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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Olympics, Wizards, NBA, college basketball and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 1, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, Feb. 22 to discuss the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, the NBA, 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

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos

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Washington, D.C.: Lacrosse, not hockey, is the national sport of Canada, no matter how many television commentators, or radio talk show hosts discuss Canada's hockey team.

Michael Wilbon: We begin with humor today. Hi everybody! We'll jump right into the end of the Olympics and my impressions of certain elements, college hoops, NBA and maybe some other stuff ... This first comment I posted just to have a laugh at the expense of somebody who's too oblivious to matter...But a light touch is fun every now and then ... here we go:

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Washington, D.C.: Big if, but if Blatche shows this type of game consistently the rest of the year, does Washington become a legit free agent destination?

Michael Wilbon: No. Not just yet. But let me start with a nod to Blatche. This kid has taken an opportunity and run like the wind with it. His current/former teammates have told me multiple times over the last few years how little he works, how he cannot find the weight room without a GPS, how they were afraid he was going to waste his enormous talent ... and then BOOM! When the big chance came along he jumped on and is on some kind of roll. We're not talking going from 8 points and 5 rebounds to 14 and 8, or something like that, which would be very impressive. We're talking about 30-plus points and double-digit rebouding. It's a wow! This is clearly what Ernie Grunfeld saw when he drafted the kid out of high school. And look, it's not like Ernie never does this. He took Michael Redd (I believe in the second round, by the way) to replace Ray Allen and Redd, before these gruesome injuries, largely did that as a scorer. So Grunfeld is a guy you want on draft night. Thing is, you shouldn't have to clear our your whole team before a kid decides to play. Whatever it is, opportunity and getting scared it was all slipping away or something else, Blatche looks like an All-Star NBA player since the trade. Now, doing it for 7 games is a rather small sample size. Does he stay interested? Motivated? Will he take off the baby fat and put on 20 pounds of muscle? Will he be coachable as his star rises? All questions that seven great games can't answer. But wow, the raw material is all there. Does he want it badly enough or is he Andrew Bynum? It's perhaps the No. 1 question worth getting an answer to these last five weeks of the Wizards season.

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Olympic Hockey MVP: Mike,

As a Sabres fan, I'm not saying Ryan Miller didn't deserve the MVP award, but why is there an Olympic MVP award? Does he get an extra medal or something ?

Michael Wilbon: My opinion is there should NOT be an MVP award. The Olympic teams sports shouldn't acknowledge individuality. And if there is going to be such an award a player on the losing team who lets in the losing goal shouldn't get it. Don't get me wrong, Ryan Miller was GREAT in the Olympics. He was the 1st, 2nd and 3rd star of the Games for the U.S. team. They're not even in the Gold medal game if not for Miller. But hey, he was on the losing team and gave up the goal in OT that won it for Canada. See, part of what's wrong with these awards is Miller was announced the winner of the award before the game was even over. How's that? I don't even know who on the Canadian team "should" win it. Crosby, without that goal, would have gone three games without a point. So, I don't know...Get rid of the award; it's unnecessary to the Olympic Games.

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Montgomery County: So what is your current assessment of the Wizards, still worst than New Jersey?

Michael Wilbon: Better than the Nets, actually. And I'll happily eat crow for saying on trade deadline night that the Wizards had fallien behind the Nets. Well, they haven't. And Blatche is the primary reason the Wizards are ahead of the Nets, who did (to be fair) score a pretty big win Saturday afternoon when they won in Boston, sending Celtics nation into a panic. But if you're asking me whose personnel I'd rather have ... hmmm ... Blatche/Al Thornton/Randy Foye or Robin Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. I think I'm taking the Nets guys. Lopez is the guy I'd take first on a draft board of those six players, right? Maybe Blathe is now second. Hell, maybe Blatche will prove to be the best player of the six.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of the Wizards, what does the recent play of this team say about Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison? As much as they gave to the team over these last years, ya gotta think they (especially Butler) were doggin it this year. We're better with Al Thornton and Andray Blatche? Wow.

Michael Wilbon: No, you're not better with Thornton and Blatche now. It's been a handful of games. Don't get silly.

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Barno, Md.: Is Greivis Vasquez your ACC player of the year? You going to be at the Duke-Md. game on Wednesday?

Michael Wilbon: I think he has to be, right. Jon Scheyer of Duke would be the other guy to seriously consider. But Vasquez had 41 in a game on the road (Saturday at Va. Tech) and 25 in a half to lead a rout of Virginia. You NEVER see that kind of scoring in college hoops. Okay, Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant had those kinds of games. But it's rare in the time since Chris Jackson at LSU to see that kind of scoring. What I'm wondering now is whether Vasquez can lead Maryland deep into the NCAA Tournament. Will I be at the Duke-Maryland game Wednesday? Yes, Sir. Wouldn't miss it. Can't wait. They're playing for a share of the ACC lead and it's Duke vs. Maryland and the Terps are still stinging from that blowout loss in Durham. Isn't that the last time Maryland lost? I think the Terps have won five straight since then. They're 13-3 since the William & Mary loss. They lost at Wake, at Clemson and at Duke. Maryland's got a toughness now that I like for March. Cannot WAIT for that Wednesday game.

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Bethesda, Md.: I submitted this question last week and still interested in your opinion ... after the Cavs- Nuggets game last week when LeBron missed a potential game winning shot, he stormed off the court immediately without bothering to shake anyone's hands or pass along any words to his supposed good friend Carmelo Anthony. My question is shouldn't LeBron get some heat for his lack of sportsmanship? A lot of kids watch this guy and he can't even demonstrate an ounce of good sportsmanship on national tv nonetheless? I know "he's such a competitor" and all, but at the end of the day, it's just a game. I wouldn't nitpick at something like this, but I'm fairly sure this is a recurring trait of LeBron and something he should be more scrutinized for.

Michael Wilbon: I think this is a very legit question and I believe this is an area where LeBron just has to get better. HAS TO. Somebody in the NBA, like David Stern, should take him aside very quietly and talk to him about shaking hands after games. Keep in mind, it's not like hockey where shaking hands is mandatory and sometimes guys nod to one another, or wave and keep walking. That's common in basketball, but LeBron's the face of the game. He's got to do better in this area, for himself, for the league and for the kids who follow his every move.

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Norwood, Mass.: Can Gary Bettman really be short-sighted enough to not allow the NHL players in the 2014 Olympics?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, he can ... Sports executives are great at convincing themselves whatever they believe is right and simply has to be. In this case, Bettman's deputies had better convince him otherwise. It would be incredibly stupid to not play in the 2014 Winter Games, especially since it appears the Russian players are going to leave their club teams and compete regardless of what the NHL does. Just look at the goodwill, look at the perception of the league's players today versus three weeks ago. If the NHL isn't smart enough to capitalize on this in some way, the people who run the league, Bettman and the folks who advise him, should be ashamed of themselves. I think they'll get it right. There's too much money in it, internationally, to get it wrong.

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Chantilly, Va.: Can you talk a bit about how much -- if any -- motivation plays in professional athletics? As a Caps fan, it was an extra little twist of the knife to have Sid Crosby score the OT game-winning goal. Talk about "gold"en boy now! Does that motivate Ovie at all, that his biggest rival and alleged nemesis is the big hero? Or does that not factor in at all?

Michael Wilbon: It should be a factor. And motivation is huge. Magic Johnson talks all the time about paying attention to every single thing Larry Bird and the Celtics did. And Bird talks about the same thing. By the way, and this won't sit well here in Washington with Capitals fans, but Crosby is so far ahead of Ovechkin right now Ovie would need a telescope to see him. Crosby, not yet 22, has won the Stanley Cup (by going through Ovechkin), the Olympics (again, by going through Ovehckin) and the World Championships ... He's lapped Ovie, who by the way, behaved wretchedly during the Games when he shoved the camera of some woman, reportedly a fan who had traveled thousands of miles to see her heroes on the Russian team play. Ovechkin--and I'll deal with this in more detail in a post on World Wide Wilbon later today--is bordering on out of control. He'd do well to get himself under enough control to concentrate soley on leading his team to victory because that's all Crosby seems fixed on.

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College Station, Texas: Will the Aggies (Men) make it pass the second round of NCAA basketball tournament ?

Thanks,

Michael Wilbon: What do you think this is, the Aggie Daily News?

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Anonymous: Is it football season yet?

Michael Wilbon: We just had some massive computer failure here, so I'm trying to quickly answer a question about Julius Erving's recent 60th birthday and what people of this generation think about him as a professional basketball player, considering he is usually left out of the discussion of great all-time players.

And what I was saying is that Erving was THE key transitional player, as the NBA went from below to above the rim, from sports to sports/entertainment, from mostly white to mostly black, from the Celtics dynasty to a more competitive league, from restrained to expressive. Julius was a rookie in the ABA in 1971. Wilt was old and battling the Knicks. Russell had retired two years earlier. Huge Afros were about what, five to six years old. The NBA, remember, didn't get the best of Julius. Yes, he won a championship in 1983 but that was a dozen years into his career. He was, what, 33 or so. He had that great season in 1977, the year of the ABA-NBA merger, but his 76ers couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals against Bill Walton's Portland team. Anyway, the high-flying Doc belonged to the ABA, those first five years...and most of us didn't get to see him because the ABA games weren't nationally distributed. Imagine missing the first five years of Michael Jordan's career! Anyway, Julius wasn't the player Magic/Bird/Kareem/MJ were. But he was nearly as important to the league because he bridged two generations of basketball and ushered the league into modern times that more closely resemble what's played and consumed now, both as sport and as entertainment.

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WaPo Newsroom: So, Kornheiser gets suspended for criticizing a collegue at ESPN on his radio show, does Junior get the same treatment at the Post for calling you out regarding the Tiger situation ... -paraphrasing ... "If Mike still wanted to be a Professional Journalist..]?

Michael Wilbon: I don't need Junior to get suspended. Junior caught an earful of language and heat that was both deserved and will stay private. I'll match my credentials as a journalist with John Feinstein anytime. Junior has often mistaken his opinion with fact and with legitimacy. Thing is, my father didn't raise me to be subservient to Junior, or anybody else. My opinions about Tiger Woods or any other issue are mine and I could give a damn about what Feinstein or anybody else things about them. The only thing special about Feinstein's opinions is that they're his. And I let him know that in very specific language that best belongs on HBO.

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Chicago: Wait, Ovechkin is "out of control" because he is . . . unhappy with losing? When Tiger or Jordan or your other favorites are unhappy with losing, that's a good thing, according to you.

Michael Wilbon: did you ever see Michael Jordan push a person's camera in her face. Don't suggest, because you'll clearly do anything to excuse Ovechkin and anything he doesn, that other great athletes shove cameras out of people's hands. The reports from Vancouver are that the woman suffered bruises. You show me when Jordan or Tiger did that. It's also interesting to me, and you might be included in this though you might not, that white athletes are never held to the same standard of behavior as black athletes. Had Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James done this is would be painted as "those thug basketball players." Where's the intolerance over Ovechkin's behavior? Where are the columns screaming for him being discipllined? What kind of garbage is that? There is video of it, too. What, is it okay for a white player to shove a fan with a camera? Don't make up garbage and attribute it to a player like Jordan, who was never involved with shoving anybody. Ovechkin, according to other players in the NHL, deals out cheap shots. His own coach, if you remember the stories and stop making up accusations about others, said his star was being out of control. I'll take his word for it, though there will be plenty like you, I'm afraid, who'll try to brush this off as nothing, instead of wondering whether the Capitals star needs to be reigned in...

Okay, I've got to run and prepare for PTI and tape the guest segement with Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl...See everybody next week, same time, same channel. MW

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