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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: NCAA Tournament, Final Four, Wizards and NBA

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 29, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 29 to discuss the Final Four, Tiger Woods's Masters return, the NCAA Tournament, the NBA, the Wizards 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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Anybody But Duke: Mike, can you help me understand why I (and seemingly lots of others) hate Duke? It's not because they win a lot (I root for North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State, etc.) It's not because they have had a lot of white players (I like Gonzaga, BYU, Wisconsin, etc.) It's not because they are great academically (I like Stanford, Princeton, Cornell, etc.) Plus, I have tremendous respect for Coach K. So what kind of character flaw makes me despise Duke?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody ... Happy Final Four, wherever you are. We'll jump right into the tournament. There are so many Duke-related questions we should start there, I suppose. I don't know why you, specifically, hate Duke, but I suspect it's the "all of the above" answer plus the way the national media fawns over Duke. I guess I'm thinking of television, specifically. ... When the tournament began there were folks who thought Duke was being set up with the easiest path to succeed and now, I suppose, those folks feel justified. But here's the problem with that: in a tournament full of upsets Duke survived. I know you could easily make the argument that Kansas shouldn't have drawn the toughest 8-9 seed winner, Northern Iowa. Still, Duke beat a legit No. 3 team playing well in Baylor ...

As far as simply "Duke hate" which seems to have become national sport, I just don't share in it. I have too much respect for how difficult it is for a small private school to consistently be a top-five basketball program and graduate 90 percent of its students. So, count me as a guy who fawns over Duke.

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Whitestone, N.Y.: Should Tiger's wife be at the Master from day one?

Michael Wilbon: If she wants to ... which would be my answer every year. If his wife was a lawyer or doctor should she skip work to be at The Masters? I don't think so. And I know what you're getting at, but who gives a damn if his wife is there? What should that matter?

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Mount Vernon, Va.: Why do so many pro athletes seem to have so little common sense? Arenas, Blatche, and Haynesworth come immediately to mind. Do they ever stop being knuckleheads and turn their careers around?

Michael Wilbon: For all the knuckleheads you mention in the big four sports I can counter with the David Robinsons and Darrell Greens and Cal Ripkens and Antawn Jamisons ... I can do that forever..we can play that game but it serves no purpose. There are a lot of knuckleheads for as many reasons as they are knuckleheads. Some grow up in circumstances that make their achievements staggering in context. Some need more formal education. A great many suffer from not having fathers in their lives. I don't want to sit here and play sociologist...you know the reasons. Some have every opportunity and just are fools. Some have too much too soon and others are smart and capable and can't resist the temptations that find 20-somethings with tens of millions of dollars. Some find themselves as they grow older; others don't. And I might venture that I know people in most every profession that, while they make usually less money, they have many of the same issues.

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Michican State: Izzo gets them to the final four 6 of the last 12 years ??? Why are they always a 5 seed ?

Michael Wilbon: They're not ALWAYS a 5 seed; I don't have the brackets from the last 15 years in front of me, but I'm sure MSU has been a No. 1 seed at some point. But the basic answer to your question is that seeding is based on regular season performance, not on the projection of how they'll do in the tournament based on past years. Michigan State's regular season performance merited a No. 5 seed; I don't think Tom Izzo would argue with that for one second.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What are your thoughts on the Baylor women's team? I thought it was interesting that Baylor was playing Duke on the same weekend in both tournaments.

Michael Wilbon: I want to see Baylor, with Brittany Griner, play U-Conn.. Isn't that the No. 1 attraction worth seeing in women's hoops now? I could care less about Baylor-Duke. All stories in women's basketball now involve undefeatead U-Conn. and whether there's anybody who can stop the Huskies. A 6-foot-8 shot blocking mega-talent like this young woman is someone worth seeing play U-Conn. ... That's the matchup I want to see.

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Somerville, Mass.: If Butler were to win it all, would we actually see mid-majors getting seeded on-par with the big conferences? Anyone who has seen Butler play knew there was no way this team was a 5 seed. More like a 2-3.

Michael Wilbon: A 5 seed means we're talking about a top-20 program, and Butler was certainly that. Okay, maybe they should have been a No. 3 seed. Either way, no, we're not going to see mid-majors in general getting higher seeds. Butler isn't some rule; we're talking about a team that has now won 24 straight games. Mid-Major or Major, this doesn't happen every day.

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Arenas: Think he starts at PG opening day next season for the Wizards? That's going to be interesting.

Michael Wilbon: Don't know ... There's just so much that has to be consumed and digested where it concerns the Washington Wizards and Gilbert Arenas. If the new owner, Ted Leonsis, doesn't want Ernie Grunfeld any longer than his promise that Arenas will be a part of the Wizards is empty ... completely useless. If you can trade him for something of value, then you do it. I think there are teams (Atlanta? Knicks?) who will need a scoring guard at the end of the free agent period this summer and Gil fits that bill, still (or at least we think). He's no longer one of the best players in the league, which Grunfeld said because he's trying to convince everybody out there Arenas is to raise his value. But suppose the Wizards draft Evan Turner? Would they then feel differently about getting rid of Arenas? There's just so much we don't know. If Flip is still the coach, I wouldn't have Gilbert. The only real criticism of Flip, who's a damn good coach, is that he's totally ineffective when confrontation is called for. This was the rap on him in Detroit and we saw from last week's debacle with Andray Blatche that the rap is still merited now. My inclination would be to deal Gil, even if I only got 75 percent in return.

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Ellicott City, Md.: Do you think Gilbert Arenas will realize how lucky he was?? I mean, all he got was a slap on the wrist...What do you think will happen for him next ???

Michael Wilbon: He'll play in the NBA and average 20 points a game for somebody, who will pay him $70-some million over the next four years ... or close to that. That's what will happen next.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike,

I strongly believe that anybody who attempts to distract Tiger Woods while he's playing the course should be thrown out of there on his/her EAR! Golf tournaments have a SPECIFIC poilcy about fan conduct during the Thursday through Sunday sessions. I'm very sure they aren't going to change that conduct policy just for a few knuckleheads to "exercise their Freedom of Speech" and yell some stuff because they don't like Tiger no more (or never have liked him).

Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: At Augusta National, people will be paying strict attention to behavior codes or they will be thrown out, period. I think that's fine and fair for Augusta. But if people want to scream and holler at the tournament here in Scottsdale, as is the tradition, I believe that's okay, too. Tiger can't be protected forever from questions or hecklers, and if he thinks he can he'd better find a new line of work.

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Vienna, Va.: Els has looked reasonably impressive so far this year. Does he have the kind of game that sets up well for the Masters?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, absolutely. But doesn't The Masters come down to putting and nerves almost every year? I don't see Ernie winning in Augusta, though it would make for a very nice story.

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Somerville, Mass.: Now that Ted Leonsis looks like he will close on the Wiz, do you see him turning them around the way he did the Caps? What are some of the things out of the gate that you would envisioning him doing?

Michael Wilbon: Well, you can count on a better game experience. The Wizards game night is weak. I'm talking music, what happens during the timeouts, the Anthem. The Capitals have a superior product on game nights, and that can be flipped almost overnight. Arenas has made it so Ted cannot change the franchise name back to the Bullets, which I think he might have wanted to do. He can have whoever is running the basketball operation listen to the scouts who know how to find players in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. The Wizards have been woeful in searching the world for talent ... Actually, the scouts KNOW where the players are; the club hasn't acted that way on draft night. That, to me, is wasting the work of some very talented scouts. Oberto is an international player, but who else? Look at the rosters of the successful teams since the Bulls after the Dream Team summer of 1992 and they have people like Toni Kukoc, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, Anderson Varejao, Nene, Hedo Turkoglu, Dirk. These are people who have won championships or been in the Finals or conference finals. The Wizards are like a 1990 team in this regard, and that's not good enough. The talent search has to expand. And surely Ted is comfortable with that, given the star of his team is Russian. That's just my take on some of the places the Wizards have to get better.

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Sam- Germantown, Md.: Hey Mike,

Thanks for the weekly chats. What athlete have you covered surprised you the most as far them being the opposite of their public persona ?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know that I counter that many who are "opposite" their public persona. Chad Ocho Cinco is a much softer spoken person when the TV lights are off. Deion Sanders knows he created a character that isn't CLOSE to what he's like if you're having dinner. But most guys are portrayed in ways that capture their personalities fairly, or close to it. I'll tell you one who on the court is totally different than off: Kenyon Martin ... tough guy on it, so engaging to talk to after the game is over.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you ever seen a team as good as Syracuse choke in the manner this year's team did? They outplayed Butler in almost every facet of the game: they shot better from the field, shot better from three-point range, rebounded better, had more assists, played excellent D. But when you turn the ball over 18 times it's almost impossible to win. Many of the turnovers were with limited to no pressure. Were you as shocked by this (not the loss, but the way they lost) as I was?

Michael Wilbon: Troubled? No. I'm not a Syracuse alum, though I very much like the Orange coach, Jim Boeheim. How about Kentucky missing 13 of 25 FTs or whatever it was? That's not choking? I thought Syracuse had trouble feeding the post because of good defense, but maybe that's just me.

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Washington, D.C.: Is there anyone from this year's tournament that you think played himself into a first round NBA pick?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know who was on the cusp, but I will say the kid on Xavier (Jordan Crawford). THAT kid played himself higher into the first round. Jacob Pullen on K-State is pretty small. He might go from mid-second to high second or early second to late first. Clemente might have played himself up as well. What I find most often though is that NBA scouts attach far less significance to NCAA appearances exclusively than the rest of us do. It's a part of what they evaluate because you want to see a kid under pressure ... but we're past the time now where a kid like Kentucky's Jack Givens can play himself WAY up the board and then have not much of a NBA career. On the other hand, it's possible a kid like Sean May of UNC played himself way up the board a few years ago, when I never thought he was an NBA player.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Mike, do you think Tiger wants to win this years' Master's more than any other time previously or professionally speaking do you think it would hold equal weight in his mind with his other Master's/majors?

Michael Wilbon: I think if he comes out of this Masters wearing another green jacket it would vault to the No. 1 or No. 2 spot of all his majors ... well, maybe No. 3 after his first Masters, in 1997, and the U.S. Open on a broken leg in 2008 ...

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Manassas, Va.: Last week you wrote two articles about the Management styles between the Wizards and the Redskins on consecutive days. (I am taking the stand here that coaching is a part of management). In one article you said that the Wizards blew it with discipline, thus continuing the atmosphere of losing. The next day you blasted the Redskins for being too dictorial with their players ... Please what explain what your reasoning is behind this and just how would you run a team. Just felt like those two pieces were a bit contradictory.

Michael Wilbon: There's a lot of room between maintaining discipline and order and trying to tell your players what time they should take a nap. In the NFL, where tou have to control more people, different methods are necessary to oversee everything. I get that. But my criticism was pretty specific. If something is optional, you don't penalize people for not participating. If it's important enough for you to make them attend, it ain't optional. That's a matter of language, not management style. But NFL coaches want EVERYTHING to be mandatory. If we're talking the NBA, you can look at some pretty successful coaches (Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich) who insist on discipline but don't feel the need to order your life or tell you where to be every minute you're not in the gym.

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Why we hate Duke: Why we hate Duke - they get more calls than AT&T!

At first I thought it was just me but a local sportcaster was also complaining about it last night. And they drew such a cakewalk bracket (Nova, really Nova, was the next best team?) Even I picked that that bracket almost perfectly.

Duke makes the tournament look like those reality shows like Project Runway where the closing credits say the producer may have a role in the outcome. The image is that the tourney is crowning the top team but in the end the appearance is that the committee tries to shepherd the outcome.

Michael Wilbon: I'm running this comment because there seem to be so many like it, in one form or another. I think that CBS and the NCAA are happy if Duke, UNC, UCLA, Kentucky are deep in the tournament...just like I KNOW the NBA and ABC/ESPN/TNT are happy if the Lakers, LeBron and high profile teams of the moment are deep in the NBA playoffs. It's called business. Do I think they competition is rigged? No, I don't. Not ever. Do I think there at times is a climate that at time favors the big stars? Absolutely, yes. Like refs in the SEC making calls in favor of Florida and Alabama a half-dozen times during the 2009 season ...

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Woods-Mickelson paired: for the first two rounds at Augusta. Would the ratings be off the charts or WHAT? Do you think the tournament big wigs would even think about that match up?

Michael Wilbon: "Think about" matching them up? Sure. Will they do it? I doubt it. But since Phil has said he'd love it, I'd put it to the test. Remember, though, the first two rounds of The Masters get so little live TV coverage...I don't know how much the ratings will be helped if Phil/Tiger play Thursday morning but the coverage is from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, or something like that. It's not like the U.S. Open or PGA Championship where it starts at 11 a.m. and goes until nearly 8 p.m.

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22201: What do you think about the strength of the Big East Conference given that West Virginia ... WEST VIRGINIA ... is the conference's Final Four representative?

Michael Wilbon: The Big East is like every other conference in the country this year in one extremely important way: nobody was great...No team was great, no conference was great, which means everybody was vulnerable. That's what we just saw for two weekends.

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New Orleans: Did Evan Turner solidify himself as the best player in college basketball with that one man performance against Tennessee?

Also, is he expected to play point guard in the NBA or will he be moved to the 2/3 position?

Michael Wilbon: I love him, I think he's the best player in the country. But he also turns the ball over too damn much, which is a big reason that Ohio State didn't win that game. I think he's simply a basketball player that doesn't need to be described by position. What was Scottie Pippen all those years, even when he was young? Sometimes he was a point guard or point forward, sometimes a small forward. Part of that will be determined by where he plays. If he plays with Gilbert Arenas, what will he be then?

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Odenton, Maryland: It's not that athletes such as Arenas or Haynesworth are more knuckleheaded than Joe Commuter; it's simply more people notice when Arenas or Haynesworth make mistakes.

Michael Wilbon: That's the point I was making at the end of that response, that there are knuckleheads in every industry.

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International Talent: Don't forget Luc Longley!

Michael Wilbon: Point made. He does have three NBA championship rings...There are so many others. Luis Scola is more complete a big man than anybody the Wizards have had in years and years...Orlando relied on more subtle contributions last year from a Frenchman, Michael Pietrus. Leandro Barbosa, the Brazilian Blur, has been the NBA's 6th man of the year. The Celtics seem to have an all-American team, but it's rare these days, and seems almost impossible to build that way with any real success.

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Milwaukee, Wisc.: Milwaukee Bucks are 16-4 since the John Salmons trade. What was Chicago's thinking in trading him?

Michael Wilbon: The Bulls were trying to clear cap room for the 2010 free agent bonanza ... Question is: what Vinny Del Negro using him correctly? It seems to have backfired terribly.

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Evan Turner's turnovers: In fairness to the guy, the turnover numbers are inflated because he's playing a lot of point guard in college ... he's not a PG in the NBA.

Michael Wilbon: Maybe you're right. Maybe. Perhaps this is a signal he should be a swing in the NBA and not have primary ballhandling responsibilities.

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Duke is Dallas: I think the Duke haters arrived at this place purely by media hype. Great program, great coach - but never as good as the amount of attention presented. But lots of schools have equally as great of programs and coaches ... but they did not get the all roads lead to Duke non-sense.

Quick - most effective Duke player in the NBA, ummmmmmmm, multiple entries multiple busts. Yeah, I know a couple exceptions, but mostly busts.

Michael Wilbon: They've won three NCAA championships under Coach K. That cannot be explained away with non-sense?

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Arlington, Va.: When it's all said and done for Coach K, where do you see him ranking on the list of all-time best college coaches? Somewhere between John Wooden and Bobby Knight, or..?

Michael Wilbon: If he wins a fourth title he passes Bob Knight, who won three. Nobody catches Coach Wooden, ever. So yes, between the two is about right. But closer to Knight.

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Tampa: Mike, you've probably addressed this before, but Martha Burk's piling on Woods is absurd. He doesn't own anyone outside of his family an apology. What a ridiculous society we've become. His behavior appears to be outrageous, but its nothing to do with me.

Michael Wilbon: I didn't even know Martha Burke was piling on. She's so unimportant. I wouldn't go to her for her point of view on this in a million years. And I don't care about it now. Thing is, there's a lot of space to fill these days in publications and on 400 channels. We shouldn't be surprised.

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WDC: Should Tiger's wife be at the Master from day one?

Michael Wilbon: If she wants to...which would be my answer every year. What should that matter?

But this year. The answer to the question: "Should Tiger be at the Masters?" is also "If she wants him to."

Michael Wilbon: No, the answer is, "If he wants to be." Theirs wouldn't be the first marraige to break up over these issues. It's not a national catastrophe. He's a golfer, and he was before they met. And if their is a situation where he just has to sit in his home office holding his head for the next two years, then what would be the point of continuing on with that situation. If he wants to be at The Masters, he should be. And if she doesn't want to go she shouldn't. And if she doesn't want to be in that marraige, then she won't. And NONE of it is really my business, which is why ultimately I don't much care. I, selfishly I admit, want to see Tiger play golf. That's it. Hell, I KNOW THESE GUYS and I don't concern myself with their marraiges and who they sleep with. Why should the rest of you? Please, 99 percent of you don't know who your bosses or brothers or sisters are sleeping with. But Tiger's sleeping preferences should keep him away from Augusta National? Please. See, you got me on a rant again.

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More on Knuckleheads: And if you yearn for the past, just remember that yesterday's heroes got a complete pass on driving drunk and beating their wives.

Michael Wilbon: Bingo! very good ... absolutely true.

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knuckleheads: Amen. You wouldn't believe the knuckleheads I work with. They make Gilbert look as wise as Obama.

Michael Wilbon: Ha! I've sat beside a few in the press box in my day.

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Why we hate Duke, continued...: The fact that people were still pumping Jon Scheyer as ACC Player of the Year when it was obvious to the world that Vasquez had the better year tells you all you need to know. Duke is the Yankees of the NCAAs in terms of the way media fall all over themselves to promote.

Michael Wilbon: Duke didn't promote that. Don't blame Duke. Don't you know the difference between networks promoting and a school doing it?

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Lexington, Kent.: Has Kentucky proven yet again that you can not win with one-and-done atheltes? Do you agree that college b-ball has suffered in the past 15 years because of this transient talent?

Michael Wilbon: Yep, the sport at both levels has suffered. The college game (other than Florida) rarely has great teams anymore and the pro game gets flawed players who don't know the game, haven't learned how to practice and can't accept coaching/criticism. Both levels have been hurt. Imagine if John Wall and DeMarcus has to stay at Kentucky to play a second season. Think of how much better they'd be.

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Laurel, Md.: Can you tell us what was the point of the Wizards participating in the non-trade for Zydrunas Ilgauskas?

Michael Wilbon: His $13 million contract or whatever it is expires at the end of the season. Cap room, relief from luxury tax...That allows a team to sign a free agent or (in the Wizards case) upgrade through making trades this summer and next.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike -- Is it at all possible for the media to lay off Tiger at the Masters and just let the man play golf? That's really all that's relevant to us fans at this point -- Tiger's play on the course. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: No, that's not what's relevant to a whole lot of people...A ton of folks care about who Tiger slept with far more than how he negotiates Amen Corner. You're wrong. You and I care how he plays the course. I think we're in the 35 percent minority...

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re: Scheyer: Duke DID promote Scheyer for ACC player of the year ... they passed out fliers at the U-Md. game to all the media.

Michael Wilbon: Okay fine, you think Maryland didn't promote Vasquez? That's what the promotion department does...But the networks reach far more people than any p.r. department.

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Ovechkin vs. Crosby: I just thought I'd mention that a poll of 50 NHL players by ESPN The Magazine on who the best player in the league is was a resounding win for Oveckin. Among the people who voted for either Crosby or Oveckin, Oveckin got 73 percent of the vote. Of course, Ovechkin also got 10 percent of the vote for dirtiest player!

I know your argument that Oveckin would need a telescope to see Crosby argument is based on Crosby's championship hardware, but hockey isn't the NBA or even being an NFL QB. You simply cannot define a hockey player by championships to that degree. A single hockey player is more akin to a running back or maybe a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter on a baseball team.

Now, if Oveckin didn't show up in the playoffs (ala A-Rod until last season), that would be one thing, but he matched Crosby stat-for-stat last year. I'm not saying Ovechkin is clearly better, but he's certainly not so far behind Crosby as you make him sound.

Michael Wilbon: You're nuts. Your argument is too flimsy to even consider. A great hockey player doesn't disproportionately affect an NHL game? Please. Wayne Gretzky. Bobby Orr. Bobby Hull. Gordie Howe. Stop. Take this Ovechkin excuse making someplace else. I love WATCHING Ovechkin. He's probably the most skilled player in hockey, definitely the most entertaining. He's dynamic in every way imaginable. But that's not what is remembered most. Championships won puts you at the top. And Crosby is 3-0 up on Ovechkin in championships won. Don't try and act like hockey is baseball or football. One player, even though he's on the ice about a third of the game, CONTROLS the play when he's great. What I find kind of sad is that so many of you don't believe Ovechkin has it in him to drag his team to a title so yo make excuses or try to tell me titles don't matter, blah, blah blah. That's a bunch of junk. I do believe Ovechkin will do it this year. But you have to DO IT. Big hits, by themselves, don't deliver titles. Excuse making doesn't get it done. All-around great play does and Ovechkin has it in him to do it. He's not a runing back or some incidental player; he's the star. The team should be listening to him, following his lead, riding on his shoulders when necessary. I'm stunned at the excuses offered up for Ovechkin that wouldn't be tolerated for a great basketball player. Even allowing for the dominance of a goaltender during the playoffs, a great player makes the difference. If LeBron doesn't win, it's his fault if the Cas don't win, once good enough players are around him, and they are. Same for Ovechkin or Crosby or any player of their talent level.

Okay, gotta run. have to drive from Scottsdale to Tempe to do PTI today ... I think we'll be off next week as I take a week of vacation, then back the second week of April ... 'Til then ... MW

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