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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 24, 2008; 1:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Monday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions about the dismissal of Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, the Redskins defeat of the Seahawks, college football, the NBA and his approach to Christmas shopping.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the show.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike,

Regardless of whether you agree with the decision to fire Jordan (I think it's a bad idea, given not only the injury situation, but also the organization's decision to commit to a superstar that we all knew was injury-prone to start with), do you think that the timing is fair to the team? Does an early exit for Jordan give the team the best chance to get back on track in a new system?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...We'll start and spend quite a bit of time on the breaking news...Eddie Jordan being fired as coach of the Wizards and being replaced this morning, on an interim basis, by another Washingtonian from NE, Eddie Tapscott. I don't know that a coach has ever been replaced by his childhood buddy as head coach in NBA history...Your premise is right on the money as far as I'm concerned. The Wizards are playing without three of their top six players from last year, Arenas, Haywood and (don't forget) Roger Mason, who's lighting it up in San Antonio as a reserve.

Two players have told me within the last week that the Wizards are a dreadful team right now, that until Arenas gets back they were stuck doing the same thing they had to do the previous two post-seasons, which is simply try to hold the fort. They didn't improve personnel for this year (McGee's evolution will take some time)...One All-Star who has played against the Wizards in the last 10 days told me he was surprised the Wizards weren't any better and had regressed, in his opinion. Do I think Eddie Tapscott will be able to fix that in the short term? no. Do I believe the Wizards are on the verge of a lost season? Yes, I do. All the teams in the East improved their rosters over the summer; the Wizards did not. That's Eddie Jordan's fault? No. That's Ernie Grunfeld's fault.

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Washington, D.C.: Tell us a little about Coach Tapscott. Who's on your short list of possible replacements for Coach Jordan?

Michael Wilbon: Good place to make full disclosure. Eddie Tapscott and I have been friends for 20 years...not casual friends...pretty darned close friends. I've had two major career decisions to make in my life and Tapscott was counsel for me on both. I'm not capable of being distant or about him. I think he knows as much about basketball as most anybody employed in the NBA. He's coached (American University), he's assisted (Gary Williams at AU), he's represented players as an agent, he's been management with the Knicks and Bobcats and Wizards. He communicates the game as well if not better than 90 percent of the people in the league. He's smart, organized, well-schooled, well-prepared...much like Eddie Jordan, actually, except Tapscott comes at it from an administrative approach while Jordan is a former NBA player...He hasn't been itching to coach, trust me. It's probably the last thing he wanted. Without having had this particular conversation with him (I haven't talked to Tap yet) my bet is he had to be talked into it "for the good of the team" by Grunfeld, whom he has worked for in New York, Milwaukee (as a consultant) and now Washington. I really hope the Wizards can turn this around, for all involved, especially Tapscott.

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Richmond, Va.: Eddie Jordan is very well liked by the local media and the fans. What role does that play on how he is covered by the media? Certainly the injuries are not Eddie Jordan's fault. However, five years is an eternity in sports to win one playoff series. He helped bring the Wizards to respectability, but after five-plus years it's time for change we can believe in. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: You raise a perfectly legit point. Five years is a long time for one series win...But the injuries are clearly a factor. Look, you can fire Eddie Jordan and justify it, yes. But is that team, as presently constructed, going to be any better for anybody else? Players I've talked to say, no. Now, would Avery Johnson, just to pick a successful out-of-work coach, improve the team? Maybe. Jeff Van Gundy? Maybe. They'd likely play better defense for each, but what about offensively? Jordan was great at that. Look at what happened to the Nets once Byron Scott and Eddie Jordan left. They dropped like a rock.

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Ashburn, Va.: Hey Mike, I know there's a lot made out that the Redskins are not putting enough points and are barely getting through the games, but what people don't realize is that in all the close wins (Dallas, Philly, Detroit, etc.), we've had the lead in all those games, and we've milked the clock and that's how CP has all those numbers.

Same thing last night, they were trying to milk the clock all the way, but it looked it almost backfired on them when Betts fumbled. Do you think Coach Zorn's way of winning is good enough to be an elite team in the NFC ?

Michael Wilbon: I don't subscribe to the notion that close victories should somehow be discounted...or that the Wizards are good enough to put much distance between themselves and other NFC teams. The Giants are the only great team in the NFC. Dallas had early problems with the 49ers yesterday. If the Redskins are good enough to win more than their share of close games, that will get them to the playoffs. I don't know that it has anything to do with Zorn's style or philosophy. He seems pretty bold at times. Something seems to be missing, but I don't know that it has to do with coaching. I look at the personalities on that team and conclude that a guy like Antonio Pierce, who the Redskins let go, would make that team so much better. The Redskins need two or three guys like that who I think would help the team finish...They seem reluctant, less than bold in fourth quarters, like they're waiting to be caught...tip toeing through the final 15 minutes...Doesn't work.

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"...players like Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas and Andray Blatche -- have performed at a subpar level.": Really? Maybe they're just not that good. Was it Eddie Jordan who threw all that money at Gilbert without verifying his physical condition?

Michael Wilbon: Eddie Jordan doesn't sign checks or make offers...The GM, Ernie Grunfeld, and the owner, Abe Pollin, make those decisions. Before you form any conclusions, make sure you know who does and is responsible for what decisions.

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Rockville, MD.: Hi Mike - This Jordan firing is a bummer to me. I never liked this aspect of the NBA that when the players can't hit a three or play defense the coach is fired. I know, it might work out for them in the long run, but I always liked that the local boy came back to town and got this team to the playoffs.

Michael Wilbon: I did, too. Thanks.

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DC: Hi Mike, Obviously Eddie Jordan wasn't the only problem with the Wizards, but he certainly was a problem. Now that he's gone, do you think Tapscott will make a concerted effort to 1) improve team defense, and 2) develop the young bigs? (Two things which Eddie Jordan was failing at spectacularly).

Michael Wilbon: There's only one young big, JaVale McGee, who matters in the long run. Blatche, according to players who've gone against him this season, has ever skill in the book and zero work ethic. None. I'd have dumped him this summer if I could have. He's in his fourth season and simply doesn't know how to be a professional basketball player. He was the 49th player chosen in 2005 draft. Grunfeld was trying to find a big late...He could have taken Ryan Gomes is pretty productive in Minnesota and Amir Johnson of the Pistons is now earning more minutes, though he's no impact player and actually plays less than Blatche...It's all about McGee now. His development may make the Wizards job an attractive one. One player who faced the Wizards recently told me he would put McGee and Nick Young out there and let them develop, especially if this is going to be a lost season.

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Washington, D.C.: I am sure I am not the only one suggesting this, but isn't it in the Wizards best interests to lose as many games as possible this season, get a top 3 pick (Blake Griffin?), and come back next year with a healthy Arenas and a reloaded team?

Michael Wilbon: Blake Griffin isn't the kind of player you lose a season for...That's for Kareem, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing, LeBron...NOT Blake Griffin. Terrific college player...but he's not even as talented as Michael Beasley, who isn't exactly setting the world on fire in Miami. Think of how great a college player Christian Laettner was...Yes, in the NBA? Blah. Nothing special.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The Wizards and the Knicks are reminding me of why I don't like the NBA. After getting excited about the Wizards' progression during recent years, it now looks like I really have no reason to watch their games the rest of the season. They are boring and they will lose a lot - I can get that from the Nationals where the tickets are cheaper and the weather is enjoyable. Can the Wiz just forfeit the next 60 games and save us the trouble?

The Knicks have been such a grand disaster that they were almost fun to follow (off the court). But now they will be shutting it down for 18 MONTHS until we find out if they get King James. Who can fix this? What does Tony recommend?

Michael Wilbon: Watch whatever teams you root for in the context of the league and learn to appreciate that. If the Redskins stink do you hate the NFL all of a sudden? I doubt it. If I stopped following and appreciating baseball because the Cubs didn't amount to anything I'd have stopped when I was 10 years old in 1969...Stop whining. You have every right to be upset with the Wizards...But you sound like a classic front runner...If your team is good you're into it and if they stink you just whine...Not a lot of sympathy here.

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Time for New York mania: Mike: Are your friends in the New York media driving you nuts yet with talk of a Giants-Jets Super Bowl? With Springsteen as the halftime guest, no less?

Michael Wilbon: In a word, Yes.

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G Street: Mike, Just as a follow-up to your article, I heard Myron Rolle was awarded a Rhodes. I also heard he was projected to be a mid-round draft pick. This is one impressive young man. We cannot forget that Bill Bradley and Byron White were also star athletes and Rhodes Scholars. Here's to hoping Rolle remotely follows in their footsteps.

washingtonpost.com: Putting the Student Before the Athlete (Post, Nov. 21)

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the update. He was indeed awarded a Rhodes. Congratulations to him. Anybody hear about that Casey Gerald, a cornerback from Yale, who interviewed Friday? What a choice Rolle as now: Oxford or the NFL draft? I think this kid will do just fine with whatever he chooses. What a wonderful story...

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Austin, Tex.: Mr. Wilbon,

I feel that this Redskins team is a model of the cliche, "You win and then you get good." As they have shown with terrible losses to the Giants and Steelers, the Redskins are not ready for prime time, but they have beaten all but one team (Rams) they should. I think this is a very positive step for this team. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I do too...The Redskins are a pretty good team. Beating Seattle doesn't make them great; losing to Dallas doesn't make them terrible. They're pretty good. They've got a shot. They're not the Giatns and they're better than the likes of Philly...Big game at the end against the 49ers out there...If they need that one to get in it could be dicey.

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Washington: "Isn't it in the Wizards best interests to lose as many games as possible this season."

This is a ridiculous question! There are more than 70 games left in the season! When has trying to lose so you can get a top draft pick resulted in a winning team? Losing can be habit forming.

Michael Wilbon: It was. Look at the Wizards for 15 years...Of course it's habit forming...And this is the wrong year, economically, to be awful. People will simply stay home and not support the product, understandably.

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Reston, Va.: My prediction for the NBA Summer of 2010:

Lots of folks will lose their jobs for punting the last two years in hopes of signing the pie in the sky.

Win Now.

Michael Wilbon: Great point...I like that. I'm not as certain as you seem to be, but I think you make a smart point. Thing is, there's more than just LeBron waiting in the winners' circle. Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, Dirk (who will admittedly be old), Nash (who might retire for all we know)...But suppose, if you're the Knicks, you get LeBron, Nash and Michael Redd? Just to name three. Just wondering...

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Fairfax, Va.: Just curious, how do you think the Redskins would be doing had Joe Gibbs not retired? Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: About the same...Didn't they make the playoffs last year, the Redskins? Yep, I thought so. They'd be about like they are now.

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Chantilly, Va.: Hey Mike, First up, "PTI" is a great show, I DVR it everyday.

Don't you think it's time to look at the Wizards roster and start doing what we can to trade and get out this salary fiasco? I hate to say it, but right now EVERYONE should be available. The problem is, who wants what is available? What are your thoughts on dismantling this team?

Michael Wilbon: Your answer is the right one. Who wants what's available? You can't trade Gil or Jamison...And I'd have traded Gil over the summer to Golden State since the Warriors wanted him. I'd have been trying to hustle Baron Davis and the Biedrins kids, who's 6-11 and simply gets better every week...That's me. I wouldn't have committed $111 million to a guy I didn't even know could play anymore.

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DC: You know what's even more depressing? Barring any major moves to clear cap space, we'll have major cap room the year AFTER the Summer of Lebron. It's like a curse...

And the team just so happens to stink the year that there are no quality college players coming out this year, not on the level of previous years.

Michael Wilbon: I was just talking to my producer at ESPN about those two things this morning. This is a Kwame Brown sort of year in terms of college players, although this Thabeet kid at UCONN, 7-foot-3, is interesting...Not as diversely talented as McGee, though...Anyway, that combination is really Wizards-like, isn't it?

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NW: Michael,

What are you getting Matthew for Christmas?

Michael Wilbon: Very little. He's 8 months old in two days. He doesn't know Christmas yet...I'll come up with something entertaining. But my dad always told my brother and me we could have one toy each for Christmas...We weren't poor...far from it actually. But he didn't want us to think Christmas meant a pile of toys. We could have all the books we wanted, all the sports equipment we could use within reason...but not a room full of toys. People laugh when I tell them I love my dad's approach and I'm adopting it completely...One toy...maybe two. And I will, if I have to, stiff-arm relatives (other than Grandmas) if they come bearing a pile of toys...I will. Trust me.

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Re: tanking: The person who said "when has this ever worked" - it played a big part in Boston's championship (Paul Pierce was shut down pretty mysteriously the whole second half of the season before), and it certainly made a difference in building the SA dynasty. I hate it, hate it, hate it, but in a scummy Bismarkian way it's not a bad plan.

Michael Wilbon: But luck is such a huge part of it...Remember, the Celtics thought they were getting Tim Duncan, which is why in large part Rick Pitino took that job in the first place.

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Reston, Va.: Michael -- Switching gears to the Redskins, I've looked at the upcoming matchup with the Giants over and over, and I can't figure out any way the Skins can win it. We run well, but they have a fierce run-stopping D. We pass decently, but their D-Line and pass rush is overwhelming (and our O-Line hasn't been setting the world on fire, of late). Our D is solid, but we generate no pass rush and Eli will take us apart if given time.

Any chance I'm missing an angle and a way the Skins pull this thing out next week?

Michael Wilbon: You win the game because you play better...not because you concede or presume advantages in matchups...You win because Jason Campbell plays out of his mind or because the defense knocks Eli silly in the first quarter. Do I think the Redskins are going to beat the Giants? Maybe. I don't see the Giants being a 15-1 team. They'll lose to somebody...perhaps the Redskins. That wouldn't change the pecking order in the NFC, but it might launch the Redskins. It's not outrageous, despite your matchup analysis.

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Washington, D.C.: "When has trying to lose so you can get a top draft pick resulted in a winning team? Losing can be habit forming."

Lets see, San Antonio and Tim Duncan, Cleveland and LeBron, Magic with Shaq, etc. Tanking for a pick is by no means a guarantee of anything, but in the NBA one great player changes things in ways it doesn't in other sports. I'd rather have a 20 percent chance of watching a great team than a 100 percent chance of watching a consistently mediocre one.

Michael Wilbon: One great player IS how you get to the top in the NBA. You have to have one...You can draft him, sign him as a free agent (Shaq going to the Lakers), trade for him, develop him...But the Wizards got the first pick in the draft seven years ago and what happened? Kwame Brown happened, which is to say, nothing happened. You cannot count on winning the lottery. Michael Jordan was drafted third, not first. Detroit, by the way, has been to five straight conference finals and doesn't have a signature player. The Sacramento Kings were robbed of a trip to the finals in 2002 and didn't have that player. At least you can get closer than the Wizards have been.

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DC: Michael, please tell all the Wizard fans that they can't count on the draft. Imagine where the Celtics would be now if they had Greg Oden instead of Garnett?

Michael Wilbon: I forgot that point...Yes, of course...By the way, I should point out that Eddie Jordan is probably the best coach the Wizards have had since Dick Motta. That's a long time. Since 1986 he had virtually all the winning records in club history.

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Los Angeles: Those New Yorkers touting a Giants-Jets Super Bowl are counting chickens. Cassell has figured out how to get the ball to Moss. Watch out for New England.

Michael Wilbon: Very good point. Cassell is making himself a ton of money. Wonder how he'll look in a 49ers uniform. And yes, the Patriots are very dangerous. Moss looks like he's lost nothing over the years. Nothing.

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Los Angeles: This weekend was filled with some great and not so great college football.

Notre Dame...Ouch! Michigan...Eeww! Texas Tech...Unforgettable!

What are the chances Notre Dame buys out Charlie Weis? I know the buyout is $12 million. I think ND is regretting giving him that big contract extension. Maybe they can look to Charlie Weis's book for some motivation. Not!

Michael Wilbon: I think the buyout is more like $16 million, and yes I think he's going to be bought out. The economy could save him because the Notre Dame boosters who would have to pony up the money have probably lost millions from their personal fortunes. Still, I think there's enough money to do it if the Irish boosters want him out, and while I was in Chicago over the weekend watching my Wildcats finish the season 9-3 by beating Illinois, I got to talk to some people with Notre Dame ties who think Weis is a goner.

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Pittsburgh: What do you think of Philly benching McNabb? I know he's had a bad few games, but is this the end for him there? What's the point of starting him again?

Michael Wilbon: Andy Reid just announced Donovan will be the starter Thanksgiving night against the Cardinals. Look, I love Donovan but he's been dreadful the last 7 quarters. He deserved to be benched...BUT it was a 7-point game when Reid sat him and the Eagles lost by 36-7. Are you kidding me? You put this kid in one the road in a close game you need to win and get smacked down? Reid is awful...

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WDC: Books books books! Well done! One of my favorite childhood memories (I am 34) is my "Baseball's Greatest Moments" book. I think it was a blue hardcover and had Fernando Valenzuela on the cover. I still remember reading in that book about Harvey Haddix's no-hitter, about J.R. Richard, about Willie Mays's catch in the '54 World Series. Granted Matthew can't read yet, but good to get him started early.

Michael Wilbon: Yes sir...

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South Brunswick, NJ: Awesome response to the Christmas question! And such a sane approach to the priorities of childhood. I wish more parents could be like you and your father.

Michael Wilbon: My old man was a hard-#$%. He wasn't merely old school; he was one-room school. And I began to appreciate it when I was in college...He gave us everything without ever giving in to the suggestions of pop culture. You won't see me standing around toy stores the next month. I think my biggest fight is going to be with my family members. My toughness does not extend to golf...I've been looking for for his first set of clubs and a Tiger poster that will fit right over his crib!

Okay, I gotta run...Must run over to Verizon for the Wizards press conference...I know you can read all about that in The Post, on line and in the newspaper tomorrow morning...Thanks for chatting everybody...and have a great Thanksgiving! MW

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