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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Masters, Tiger Woods, Wizards, Redskins and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 12, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 12 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss Tiger Woods's Masters return, the NBA, the Wizards, the Redskins, the NFL Draft, 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.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: if I see/read on more item contrasting wonderful family man Phil and horrible person Tiger, I may puke. Great for Phil to win, but, if there's anything we should have learned over the last months it's don't take things at face value. Am I saying Phil is "bad" - no, just that we know NOTHING about players/celebs lives until someone spills the beans about lord knows what.

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...I might be a little loopy because I've been in three cities (New York, D.C., Scottsdale) in the past 20 hours...gradually moving west. I'm in Scottsdale now, about a driver and hybrid away from Phil's golf club, Whisper Rock, where I would imagine there would be some glasses being raised this afternoon to him and his victory at The Masters...As for your specific comment, I couldn't agree with you more. I'm stunned at the idiots among my colleagues who would try to and draw upon those phony themes for cheap columns and commentaries. It's so incredibly stupid, I can't believe they wouldn't say to themselves, even under deadline pressure, "I'm not going there." Phil's performance at Augusta National was phenomenal. And from what I know, being out here where he spends time, is that he's in a great place in his life. While his wife and mother are battling cancer, recent days have been better, certainly better than last year. And that's reflected in how he feels about his life and his profession, and I'm damn happy for Phil. The guy has four major championships now and has realized the potential so many say, potential that was difficult to live up to until 2004. The people who said, "Once Phil wins one he's going to keep on winning them" were absolutely right. Just as I enjoy watching Tiger Woods or Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal or Derek Jeter or LeBron James I like watching Phil at the top of his game. It doesn't need to be embellished with themes of what we want his personal life to be...The professional accomplishments stand on their own...

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Woods/Mickelson: Wilbon-

I think, honestly, if we are to say that Tiger Woods' personal life is none of our business, we have to say the same about Mickelson and his wife. Mickelson's win was exciting because of good golf, not because his wife is battling cancer. This need to attach wins to tragedies is disgusting, frankly. All players are connected to some sort of tragedy, and my heart goes out to all of them.

Michael Wilbon: Very, very, very well said. Thank you.

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Arlington, VA: Are the Caps fans setting themselves up for disaster in the playoffs? Around town the Caps fans are saying anything less than a Championship is a failure on this season. I think the fans might have an overinflated sense of how good their team is.

Michael Wilbon: Capitals fans, let's face it, are new to the business of having their team be a big favorite in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We know the Capitals are capable of winning it all because of the way they dominated the regular season. But I don't know how many Capitals fans have followed the entire league long enough to know that the No. 1 seed in the NHL OFTEN goes out early in the playoffs. Do I expect that with this team? No. Is it possible? Absolutely. Goaltending makes it that way. I don't know enough about the Montreal goaltenders to have any great feeling as to whether one could stone the Capitals offense. But we see this almost every single post-season. I think the Capitals starting their run against the Canadiens and all their incredible tradition is exciting. I'd love to get to Game 3 or 4 in Montreal, but don't know if I can, what with NBA-related committments. I'm excited, though, about what the Capitals can achieve between now and June.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Will Tiger Woods not listen to competent advice from anyone? First, he makes a Nike ad that has been widely panned as pretentious and inappropriate, and then he went around audibly swearing after claiming that he wanted to temper his emotions. When, exactly, is going to learn anything from his actions?

Michael Wilbon: I never saw the ad, which I guess ran one day...And I'm guessing that he must have felt he owed Nike for sticking by him. Hell, he DID owe Nike for sticking by him. If I'm Phil Knight I would had said, "Tiger, listen, we've been there for you; now here's what I want to do this week..." As far as swearing, please stop. Don't be a 12-year-old. Athletes swear. Weekend hackers swear. I do it and won't apologize to anybody about it, and will do it when Matthew is 10 and shouldn't hear it, but will. It's cursing, not committing a crime against humanity. If other golfers had boom microphones under their lips for 18 holes you'd hear them do it, too. So get a life. Stop whining like a second-grade teacher about an athlete getting upset with himself. How the hell do you think he got to be a champ, by patting himself on the back after overcooking a drive on the first tee to start the final round of The Masters? If you want to hear great language, watch the Disney Channel. I'm tired of people whining about Tiger's language or anybody else's language in the field of play.

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Baltimore: Tiger has always stayed away from politics and controversy - - most used to think it was for fear of offending people and sponsors. I know it's a mistake to want to put your politics and ideals into the mouths of athletes, but how does Tiger not publicly blast Augusta Chair Billy Payne? The guy is lecturing Tiger and taking the moral high ground when Augusta has one black member and no female or Jewish members? And Tiger's the bad example for the children? It's disgraceful. Please.

Michael Wilbon: Great point, well said. Billy Payne is offensive in a million ways and his sanctimonious little speech the other day made was moronic. I'm skeptical of all the people who want to tell somebody else how to live when if we looked behind their closed doors it would frighten the hell out of us.

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Lansdowne, Va.: Blatche, a keeper or get rid of him? Sign Livingston to play the point and Gilbert the 2?

Michael Wilbon: Blatche, and I'm glad you asked, is a loser. Is he highly and diversely skilled? Yes. But anybody who cares so much about his own triple-double possibilities that he would beg other people to let him have a rebound...that guy is a loser. He doesn't care about winning; he cares about how he looks, how many shots and rebounds and assists he gets. He's one of these AAU nightmare kids who is a mercenary who learned at a young age he could make money and live the VIP life if he got "my numbers." And that's all Blatche is about. I had two of the best players in the NBA tell me other the last month that Blatche is poison and if they Wizards try to build around him they're insane. I belive those players...And that doesn't include the other scouts and coaches who've said similar things.

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Caps Fans: "might have an overinflated sense of how good their team is."

What is this poster drinking?

I agree that anything can, and does, happen in playoff hockey. And also it's possible to overinflate anything. But c'mon. The Caps did have the best record this year.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, the Capitals have earned the right to feel damn good about their post-season chances. But winning in sports is so incredibly difficult. That's why I gave Tiger ZERO chance to win The Masters...because you don't just walk off the street and do it, because it's HARD. It's so difficult to win, to become a champion. Having what it takes--and the Caps do--and winning it all by going through a torturous playoff system is a different thing. Hell, that's the excitement of the post-season.

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Haynesworth: Now he is considered a bust as well based on the trade attempts. The streak continues. Why are we to think that McNabb will be any different than the previous 10-15 former All-Pros who tanked in DC?

Michael Wilbon: Donovan's my friend, so I'm hoping it's different. But given the Redskins track record in this area the last 10 years? There's no reason to believe this will be different. None whatsoever. THIS is the most important question that can be posed right now about the Redskins. They get Haynesworth one minute, pay him $31 million or whatever he's already gotten, then the next guy in wants him out? This is what I was talking about all fall and winter when I said there's no reason to trust the Redskins at the top...I'm not talking about Mike Shanahan, I'm talking about the people calling the biggest of the big shots. Allen's never run a team before. We don't know about his judgement yet. It might prove to be sound, even great. But we don't know yet. Shanahan is the only guy with a proven track record with big responsibility out there. He's a proven winner. Everybody else? Still waiting...

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Phoenix: Tiger's performance makes me realize how tenuous his dominance is. Having been away from the game for only a few months, he looked a little rusty. It kind of makes me appreciate the incredible work (largely behind the scenes) that great athletes must go through to remain at the top of their game. I can't help but wonder if he had participated in that tournament a week earlier would he have done better at the Masters. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: You just stated my thoughts...you can even look back a couple of weeks ago. There was NO way Tiger Woods was going to play for the first time in months, with all this baggage he had to carry around, and win a major tournament. No way. It's too hard. It's what I was just talking about. These guys are so sharp, they practice so much, they train so hard, devote themselves to their pursuits to fanatically and with such passion and great detail...you're not going to beat a guy like that unless YOU'RE AT THAT LEVEL YOURSELF and Tiger wasn't.

Quick story: Kobe Bryant's a pretty damn good basketball player already, right? You know what Kobe has taken to doing the last few weeks? He's goes with assistant coach Brian Shaw to the arena, just the two of them, around 4 p.m. before a 7:30 game...and Kobe has B. Shaw put him through a full practice...an individual, swear-pouring-off-his-body practice of shooting and ball handling and moving. I watched him do this back-to-back days and it's amazing. This is what people don't see, don't have any idea of when they're just clicking on the TV set at 7:30, that people who are already THE BEST at what they do go to such extremes to become even better. Tiger is going to, in my opinion, re-dedicate himself to this and become as sharp if not sharper than he was...But until then, he'll be a runner-up...

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Somerville, MA: Santonio Holmes, a Super Bowl MVP, traded for a 5th round pick?!? Are the Steelers stupid for getting rid of such a great talent or smart to identify a troublemaker and get rid of him now instead of dealing with his off-the-field antics while prepping for a season?

Michael Wilbon: The Steelers don't tolerate a lot of foolishness. The Redskins do, but the Steelers don't. And pardon me, but can you give me the franchise score in Super Bowls lately? Oh, right Steelers two in the last five years, Redskins one playoff win in the last what? I love the Steelers philosophy and their way of dealing with issues. It might even seem extreme to me, but they have their way and it works over the long-term, and in the short-term. There's no arguing with the way the Steelers do their thing. If they think Holmes was more trouble than he's worth, I tend to agree with the Steelers.

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Tiger swearing: Isn't the issue that he went out of his way to say he was going to change and then didn't? I know people swear, but if they make a big deal out of saying they won't swear (or throw clubs or whatever), that again goes to personal integrity.

Michael Wilbon: Fair point. I thought it was insane when he said it. You will NEVER hear me say I'm not going to swear on the golf course and I'm not playing for anything more than $50 in a round, all bets included. I'm not even going to say I'll utter fewer than 30 cuss words in a round because I'm going to eclipse that, too. Tiger should not have said he was going to cut it out. He could have said, "I'm going to make a great effort to reduce the swearing," and that would have been enough. He'd have had a tough time holding that line, too.

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RE: Haynesworth: Given all the expectations and the short duration of his time in Washington, is he the biggest bust in Redskins' history?

Michael Wilbon: Bigger than Dana Stubblefield, who had the same kind of year before the Redskins got him? Wasn't he like 25 years old when the Redskins signed him? Wasn't he a league defensive MVP, as well?

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Bradley Beach, NJ: Is Kevin Durant's taking his game to a much higher level the biggest surprise of this NBA season?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I think so. It's like he skipped a grade. He just elbowed his way into the elite player category a year or 18 months earlier than most folks in the league expected. He seems like dream player for the league. He likes where he plays, Oklahoma City, enjoys the young teammates who surround him, interacts and engages in the community where he now lives. Wow. Can the Wizards get a guy like this within the next five years? And on the court he's unstoppable. He has unlimited range, can score inside and out, and seems like he's getting better in the other areas as well. I''m excited about seeing him and OKC in the playoffs.

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Re: Caps: The problem with having the best record for the whole season is that the NHL playoffs essentially amount to a whole second season, where they have to be the best all over again.

Michael Wilbon: Yes Sir. That's the point to be made.

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Phoenix: How wide open is the NBA Western Conference? Is it the Lakers' to lose, or does Utah/Denver/Dallas have a legitimate shot of beating them and making it to the Finals? And what are the chances that the Thunder upset their first-round opponent?

Michael Wilbon: It's hard to call a single series in the first round out west. Okay, the Lakers should beat whomever they play, even if it's San Antonio which is playing SOOOO much better recently. I don't really see OKC winning a first-round series because it's rare that young teams pop up and win in the playoffs where experience is so critical...Thing is, OKC appears to be a rare team. Caution though: Remember two years ago when New Orleans had the hot young team that shocked everybody by challenging the Lakers for the No. 1 seed right down to the final two days of the season? Well, New Orelans took a 2-0 lead on the Spurs and still couldn't close them out. It's hard. But in general, I can't call a single series out west other than Lakers v. No. 8...Suns-Jazz? You want to bet on that? Portland could finish No. 7 and give Dallas fits in a first-round series. Denver without George Karl on the bench v. OKC? Wow, I can't wait to see the western series. The East? Not so much. Milwaukee with Andrew Bogut in the lineup could beat Atlanta or Boston, but without him? I think the Celtics might be in trouble against Miami...The Cs could be the out-early team.

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swearing: My wife used to card my swear-words-per-hole. That was enough to get me to cut back.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, well my wife doesn't play and I like swearing on the golf course (among other places) so the tradition continues. If my wife did play she spend half the round attacking my language. (much the way she does when the Bulls/Bears/Cubs are in the playoffs.)

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Farmington, Conn.: Mike, What Eastern conference first-round playoff matchup are you most hoping to see? I hope to see Miami vs Boston. It may or may not happen, but that's it for me. What about you?

Michael Wilbon: Miami vs. Boston for me, too. I want to see if the Celtics are up for dealing with D. Wade. Miami's hot, Boston's cold and I ain't talking about the weather.

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Vienna, VA: Michael, here's the key dilemma for Tiger in the coming years, in my opinion:

Given his stature and the insane amount of attention he will face every time he enters a tournament, he's likely to limit his schedule even more than in the past.

However, without enough tournament tests, he's likely to lose a little of his edge; practice alone won't do it.. It's doubtful he can just "turn it on" at will.

I wonder if this will limit the number of major victories he grabs in the next few years.

Michael Wilbon: I wonder THE EXACT SAME THING! Was thinking about that on the flight west this morning, wondering whether Tiger's going to go into some shell now where he doesn't want to play as much, and therefore won't ever get himself back to the level we saw at the U.S. Open two years ago when he won on a busted wheel...I wonder...We'll just have to see how it plays out. I don't think any of it's preordained. I wonder if Tiger knows how much he's going to play?

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Cubs Fan in Arlington: How about a shout out to the Nats who are 3-3? Probably be the best they'll be all season... and they won the series against the Mets. Which is ALWAYS a good thing...

Michael Wilbon: The way they played this spring I thought the Nats could be 3-33, so yes, 3-3 is good...and a lot better than my Cubbies, who look stuck in last season's much. Good for the Nats...and The Kid wasn't bad in the minors yesterday...Nice debut.

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Tiger & Ben Hogan Comparison: The most pathetic indulgence of Tiger's this past several days is his ridiculous and offensive attempt to compare his own self-created scandal and banishment from that of golf legend Ben Hogan.

Hogan threw himself in front of his wife to save her from a bus wrecking into their car. Tiger picked up Perkins waitresses and adult film stars.

Tiger, you lost all credibility and respect with this embarrassing move.

Wilbon, no matter how much you might like Tiger Woods, no one can defend this move by Tiger.

Michael Wilbon: You heard Tiger Woods compare his infidelities to Ben Hogan's accident? No you didn't. You made it up so you can maintain your anger at Tiger, which is both a lie and incredibly immature. He talked about the accident in terms of time away. I heard the reference he made. You think you can just fictionalize it and bring it here and I'm going to say, "Yessa Boss." Please.

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Tiger's challengers: Strange how things change. While Tiger was out with injury and then dealing with this scandal, nobody really stepped forward to become a clear #2 and a challenger to the throne.

But on the week he comes back, you see Mickelson, Westwood, Kim and Choi all on the leaderboard with him and all of them look like they could make a run at #2 and becoming a real ongoing challenge to Tiger.

While Mickelson's got four majors, the guy to watch clearly is Kim. At 24, he's on the verge of a major win and may not have enough bruises (some mental) from battling Tiger to be intimidated by him.

What do you think?

Michael Wilbon: I think I largely agree with you, about Kim specifically. But Phil might have a little run here, don't you think? Just as when Tiger won a couple of majors and the pressure disappeared for awhile, I think Phil can play some relatively pressure-free golf the rest of this summer, having won The Masters...I certainly make Phil the fave going into the U.S. Open.

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DC: Other than the fact that he's a gret golfer, what is there about Tiger to root for?

Michael Wilbon: you familiar with the phrase, To Each His Own?

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Ballston, VA: Hi Mike, will you be covering the Caps playoffs starting Thursday or will you be busy with the NBA and let that be covered by Wise, Boz and others? When it comes to determining coverage and topics for articles, how is it determined between multiple writers what angle to use? For instance, would there be a discussion about who gets to write about Ovechkin's "pursuit" of Crosby and who gets Theo's return to Montreal?

Michael Wilbon: All those decisions will depend on dozens of factors. I'm under contract to ABC/ESPN to cover the NBA playoffs, and that's what I've done for The Post for 20 years, so that's where my primary focus will be. Thomas Boswell will be doing some baseball, of course. Mike Wise and I have contracual committments to radio and TV, respectively. Tracee Hamilton, I hope, will be in the mix, as will Sally Jenkins. Personal lives will factor in; I have a 2-year-old and won't spend 90 straight days (April/May/June) on the road anymore, the way I did from 1980 until three, four years ago...And I'm damn old at this point. 51 and 31...can't (or won't) go from Montreal to Bristol (ESPN headquarters) to Los Angeles to Washington to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boston to Bristol to Washington (for a day to get new clothes) to Cleveland (to see LeBron) to Orlando to Pittsburgh (for a Stanley Cup game) all in two-plus weeks...I used to love that, actually, used to live for it. April/May/June was so great because while I love the kiddies playing in March, I live for the PROS. I like the best of the best, and the playoffs are that. But with our editors telling us what they need, Boz, Wise, T-Ham, Sally and I will figure out who needs to be where and what to write when...I'm working right now with editors and Michael Lee on a series of stories about "Washington in the NBA Playoffs" where we'll look at people who are from or spent major time in D.C. and their role in the NBA Playoffs, from Antawn Jamison to Adrian Dantley to Grant Hill to Juwan Howard...So many familiar faces to Washingtonians, to readers of this newspaper, who are participating in the playoffs even though the Wizards are not...So, I'm excited about a number of stories during the playoffs, NBA and NHL...So don't dare ask me about mini-camp; it's the least important, most overinflated thing on earth, made that way largely by sports editors and television sports producers. Blame them on the frightening amount of coverage of a bunch of nothing...

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Ben Roethlisberger: Apparently, no charges will be filed against him. How many more times can he act like a knucklehead before the Steelers decide to move on and replace him?

Michael Wilbon: Once more? Did that just come over the wire (as we used to say)?

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Steelers: If the Steelers don't put up with foolishness are they planning to trade Ben?

Michael Wilbon: Holmes had multiple run-ins and was expendable. Ben is now in the multiple category himself, but isn't expendable...Rememeber a few minutes ago when I said, "more trouble than he's worth." Ben's worth the trouble, still...for now.

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Phil's Daring Shot: Just how crazy was Mickelson's 6-iron from the needles in the trees on 13? Perfect shot...but he didn't clear the creek by much. Could you imagine trying that shot with a 6 iron within your range?

Whew! Not a complaint at all...that's just part of what makes watching Phil so fun.

Michael Wilbon: It's one of the greatest shots in recent Masters history. Jon Barry, Byron Scott and I were watching that live yesterday and were slack-jawed at him attempting the shot (one) and pulling it off (two). It was amazing. And yes, Phil's sense of daring makes him more fun to watch than anybody...

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Nuggets: As a DeMatha grad, very happy to see that Adrian Dantley is getting a chance to coach, unfortunately through Karl's illness. Is he head coach caliber? he's had some great mentors in Morgan and Digger.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know how to answer that, and I'm so interested in it as a topic I'm going to talk to Adrian about all that (and maybe Morgan Wooten too) tomorrow, when Denver visits the Suns here in Phoenix...Good game, better stories...

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Boston: 10 days and counting to the 4-day NFL draft extravaganza!!! I can't wait! You?

Michael Wilbon: That's funny. I couldn't possibly care less.

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Chicago: "DC: Other than the fact that he's a gret golfer, what is there about Tiger to root for?"

Please. Other than the face that he was a great writer, what is there to love about Ernest Hemingway? Sometimes being great at something is enough. If you only root for perfect people, you're not going to do much cheering.

Michael Wilbon: You know what, something that smart is the way to go out...I've got to run and prepare for PTI anyway...my first show in two weeks since we were dark last week and I took some vacation days the week before...Hell, I'm rustier than Tiger. I'll probably make all kinds of mistakes off the tee! Okay, we'll be right here next week, five days into the NHL playoffs, two days into the NBA playoffs, and thankfully after that mini-camp is over at Redskins Park. The great thing about my professional life now is covering the playoffs and being nowhere near any NFL mini-camp...Have a great week everybody! MW

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Arlington, VA: Did you attend any of the Parliment-Funkadelic shows with the Mothership at the Capital Centre?

washingtonpost.com: In Maryland, George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic and a missing Mothership

Michael Wilbon: Chicago. Not D.C. I didn't grow up in D.C. But I AM a Parliment-Funakdelic fan and my i-pod will prove it! Gotta read the front-page piece in The Post tonight when my day settles down...MW

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Northwestern US: NBA question: As the playoffs near, when you look at the mid-season trades, which playoff teams filled the greatest need or added the "missing piece" through trades?

Michael Wilbon: Cleveland-Jamison, Dallas-Butler and Haywood...The Cavaliers are likely to win their first NBA Championship and Jamison will be as big a difference maker as Shaq...That's the way it looks heading into the playoffs anyway. I thought the Vince Carter addition for Orlando was going to be a negative but (so far) I'm dead wrong. But Antawn Jamison is going to be wearing a championship ring. From Wizards to Winner...How about that?

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