of his teammates night to night and the Celtics were pushed by Atlanta, a young and athletic team but short on experience. LeBron knows what he's doing.


Washington, D.C.: Has David Stern just become too insufferable and bombastic for the good of the NBA. Between his treatment of Sonics' fans and his handling of the Paul Pierce "gang sign" controversy, I know a lot of people who are as tired of him as I am.

Michael Wilbon: There's a growing chorus singing the same song you are...I like David Stern and think he's been a fabulous commissioner...but there have been a number of episodes over the last, oh, 5 years or so that support your contention.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Mike,

Real quick, who wins, Mayweather or De La Hoya in September, and why?

Michael Wilbon: Every time I go against Mayweather I wind up looking silly...I don't know...I reserve the right to get closer to the event to see where each guy's head is. But as a fight guy who knows the game is dying, I'm really looking forward to that. I might have to get on a plane and spend a few days with that fight...


Florida: Brighter future: Hawks or Suns?

Michael Wilbon: Ooooooh, good question. Who thought two weeks ago we'd find that to be a "toss-up"? Just possibly the Hawks, though they could easily slip back to nothingness next year if their players get full of themselves. The Suns were never going to have that happen with the guys they've had.


Hyattsville, Md. : MW, Can you ever remember an NBA playoffs where so many coaches seemed to be playing for their jobs? We've already seen Avery Johnson go, and it looks like D'Antoni as well. We've heard legitimate questions surrounding Karl, Mitchell Woodson and Jordan. While they seem safe now, you have to believe that had their teams failed in the first round, Saunders, Rivers and Brown could all have been in trouble. Maybe I just have a short memory, but I can't remember their ever being a year where so many successful teams had so many questions about their coaching.

Michael Wilbon: No, you're right. Never. I can't ever remember as many coaches of 50-win teams or playoff teams looking vulnerable. It's the pressure to win, the expectations that so many teams should go deep in the playoffs when only four can get to the conference finals.


Washington, D.C.: What's the deal with the Marvin Harrison shooting incident in Philly?

How will this affect his playing status in the fall?

Michael Wilbon: Don't know yet. His lawyer says Marvin wasn't even there and is being questioned only...We have to stay tuned...It's too soon to go speculating about how it will affect his football status. Hell, do we even know if he was there?


Your Local Papa John's pizza shop: LeBron's crybaby shirt -- funny joke, or funniest joke ever? The bottom line is that the statement is true. He is a big, but very talented, crybaby.

Michael Wilbon: It was funny. Everybody in the NBA whines. Everybody. All the time. Every year in the playoffs. It's a tradition I could do without, but a tradition nonetheless.


Boynton Beach, Fla.: The Celtics and the Lakers have the heritage with guys like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to tell a teammate to shut up. Seems to me that that was the most glaring weakness the Wizards displayed against Cleveland. Or do you think they truly didn't appreciate what LeBron is capable of?

Michael Wilbon: Both...Good observation.


Washington, D.C.: I still extend CONGRATS to the Wizards for their winning season in spite of the injuries they had to endure. Hopefully, they will tone down the trash talk and make their statements with WINS on the court next season.

My question is, do you think the Wizards should take a flyer on that PF from Memphis, Joey Dorsey in the NBA Draft? I think he would be a great physical presence in the paint for the Wizards.

Michael Wilbon: Is Dorsey big enough? Isn't he like, 6-7? The Wizards need some power, yes...a defensive-minded player without question. They might be better off looking overseas. Look at guys like Luis Scola or (though he's mostly a shooter) Okur in Utah...The big Russian kid is too slight to be a power player but he can shoot and is developing.


Cairo, Egypt: Hello Mr. Wilbon,

Writing from Egypt, where we watch the NBA very late at night and very early in the morning. If I understand correctly based on your column, your premise is that, excepting the recent Pistons team, an NBA team needs a superstar to win a championship. However, plenty of teams with superstars have NOT won. So what else do they need? Superstar AND sidekick, superstar AND coach, superstar AND luck, or something else? And based on that logic, who then wins the championship this year?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, but you want to refute 26 out of 28 having a Hall of Fame player? Why, to be a contrarian? Help yourself. The point is, you can have all that other stuff you want, be without the Hall of Famer, and your team is going home early. Book it. Actually, it's 27 out of 28 because Moses Malone and Julius Erving were on the '83 76ers...Two Hall of Famers. And a great coach (Billy Cunningham) and another All-Star (Mo Cheeks). So, call me when a team with no Hall of Famer (or future HOF) wins again.


Burke, Va.: Mike, when you say you don't read blogs, are you including the ones written by "real" reporters -- like Ivan Carter and Michael Lee's "Wizards Insider" here on the Seems like a great place for them to give readers additional writing that they can't get column inches for in the dead tree edition...

Michael Wilbon: Those aren't blogs. That's marketing junk. They're opinionated reports that are edited by Post editors just like their stories in The Post. Their reports labeled as blogs to snare people who think they're getting something new and trendy. Please.


Waldorf, Md.: Is LeBron the most poised young athlete you have ever covered? I have been amazed by how mature he seems, from the day he entered the league.

Michael Wilbon: He's 23 years old...He's up there. Magic is the most poised guy at a young age I ever saw. Cal Ripken's on the short list. But LeBron's way, way up there. Composed, touugh-minded, refuses to be dragged into the muck...There's a ton to like. And he knows he has to get better at it as he's the face of the NBA with Shaq and Kobe and Duncan and KG now in their 30s.


Taneytown, Md.: What did you think of the terrible incident at the Kentucky Derby? Just my opinion, but I thought Sally Jenkin's column made a lot of sense.

Michael Wilbon: I haven't seen Sally's column since I was flying to L.A. from NYC last night and woke up out here at noon eastern...To have this happen two of the last three years is incredibly sad, even depressing. I'm not going to suggest that horse racing officials or Derby officials are somehow to blame just to have some knee jerk politically correct reaction. It's just sad and negates any feel good from Saturday's event. I would hope we can go at least 25 years without having this again.


D.C.: How shocked were you to hear Marvin Harrison was involved in an incident involving a gun?

Michael Wilbon: Very surprised...Unless there's some news you've read this morning, we don't even know that Harrison was "involved" with the gunplay itself. So, let's wait and see.


Speaking of Heritage: If Wes Unseld looked me in the eye and said "shut up and play"? I'd shut up and play.

Michael Wilbon: That's right. And Elvin Hayes did...Two great players, another championship. We can go back to find more than 27 out of 28 championship teams with an absolute Hall of Famer...Seattle didn't, but the Bullets did, the Walton TrailBlazers did (he was healthy, remember), the Cowens Celtics did, the Rick Barry Warriors did, the Wilt/West Lakers did, the Knicks of the 1970s certainly did, and all the Russell Celtics did...The '67 Wilt Warriors did...We're talking forever and ever, back to at least 1956...And if we take into account the Mikan Lakers that won, what, 5? You don't want to argue this point. It's beyond arguing. And yes, Wes and Elvin qualify. Particularly Mr. Wes Unseld.


RE: Cairo: Hi Mike, I think you misread the question from Cairo. Assuming you already have the superstar, what's the second most important to have? The difference between being Barkley or AI and Bird/Magic/Jordan?

Michael Wilbon: I'm sorry if I did that. Pardon, please...It's cool enough to get a question from Cairo...You need a great No. 2 and a borderline All-Star No. 3, like Pippen and Grant/Rodman, like (an aging) Kareem/Worthy, or in more modern terms, Ginobili/Parker...And yes, a damn good coach is critical. Look at the guys who've won all the championships.


Re: Cairo's question: MW, I think you misinterpreted what the writer was asking. All he was saying was that yes, you need a superstar, but you need one other thing---what do you think it is? Is a good coach more important than a good sidekick?

Don't believe he was refuting your observation.

Michael Wilbon: My bad...I read it wrong and I apologize...Stupid me.


Washington, D.C.: What are the chances that Gilbert Arenas is in a Wizards uniform next season?

Michael Wilbon: oooooh, I guess 75 percent because I don't believe he's going to opt out coming off an injury-ruined season and think somebody's going to rearrange their financial structure to pay him $13 mil or more. Ain't gonna happen. Would I entertain trade offers for Gil? Yes, I would. That's a change in position from early in the year when he was presumed to be healthy...But I'd make some calls, yes. I would.

Okay, gotta run and get to the L.A. studio to do battle with Mr. Tony long-distance and catch up with the Lakers and Jazz players so that I can write some well-informed opinions (Ha!) Everybody be well. Chat next week when I'm back in the friendly confines of the PTI studio. MW


Virginia Beach, Va.: Who do you have tonight, Hornets going 2-0 or Spurs going 1-1?

Why is Finley on the floor? He can't defend anyone, can't shoot half the time, etc.....

Michael Wilbon: Another great question. I think S.A. will win, but I'm hedging my bets. I have no confidence in that pick tonight...Can't wait to see that one...


Bethesda, Md.: Does the Hall of Fame player make the championship or does the championship help the player get in the Hall of Fame?

Michael Wilbon: Both...but he's got to have Hall of Fame stuff in him already...In other words, we identify the player long before he wins the championship...or at least as he's entering that kind of form. Duncan had David Robinson, so that's an exception, though we knew Duncan was going to be great...This Chris Paul thing is interesting. It's such an explosion and is happening so quickly...Okay, gotta run.


Anonymous: To get this out the way, what do you think the Wiz need to get to the next round? A healthy Arenas? Better defense? Better all-around contributions from the shooting guard or power forward/center? Improved bench play?

I like the team, but it seems their limitations were exposed. Stephenson can give you 15-18 one night and be no factor the next. Daniels can run the show, but when he has 18-footers he can't hit the shot. Where I grew up he was called "self check", he does not need to be defended with a shot like that. Brendan Haywood played big this year, but Jamison is a light power forward defensively. Arenas can give you points if healthy, but he does not orchestrate like a team leader should.

Michael Wilbon: Your scouting report is rock solid. The Wizards need, possibly, to make a trade. But who's out there that's available. Josh Howard? Hmmmm...Iverson? Maybe. But he makes $20 mill next year? Deng? Not a power player. Nocioni? Glorified role player but could help. Elton Brand? Also coming off injury. I think a deal needs to be made involving Arenas, but the draft could come into play. Shawn Marion could be available and he damn sure can play defense, but is 30...Boris Diaw? No D but he's a playmaker and could probably play with Gil...Gotta go for real this time.


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