The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Olympics, Caron Butler Brendan Haywood trade, NBA All-Star Game and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, February 16, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Feb. 16 to discuss the Olympics, the Caron Butler Brendan Haywood trade, the Wizards, the NBA All-Star Game and World Wide Wilbon (which is Not Just Another Sorry, No-Account Sports Blog) the latest sports news, his columns and anything else on your mind.

Mike was also excited to defend his candidates for best sports story, athlete and overlooked story of the decade, which are open for user voting now at World Wide Wilbon.

A transcript follows

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos


Washington, D.C.: Over or Under: Wiz make the playoffs in four years.

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody! Thanks for sliding over to Tuesday because of the President's Day holiday ... We'll jump right into the Wizards, who have made the biggest local news this week. Four years? Boy, that might be a push. I might go "under" and say three years. It took them two years after they signed Gilbert Arenas, right? They went from nowhere to 45 wins. So it can be done, and it can be done by this franchise. Of course, the franchise is going to run differently with the new owner, who I certainly hope is Ted Leonsis. You need luck in the lottery, multiple first-round draft picks and cap space. Suppose John Wall, the playmaking guard from Kentucky, is as good as Tyreke Evans and Derek Rose, the last two one-and-done point guards who've come into the NBA? If the Wizards win the lottery and draft him, then three years is something I could see ...


New York, N.Y.: So the Wiz had to dismantle. Agreed. But not getting any draft picks or any talent back, really? I mean, I know expiring contracts are good, but what big time free agent is going to wade into this mess? Michael Wilbon: Wizards had to start over (Washington Post, Feb. 14)

Michael Wilbon: You don't havde to sign a "big" free agent. Look at how teams like Portland and Detroit built contenders. You can sign a couple of free agents. With cap room, you can also TRADE for a player. Or you can identify an up-and-coming star, like Ernie Grunfeld did Arenas seven years ago. It's not all about going after LeBron or D. Wade. Suppose Atlanta doesn't want to sign Joe Johnson and you can trade for him? You still have to have salary cap room to do it. Remember when the Wizards traded for Chris Webber? You need salary cap relief and, yes, draft picks. There's still time to get a pick, maybe from Cleveland or from a good team that thinks it can win now and won't need a future No. 1 pick. Wouldn't you like to have Cleveland's pick in 2012 if LeBron leaves the Cavaliers? It can't all be done in a day.


Davis, California: What is your opinion of NBC deciding not to show video of the luge crash this weekend?

Michael Wilbon: Good. People can go to YouTube or anywhere you want online and find it, I'm sure. What's the news value in that? What purpose does it serve? I'm glad NBC didn't show it. It's time news organizations showed some restraint, especially when taste and common sense are called for. It's an unspeakable tragedy, so do we need slo-mo replay and a yellow first-down line to analyze it? No, we don't.


New York, N.Y.: Mike, You think the Wiz got fair value for Caron and Haywood? I don't. For an all-star and a serviceable center, we basically got Howard, who, by all accounts, is not what he used to be. If the Wiz are blowing up the squad and starting from scratch, why not go for draft picks?

Michael Wilbon: Hopefully, you saw my earlier answer. First of all, you have to come reasonably close in matching salaries when you make these trades. Second, the value is in having the salary cap room to make trades. Suppose Carlos Boozer is on the trade block (and he is) and you want to deal for him and try to sign a free agent this summer? Having salary cap room makes you a player, either to add someone or to become the third party which allows you to facilitate trades and make out like a bandit.


Rockville Maryland: Mr. Wilbon (as Myron Rolle says!) With last night's blowout of Virginia following a disappointing showing at Cameron, Tony's comments about Vasquez being "just good enough to get you beat" come to mind. So, in your opinion, how far does Maryland go if the tourney started tomorrow?

Michael Wilbon: Who knows? There's no great team out there this year, no Super team. Maybe Kentucky has greatness in them somewhere, but who else? Maryland isn't a finished product yet, though last night's win was an important one. Vasquez, by the way, played brilliantly last night against Virginia. 30 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers. That's right, no turnovers. The kid played a perfect game. Last night he was good enough to get Virginia beat. I think Maryland has some real nice parts and if they can steal one at N.C. State tomorrow, they could finish in the top three in the ACC, and who thought that was possible!


Springfield, Va.: Traditionally, basketball, hockey and wrestling are played during the winter months. Why is hockey the only one that played the Winter Olympics?

Michael Wilbon: My producer Matt Kelliher says he read where hockey used to be in the Summer Olympics? How about that. I don't think Basketball was a demonstration sport as far back as 1904 but wasn't included as a full-time medal sport until 1936 in Berlin. James Naismith, the inventor of the game, actually presented the medals in 1936 and basketball was played outdoors that year ... If you get a chance, watch the hockey. Seriously. Olympic hockey is the greatest hockey in the world. I can't wait to watch.


Hagerstown, Md.: Mike,

David Stern is claiming the NBA is losing 400 million dollars this year. While that may look like a ploy to negotiate a better CBA with the Player's Union, I think there is a huge element of truth to it. You've advocated contracting the NBA to 24 teams, and I'm totally on board with that.

Short of that unlikely event, what do the two sides need to come together? Obviously the NBA has huge problems - the season is way too long, there is a clear competitive unbalance, and the games sometime look like meaningless "going through the motions".

Michael Wilbon: Are the games any more "going through the motion" than hockey and baseball, whose season is twice as long? Some of the criticism of the NBA is just criticism from people who don't like the league ... and that's fine. It's just that the source has to be considered. The league isn't going to contract, you're right ... though it should. The owners are trying to crush the union, period. The NBA wants to do with the players union what the NFL did to the players union in 1987, which is make the players crawl back. Now, NBA owners don't have the tool of "replacement games" that NFL owners had. And my bet is the NFL will use it again next year if it comes to that. But the NBA can't trot out just anybody in a Lakers uniform and expect people to pay $500 a seat to watch. The NBA sells stars, the NFL supresses stars (except for a half-dozen QBs that are essentially partners with the league). I think we're going to be seeing maximum salaries of $60 million ... 5 years, $12 million ... That's half of what Shaq made in 1996 when he left Orlando and went to Los Angeles. Will be fascinating to see how the rank-and-file players, who won't lose as much, react to the big stars making so much less, potentially. But clearly, salaries are going to plummet.


Washington, D.C.: Is Vasquez a top-5 Maryland player of all time?

Michael Wilbon: Look, I like watching Vasquez and he's put up some huge numbers at Maryland, but no, not even close. Maryland has people who played years and years in the NBA. He's behind Len Elmore and Tom McMillen, behind John Lucas who was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, behind Buck Williams, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, behind Len Bias and Adrian Branch, and because they won a title, behind Steve Blake and Juan Dixon. Now, he can climb that list if he leads Maryland to a Final Four, which is a lot to ask. He's had a wonderful career and clearly he's going to make some money playing professionally, whether here or abroad. He might be among the five most entertaining players Maryland has had.


Olympics: In thinking about Tom Shales column today, I found myself reviewing my own memories of olympic coverage by NBC and ABC. It is much easier for me to remember specific moments from ABCs coverage than to remember much from NBCs. I attribute this to the lack of actual sports action being televised by NBC. I make no secret of my disdain for NBC's coverage which may as well, in my opinion, be Oprah for Athletes given the number of armchair interviews compared to the amount of actual action. It is shocking that with 4 channels available NBC still doesn't seem to care about sports. Tom Shales: NBC wraps itself in well-deserved Olympics glory (Washington Post, Feb. 16)

Michael Wilbon: I haven't read Shales yet; I will later today because I always read Tom. I've taken to calling NBC's coverage "Lifetime Television." NBC has a specific agenda and meets it, and I'm okay with that. I jut don't watch. Keep in mind, I have very few memories from recent Olympics telecasts because I've attended nine Olympic Games, six Summer and three Winter. But I'll find the hockey tournament on MSNBC and see what I want. But the truth is, NBC doesn't need me or really want me. NBC wants an entirely different audiance, and evidence is they get it. This, after all, is business.


Top Five: Don't forget Joe Smith, Walt Williams, Keith Booth, Greg Manning, Albert King, Brad Davis and many others. I don't think Vasquez makes it in the top 20 all-time.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I thought of all those guys. Well, I did forget Joe Smith, who was the No. 1 overall pick. Walt Williams has to be higher up the list than Vasquez. I don't know about Booth and Manning. Brad Davis? Hmmm, a good case can be made. Albert King was so incredibly talented, but had on many levels a disappointing career. Anyway, he's not top 10, I think people who know the program's history would agree on that. But he's the best player Maryland has now and I'm interested to see how far he can lead them in March.


Burke, Va.: Concerning hockey being in the Winter vs. Summer Olympics, my guess is has more to do with the surface on which the game is played. I can't think of any Winter Olympic sports that don't involve ice or snow ...

Michael Wilbon: I guess they all have ice and snow, yeah...otherwise why have it in the winter ... I'll have to research this and see if anything was moved from winter to summer.


Washington, DC: If you were voting in the NFL Hall of Fame, who would you vote to go in first? Tim Brown, Andre Reed or Cris Carter?

Michael Wilbon: Well, I did vote for 10 years ... I think all three should go in. Who would I vote for first? Cris Carter ... Wasn't he eligible first, or was Andre Reed? All three deserve to be in, no question in my mind ... Cris Carter, I think of as one of the four or five best receivers in the modern era ... after Jerry Rice but right there with Michael Irvin.


Rockville Maryland: Mr. Wilbon, One other thing, I'm wondering your opinion -- considering the opening ceremony malfunction at the most inopportune time, the luge death and the sloppy snow conditions, do you think the 2010 Olympics is already doomed to be remembered as a disaster, or if not, what do you think could salvage it?

Michael Wilbon: Great performances shape the way we think about everything. I grant you, it's not off to a great start. But it's early in the games. Let's not pronounce them a disaster just yet.


NBC: Uh, NBC showed video of the crash ... multiple times ... in slomo ... at 7:30pm ... when my kids thought they could watch the Opening Ceremonies. Clearly gruesome and uncalled for.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that ...


Washington, D.C.: Will Ovechkin win Olympic Gold and then the Stanley Cup this spring?

Michael Wilbon: I'm sure he'd rather win the Stanley Cup than the Olympics, right? Maybe I'm being presumptuous about that and shouldn't. Wouldn't you think guys would rather win the Stanley Cup than Olympic gold? This is a PTI question for later today ...


Fairfax, Va.: So what do you think of the Cavs trying to get Stoudemire? He and Shaq didn't exactly play well together in Phoenix.

Michael Wilbon: I hear now that Shaq might not be in Cleveland if Stoudemire is there. How about that? But if I'm the Suns and I can get Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert for Stoudemire (big "if") I'm taking that deal instead of whatever Cleveland can give me ... And don't get me wrong, the Hickson kid on the Cavaliers is coming on like gangbusters. But A.I. and Big Sam would help the Suns right now climb the ladder in the west. There are all kinds of rumors about Shaq having to be included the deal ... including coming to Washington, D.C. where the Wizards would benefit from $20 million more in salary cap relief.


Arlington, Va.: Vasquez will not be in the NBA. He is a good guard in a bad conference. He beats up the tomatoes and runs up good numbers. When he plays against good opposition his lines are always atrocious.

Michael Wilbon: Fair point. You'll notice I said, "whether here or abroad" when it comes to his professional basketball career. Regardless, I like the kid.


Breaking News: I just heard on ESPN980 with Doc/coach etc ...

About a potential Wizards trade with Jamison and Mike Miller for Shaq!

are you kidding me? Would Shaq retire?

Michael Wilbon: Okay, it's out there. I can't imagine Shaq even reporting to the Wizards ... not that they should care. The team would be getting benefit of that huge number ... Wow, you can't see Shaq in a Wizards uniform, can you?


Takoma Park, Md.: Hockey was played at the 1920 Summer Olympics because the Winter Games didn't start until 1924. I also think that volleyball, wrestling, boxing, etc. should have been added to the Winter Games instead of the more X-Games style skiing and snowboarding events. They could use the attention.

Michael Wilbon: I like that, actually. I like your suggestion. Won't happen. Boxing is too much a big part of the Summer Games. Look at the U.S. boxers who were introduced to us through the Summer Games. Ali, Joe Frazier, Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Mark Breland, Pernell Whitaker, on and on...Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba was an Olympic fixture. Boxing, for me (and I covered it six times) is one of the Olympic highlights.


Richmond, Va.: How about some props for Darrell Green apparently running a 4.43 40 on his 50th birthday. If it were Deion claiming it, I wouldn't believe it, but I guess I believe Darrell. I wonder if his son Jared, a wide receiver at U-Va., can out-run his dad ...

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I talked to D. Green last night and he told me about the 4.43 ... Hell, how many cornerbacks out there right now can run a 4.43? Wouldn't you take that coming out of college right now? Happy 50th to D. Green. Welcome to the club!


One More Terp: There was a pretty good guard by the name of Steve Francis, too.

Michael Wilbon: Let us not forget Steve Francis, who I tend to forget in these discussions because he played only two years at Maryland. But Steve was a terrific player ... Saw him last night at the game.


Michael Wilbon: Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI ... Christine Brennan is our guest today from Vancouver. I'll try and answer six, seven more questions tonight and post them on World Wide Wilbon tomorrow morning ... Look forward to them and seeing if this Shaq-to-the-Wizards trade is going to actually happen ... Goodness, we'd need a special edition chat just for that! have a great week everybody ... MW


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