The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Bode Miller, US Canada,Tiger Woods, Olympics, NBA trades, Wizards and more

In his first public statement since allegations of infidelity arose in November, Tiger Woods issues a public apology on Friday.
Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, February 22, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 1:15 p.m. to discuss the redemption of Bode Miller, the U.S. vs. Canada stunning hockey upset in Vancouver, Tiger's apology, the Olympics, NBA trades, the Wizards, college basketball 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

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New York, N.Y.: Mike,

Just wanted to get your take on the Ilgauskus/Wizards situation. Do you think it's fair for the Wizards to buy him out just so he can return to the Cavs?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody ... we'll jump right into the NBA and the Olympics. One I'm neck-deep in; the other, not so much. Still, both as well as college hoops are big news now. Tiger is the biggest news, still, but I'm worn out on the Tiger topic ... maybe we'll touch on it. Anyway, yes, I think the Ilgauskas buy-out and return to the Cavaliers is fair. It's not the first time it's happened. The Celtics did it five years ago with Gary Payton, who returned to the Celtics after being dealt before the trade deadline. Other teams have done it, so why is it a crime now that the Cavaliers and Wizards have done it? Because it was (wink-wink) agreed upon beforehand? Like the Celtics didn't have an agreement in place when they traded Payton for Antoine Walker and got him back? Are you kidding me? Make it against the rules, then we won't have to talk about whether it's fair or not. Close the loophole. It's the league's fault, not the fault of the teams for taking advantage of it. If you don't want certain to have certain personnel situations take place, make a hard-and-fast rule against it, period. This ain't hard, people. It really isn't. Until then, Ilgauskas should be able to go back to Cleveland or wherever he wants for the remainder of this season, if the Wizards execute the buy-out.


Southern Maryland: Boswell and Jenkins both criticize Tiger Woods for revealing little or nothing of his real self. Jenkins wrote, "What's too bad about Woods's protective, defensive strategy is that his underlying assumption is that we can't or won't sympathize with the real him." To play devil's advocate, why would that protectiveness be objectionable? Obviously it presents a logistical problem if he expects forgiveness from golf fans. But I might have a problem with that protectiveness only if I was in a relationship with Tiger. It may be natural for celebrities to be guarded in public even when they stay true to their spouses.

Michael Wilbon: I'm sick and tired of people in the media, my dear friends Boz and Sally included, acting like they are experts all the damn time on what's real or not, telling people how to act, what to do, what questions to answer, whom to sleep with. I'm tired of it. I'm offended -- and now I'm not talking about Boz or Sally--by people I KNOW to be philandering hypocrites going on television and talking about how Tiger should live his life when they've indulged in the exact same behavior. You can see it on every network, trust me. I've hung out with some of these guys (and women). I KNOW what they've done and how they live their lives. You would think this is the first guy in the history of America to have affairs. Men and women have been cheating on their spouses for the entire history of civilization, and now Tiger Woods...he's the guy! He's the one! His is the worst cheating in the history of the world? It's the most sickening media behavior I've ever seen and it has a lynch-mob mentality. I really shouldn't even talk much about it because I'm going to be so angry. And just to reiterate my position: Tiger Woods' behavior, like that of any philandering person, is between him and his family, and in his case because he allowed himself to be marketed in a certain way, some of his sponsors. It's none of my business, just like it's none of my business if one of my producers or editors or fellow reporters or my second cousin was philandering. That's probably my last word today on this because I've got the faces in my head of certain hypocrites who somehow feel that their cheating ways are okay and his aren't.


College Park, Md.: Hi Mike,

I can't believe the Terps aren't ranked in either Poll. They are 9-2 their last 11 games and just won three ACC games this week. What do we have to do to get ranked or at least some respect.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I don't get it either. Maryland has beaten Wake Forest, which had been ranked until today, and Georgia Tech which was ranked earlier in the year, and Florida State which was ranked 19th when Maryland beat them. Maryland is 28th right now. A win over Clemson will almost certainly get them into the top 20...If they beat Duke a week from Wednesday, that could vault Maryland into a share of first place in the ACC. Who knew? This Maryland team has something going on, something where the whole seems to be greater than the sum of the parts. Very nice to watch.


New York, N.Y.: Do you think the Knicks will keep Tracy Mcgrady if he plays well?

Michael Wilbon: Depends on what free agent(s) they sign or don't. If LeBron James goes there, no, I wouldn't expect T-Mac to stay. But if the Knicks "only" get Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudemire, then yes, I would expect them to take a long look at T-Mac. Very nice debut the other night.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hockey must be going through a rebirth right now because I'm watching it and liking it. For years, I've called the sport "dull on ice" and thought I was so clever.

But after seeing Alex Ovechkin play and make the Caps the only good team in town I started to pay more attention. And yesterday's USA Canada match was amazing. What a show. I'm hooked.

Michael Wilbon: Anybody joining this chat will know that since 1998 (I think we were chatting then) I've been saying that Olympic hockey is the best thing you've ever seen, certainly the best hockey tournament in the world. Don't just watch the U.S., if you have time, watch other games. The skill level is preposterously high, much higher obviously than an NHL game because every single player on every team is a world-class player, in terms of his skill level. No goons, no enforcers, no fighters, none of that junk. There's no roster space for it. It's fabulous to watch, fabulous.


Traverse City, Michigan: Is LeBatard bringing anything special to the party this week?

Michael Wilbon: You mean like champagne?


Houston, Texas: What do you think about the decision to play hockey on the standard North American sized surface versus an International surface for the Olympics? At first, I was disappointed because I thought it would limit a more free- wheeling wide-open game, but on the other hand, perhaps it actually helped a less skilled and slower team like team USA?

Michael Wilbon: You want to call the U.S. team "less skilled?" Really? I'll have to ask Barry Melrose about that. I think the U.S. team is pretty skilled. Brian Rafalski is pretty skilled, right. Miller is skilled. Patrick Kane is certainly skilled. Look what he's done with the Blackhawks. Chris Drury's been around 100 years and he scored last night. I don't know, maybe you're right. Maybe they're not that skilled. Maybe this team is better than the sum of the parts, too, which is okay actually.


San Francisco: Is there any critique of NBC's moronic decision to tape delay important Olympic events EVEN ON THE WEST COAST that has not already been said? I don't know, but the breathless "live" coverage of the hockey result, with no actual highlights, MORE THAN THREE HOURS LATE last night was particularly pathetic. Cris Collinsworth must be furious at having to be part of this.

Michael Wilbon: Confession: I'm not watching NBC. Not any of it. Not one second. The hockey is on cable, and I find that by clicking to MSNBC and CNBC. I find it somewhere. And I don't watch ice dancing. I don't watch figure skating. Never. Not ever. So, I don't know what Lifetime TV is doing with its coverage, and I won't know. I won't watch anymore skiing. I watched Lindsey Vonn a couple of times; she's all I care about other than the hockey ...


Silver Spring, Md.: Historically you said that the Wizards should get rid of Blatche -- with the recent round of changes has that view changed or softened?

Michael Wilbon: If they're going to be any good they'll have to get rid of him...or he'll have to have a sea change in terms of his work ethic and his ambition. As one Wizardsp player told me of Blatche, "He's been in the league five years and all he's gotten is older." Ouch. True, though. The kid is skilled, no question. But he's gained weight without muscle, which is inexcusable in this day and age when guys come into the league and look like Gumby as rookies, then The Hulk by their third and fourth seasons. Look at LeBron and Carmelo. Hell, look at Stephen Curry and the difference in his body from last year to THIS year. Blatche? Seriously. I once wrote that Blatche could only find the weight room if you put it in "da club." A Wizards player told me "only if you put it in the V.I.P. room at da club." Ouch. Again, skill without fanatic dedication ... does it ever work?


Arlington, Va.: Mike,

What's your take on the best trade in the NBA and the worst deal, including any deals that didn't get done.


Michael Wilbon: After watching Portland last night, with Marcus Camby at center, I think that trade could really make the Trailblazers better ... not a conference finalist or anything crazy. But Portland needed a center, what with Oden and Joel P. out for the season, and Camby had something like 15 rebounds and 5 blocks last night, although Utah came back from 25 down to win ... (Utah, boys and girls, is good ... they could be the Western Conference finalist). Anyway, T-Mac being in New York will probably do more for T-Mac than for the Knicks. But getting so far under the cap for next year is probably the No. 1 move. Same for the Bulls, who can both win 43, 44 games to make the playoffs AND sign at least one big free agent this summer. The Dallas deal for Caron and Haywood makes the Mavs so much better right now. But still, the Antawn-to-the-Cavs deal is the No. 1 deal. I know Cleveland has lost three straight but the Cavs are deep now. Antawn can negate the previous advantate held by a guy like Rashard Lewis of Orlando because he, too, can shoot or get into the post and score. 'Twan had 19 and 8 yesterday, recovered well from that dreadful first game in Cleveland. I like what the Cavs have done, and if they get Ilgauskas back, to me that's the No. 1 deal by a million miles, in terms of right now.


Reston, Va.: Ski Cross: The stupidest Olympic event ever, or merely one of the stupidest Olympic events.

The qualifying round was incredibly dull as it featured a single skier riding down a short track. The group rounds were dull as dishwater, too, because there didn't seem to be any way for skiers to pass one another - the track was too narrow.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, I'll take your word for it...Again, not watching it ... which is strange, I'll grant you, for a guy who has covered three Winter Olympics and loved every second of it.


Chiseled NBA Players: Mike, your mention of how guys like LeBron come into the league with sculpted muscles reminds me of the lack of muscles college players had in the 80's, with one exception: Len Bias. Seeing him on film it is amazing how fit he was at a time when athletes weren't that way. Also sad.

Michael Wilbon: I know. I was watching ESPN Classic the other day and saw a game with Bias, and his body was SO much more a grown man body than anybody else in the game. He was so much more muscled than, say, Michael Jordan at the same time. Bias was an Adonis. Others were not. Still, when you get to the NBA and you can work at your craft 24/7, you get bigger and stronger and faster. Look at Gilbert Arenas from his rookie year to the time he led the Wizards to the playoffs in 2004. People underestimate the work professional athletes put into being professional athletes. Maybe they don't underestimate; they just are clueless about it. And if you're not working as hard as the hardest workers, you fall behind and it's harder to be great.


New Orleans: You don't watch speed skating (long and short track)? Filled with suspense and being highly technical, these events have attracted my attention the most so far. And it helps to have Apollo and Shani Davis to root for.

Michael Wilbon: I've watched all this stuff in my life, watched it all in person, talked to the people you're talking about. And I don't watch just to root for America. When you cover sports, you know athletes from all over the world. I'm watching critically, to see great performances no matter who is turning them in. I LOVE the speed skating in person. It's fabulous to watch. TV? It's okay to watch on TV. Davis is from Chicago so that means more to me, I guess. I certainly scan the Olympic rosters to find out who comes from where I come from (Illinois) when the Games begin. I'm betting a lot of people do this. But it's great to watch the greatest athletes, American or not. I know people watch to root for their countries. But that's not the No. 1 attraction for me.


Columbia, Md.: Wizards win the last two of three (ok one was against the Timberwolves but they did beat the Nuggets). Any chance of sneaking in for the eighth spot?

Michael Wilbon: No. None. Milwaukee could get there...but the East is pretty set, isn't it. Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte, Miami ... That's what I'm guessing. The Wizards played well in those two games, actually all three. They played well for 90 percent of the game in Toronto. Interested to see what they'll do tonight against the Bulls, who have a four-game winning streak and think they're onto something. But no, the Wizards, now that they've decided to start from scratch, need the highest possible lottery pick. They need John Wall of Kentucky, not the No. 8 seed.


Cavaliers: What's up with the Cavaliers losing three straight? Is it just a question of integrating the new pieces and adjusting?

Michael Wilbon: Denver is something like 11-1 against Division leaders. They're like 22-11 against teams .500 or better and only 12-8 against teams .500 or worse. They get up for big games and have a good enough team to beat anybody. They popped the Lakers pretty good recently, so beating Cleveland is no surprise. Orlando SHOULD beat Cleveland at home. What was the third loss? Oh, at Charlotte. Well, not a good loss, but hardly a terrible one. I'm not concerned about Cleveland losing those three games.


Silver Spring, Maryland: How much has Tiger even marketed himself as a family man? I don't recall his family in any of his commercials. I don't think he has marketed any real family items. Maybe a Buick, but that's it. Other than occassionally bringing his family to the golf course, he hasn't really even presented himself as a family man. He actually take pains to protect his family.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, you would be on the money on this issue.


Leesburg, Va.: Mike,

Can you explain how the Antawn to the Cavs deal made sense for the Wizards? Is it simply a salary dump? I don't know, it just didn't make any sense to me. If the point of Salary-Dumping is to give you room to rebuild, why are you trading to make a conference "rival"(for lack of a better word) better? If the Wiz do rebuild, aren't they going to have to get through the (now better) Cavs in the years to come.

I see how it was a good deal for the Cavs, I don't see how it was a good deal for the Wizards.

Michael Wilbon: I outlined this in a column the night 'Twan was traded. One, the Wizards get rid of a $11.5 million salary (belonging to Ilgauskas). Two, the Wizards are now under the salary cap tax, which saves millions this year. Three, they got a first-round pick from Cleveland. Four, they got a nice young player from the Clippers, Al Thornton, who the Wizards were dying to draft, except the Clippers took him first. So, they got four things, all of which are hugely important when starting from scratch. And will the Wizards really be chasing Cleveland if LeBron leaves? Ummmm, no.


Eldersburg, Md.: Hi Mike,

Do you think the Duke Blue Devils have a real chance this year in the NCAA tournament? I mean, how far do you think they can/will go?

Michael Wilbon: To win it? No. Although, nobody out there is great. Kansas, to me, seems to be the best team. But there's no world beater out there. Duke is good. The Devils are always good. But they could go out in the second game, easily.


Bode Miller: How about giving some dap to Miller, who you crushed in 2006 for not winning anything after all the partying. I guess being a new father has made him a better skier.

Michael Wilbon: Good for him, and congratulations. You're absolutely right. I think not putting a ton of pressure on himself with his own mouth served him well. And now he's what he wanted to be previously: a well decorated Olympic champion.


Arlington, Va.: Mike,

You've covered lots of huge events in your career, Super Bowls, NBA Finals, and so on and so forth. How does the Olympics stack up in terms of the press experience and do you prefer them more or less than other big events?

Michael Wilbon: There's nothing like the Summer Olympics, nothing as large. Nothing in my life as a reporter was as big as covering the '84, '88 or '92 Olympics. Nothing. Think of the people (like Carl Lewis and Greg Lougains and Flo Jo and the Dream Team and the Cuban boxers, Zola Budd, Mary Decker. The 2000 Sydney Olympics was amazing. Watching Cathy Freeman win the 400 meters is the single most emotional experience I've ever had as a reporter. Nothing has come close to that, nothing ...) And watching Alberto Tomba in the Winter Games, The Herminator get up after what seemed like a fall to his death. The only thing that has ever come close -- and you have to realize how much I love the NBA Finals and the Final Four -- is a heavyweight fight. Watching Mike Tyson wallk into the ring to face Evander Holyfield. I get goosebumps writing about it. You're sitting too far away from a football field to feel that before the Super Bowl. In order of sheer size, it's the Summer Olympics, Super Bowl, Final Four, Winter Olympics, NBA Finals. I've covered my share of everything, MLB playoffs, everything, but the Summer Olympics ... there's nothing like it.


Washington, D.C.: After all of the coverage of the Olympics in Vancouver, you have to remind me again why the NBA thought it was a great idea to completely abandon the Pacific Northwest.

Michael Wilbon: Well, there is a team in Portland, which is the Pacific Northwest ... but I'm totally with you. A team in Memphis but not Vancouver? Oklahoma City but not Seattle? If somebody from the NBA office was in my ear right now they'd tell me all the hundreds of reasons those franchises had to move. I don't care. Vancouver, for my money, is the most beautiful, most cosmopolitan, most stylish, most diverse city in North America. And Seattle (after Chicago and Vancouver) is my favorite summertime city in North America. It seems ludicrous to leave those two cities, to me, but I didn't major in finance. I know the NBA has its reasons. It's too bad.


"...if LeBron Leaves?": What do you think the chances of LeBron leaving are? Do you think this year's playoff performance for the Cavs will have an impact, and if so, how?

Michael Wilbon: I go back and forth on this every single day. If he wins a championship for Cleveland, the first one in a million years, doesn't that make it easier for him to leave? Where would he go and be able to win the fastest? New York? No. They can't win anytime soon unless he goes there with Wade or Bosh or Boozer or Stoudemire. I don't know. Every day I change my mind on this and I wonder if he does, too. That will make every game involving Cleveland this spring so compelling.

... ok, gotta run and prepare for PTI now ... Thanks for chatting everybody. See you next week when the Olympics are actually over. Wow. But we'll be in March, boys and girls. Juices flowing, basketball rolling. Yes sir. See you then.


then don't hold a press conference: if it's none of our business, then don't go out of your way to remind us about it. the press conference was idiotic because it was as un-newsworthy and completely scripted as possible. for someone trying to win back fans, it backfired.

my (unsolicited) advice to Tiger -- let the golf do the talking. win the Masters, shut everyone up, and get the focus back on golf.

Michael Wilbon: Good point.


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