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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: NBA and NHL playoffs, Redskins, more

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, April 19, 2010; 2:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, April 19 at 2 p.m. to discuss the beginnings of the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Redskins, 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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Washington, DC: Grunfeld should get Executive of the Year. He could be the first GM to get two teams to the Finals in the same season.

Michael Wilbon: Ha! I love that...Hi everybody...Sorry we had to start later than usual today but with travel and crazy schedule stuff I'm just getting here to the PTI studios...so let's jump right in...Yeah, Dallas and Cleveland look pretty good with Caron Butler/Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison, don't they? Cleveland looks like the clear-cut favorite in the Eastern Conference. I think Grunfeld had to make those moves to start the rebuilding of the Wizards franchise, but it sure looks crazy that three Wizards players could determine the champion of the NBA this season.

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Bonifay, Fla.: Which franchise will become respectable first - Nats, Skins or Wiz? Care to predict when?

Michael Wilbon: Like this question...We see football teams from from last to first or first to last all the time, and in one season. Boom! Their fortunes change dramatically every season. The Nationals could take forever. Seriously, baseball teams need time and seasoning, especially when you've been as far down as the Nationals. Wouldn't it take the Nats three more years after this one? Same for the Wizards...Okay, you did use the word "respectable" and not "serious contender." Each can be respectable right away...The Redskins could and perhaps should make the playoffs this year, so that would easily qualify. Wiz and Nats could be respectable in 2012...or one would hope.

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Vienna, Austria: YO Mike. I keep seeing reports that the Wiz have $18m in cap space. But by my math they have a lot more -- some $28m is they decline Josh Howard's option, which they surely will do. So they could (but won't) sign two max contract players, no?

Michael Wilbon: Um, I don't know what cap number you're looking at but I don't think they have 28 million...no way, no how. I'm not a capologist, so I'll have to revisit this topic next week, armed with some specific numbers...But the other problem is this: even with $18 million or whatever it actually is, free agents don't know what the plan is here, whether the new owner will keep the incumbent GM and coach, whether the new owner wants to start from scratch and do this mostly through the draft with limited free agent participation...it's entirely unknown, which means A-list free agents like LeBron, D-Wade, Stoudemire, Bosh, Boozer...aren't going to commit to that kind of situation. And it depends on what approach Ted Leonsis wants to take. The man has had some success with building a serious contender, so I think he will have earend some benefit of the doubt.

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Phoenix: Admit it. Despite your notorious contempt for the NFL Draft, you're a little curious to see if the Redskins botch yet another draft by picking celebrity prospects instead of individuals that can fill immediate and pressing needs.

Michael Wilbon: Actually, no. I'm serious about my disdain for the NFL draft. It's just the most speculative thing I've ever seen, and to have it turned into the Academy Awards is just...amusing to me. It's hysterical to me because I couldn't tell you, with a gun to my head, who was chosen first in last year's NFL draft, or the year before that...Now, with research, I see that Matt Stafford was chosen first...So what? Hell, I don't even know who my team, the Chicago Bears, chose in the first round. It's not like basketball, where I've actually seen the players and have some idea of how they might project into a professional lineup. I have zero idea how some guard from Louisville might fit into the St. Louis Rams lineup. So why would I care? I don't. But to now have this thing on prime time television...I will either attend or watch NBA and NHL playoff games, so I'll take myself out of the equation. And while I LOVE the Arakpo pick from last year, no, I'm not even mildly curious about the Redskins and how they might use their pick...None. Is that awful to admit?

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DC: Michael, do you think KG sitting for a game is fair? Does every instance of pushing and shoving need a suspension?

Michael Wilbon: KG elbowed a man to the head. Yes, he deserved to be suspended for a game and the NBA HAD to do what the league did. KG has played more minutes than just about anybody in the league, so why in the hell would he get himself involved in that foolishness at the end of the game and hurt his team by throwing an elbow. He's not some neophyte; he's a veteran, a really, really, really smart player. I don't see Boston winning Game 2 at all...We'll see.

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Washington, DC: Hi Mr. Wilbon, I always love hearing your opinions on social factors dealing with sports, did you happen to see the ESPN 30 for 30 about Allen Iverson? I was wondering what your take on Allen Iverson's career arc from being a high schooler in that situation and perhaps how it effected him as an adult refusing to conform and assimilate.

Michael Wilbon: I TiVo'd the Allen Iverson 30 for 30 episode but have yet to see it with the insanity of my schedule...I heard from various people who have followed Iverson closely over the years that the doc was terrific. We'll have to revisit this, too, after I've had a chance to see it, hopefully during the long playoff season.

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Washington, DC: How do you think Kevin Durant right now compares to Lebron James when the latter was in his third NBA season?

Michael Wilbon: Well, LeBron did lead his team to a victory in his first playoff series...They're completely different as players. Durant is, first and foremost, a scorer. He can do it a million ways, but he scores. He's not the passer or rebounder LeBron James is and is unlikely to be that triple-threat force that LeBron is. Durant has a talent for doing the most celebrated thing in basketball: putting the ball in the hoop whenever and however he pleases. But on a day like yesterday when Durant gets Deeed up by Ron Artest, he couldn't really help his team in other ways. LeBron could score 10 points and dominate the game with his passing and rebounding and shot blocking...

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Washington, DC: I know you don't like NFL draft questions (and I agree with you) but last week I read a column in the Baltimore Sun that was quite clever. The columnist, Sam Farmer, held a mock draft by contacting reporters for one of the newspapers in each city and getting their selections for each pick, e.g. St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the first pick, Detroit Free Press for the second, etc.

I thought it was fun to read.

Michael Wilbon: It's not exactly new. Guys have been doing that for years and years...going as far back as my time covering the NFL in the mid-1980s...I don't care for it much because it's not giving me any insight...It's just a waste of time...to me. I understand people feel very differently about this and many will pay attentinon to anything that's related to pro football. I get that, too. But the mock draft, to me, could be the biggest waste of space any newspaper has ever tolerated.

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Bel Air, MD: Mike,

I'm sure NBA junkies like yourself appreciate Nate McMillan, but for the masses out there that don't get to see Portland play, can you describe how good of a job McMillan has done with that team and the ridiculous number of injuries they've suffered.

Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, think about this: McMillan lost his starting center, Greg Oden, and his backup center, Joel Przybilla. Rudy Fernandez was out with an injury. Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake, who were a real part of the rotation, were traded for Marcus Camby, who was integrated seamlessly. And now the best player on the team, Brandon Roy, is out. You've got fighting above Nate in the front office, with people being fired...I couldn't vote him ahead of Scott Skiles (who also lost his starting center) and Scott Brooks, who won 50 games with a bunch of guys who ought to be in college...But Nate was rigth there with the Scotts and Alvin Gentry as having had a great season...And now, playing on the road without his best player, his team is up 1-0 in this series with the Suns...Amazing.

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Washington DC: Hey Mike,

Plain and simple...do you believe that the Wizards will be a better team WITHOUT Andray Blatche on the roster next season?

Michael Wilbon: They'd be going in the right direction, I'll tell you that. Is the goal to win 34 games instead of whatever they won? Or is the goal to move toward serious contention? I don't believe Blatche will ever be the centerpiece of a contender. Not ever.

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Alexandria Va: Mike A few chats ago you favorably mentioned the HBO Bird-Magic special: you were right, excellent. Question about Kevin Durant - does his impressive game call to mind for you any retired (or current) NBA player?

Michael Wilbon: George Gervin perhaps, but with a better jump shot. Bernard King a little bit because of the way he releases the ball at the top...Tony K is sitting nearby and says Bob McAdoo, and I think that's right. You have to look up Bob McAdoo's numbers his first four or five years. McAdoo, his second year averaged 31 points and 15 rebounds for Buffalo...and his third season he averaged 34 and 14. He had steals and blocks. He was UNSTOPPABLE. Durant doesn't fill up the statistical categories the way McAdoo did, and yes, his team went to the playoffs, too, though not very far. Mac played on a team with an impressive young lineup: Ernie D. at point guard, Randy Smith at shooting guard (and he was something else), Matt Goukas...Jim McMillan...they were kind of like of Oklahoma City, with this nucleus of young talented players, but went out to the Bullets one year (1974 when the Bullets went to the Finals), and the Celtics when they had Cowens and Havlicek...more than you wanted to know...

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dc: Speaking of KG... As incredibly talented as he is, he has also spent the bulk of his career taunting, barking, trash talking, and just generally being obnoxious. He usually doesn't get the "credit" he deserves for this behavior. Is he just so good, that people mostly excuse this character trait?

Michael Wilbon: Great question/observation...Yes, people look at it as being cartoonish and let it go...especially because if you met Kevin Garnett in a Starbucks you'd be impressed by how gentle he is, how thoughtful, how almost shy he is. Always well dressed...Kevin was upset with something said once, and we had a 15-minute conversation about what he objected to, why he felt the need to mention it. Very, very smart guy, very engaging. The trash talking is so....silly. It's not even who he is. But he does it all the time, especially to players he thinks he can bully. I've never understood it, never.

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Washington D.C.: How can the NFL punish a player for a crime for which no charges were even brought? On the other hand, how can the league ignore each new detail that seems to suggest a pretty heinous crime (rape) was committed by one of its players? Goodell is in a very difficult position: what WILL and SHOULD happen going forward?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not going to conclude anything happened; law enforcement officials couldn't make the case so I'm not about to go there. But, Roger Goodell will suspend Ben Roethlisberger this week, probably tomorrow/Wednesday. And Ben will accept the penalty, which will probably be at least two games and as many as...hell, I don't know...four-six? As the league explains, you can can violate an employers' rule, which warrants suspension, even if you don't break the law. Big Ben will miss some games this fall.

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Silver Spring, MD: As painful as it was, it was nice to see that golfer at the Verizon heritage call the penalty on himself on the playoff hole. There are some truly decent people in sports who you don't often hear about. Unfortunately, they don't make the headlines for the good things they do often enough.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I'm totally with you on praising him...but the rule is stupid. I love golf. I appreciate the tradition of calling penalties on ones self. But what is the purpose of some of these rules? How do they enhance the game or the competition? Tony and I are going to talk about this on PTI today...What's the point of that specific rule?

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Burke, VA: Michael,

Would you pull back the curtain a bit and share how and how much prep goes into each day's PTI show? Who picks the lineup, what research is done and by who, do you rehearse, etc. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: NO, we don't rehearse. We have our own ways of preparing. There's the specific preparation that goes on each day, which includes talking to our producers about what we think should be discussed, what is more important, etc. But if I'm at a Suns-Nuggets game and I have a conversation with Steve Nash for a column, isn't the information gathered part of any preparation for PTI or for what I'm doing on ABC/ESPN regarding the NBA? If I sit with LeBron James in Cleveland for an ABC interview, won't that help me when we discuss the Cavaliers on PTI? Of course. Everything I do as a sportswriter/talking head ought to help me get ready...background information gathered, specific interviews, dinner with an assistant coach or scout, watching games in the green room at ESPN with Magic and Byron Scott and Avery Johnson and Jon Barry (change the names during football season)...all of it...Specifically, I try to talk to Matt Kelliher somewhere between 10 and 11 a.m. I'm just waking up (because I don't go to bed until 3, 3:30) and Matt's already been scouring the internet for what's happening. When I'm on the road, I might be at the center of what's happening myself...Tony comes from his radio gig to the studio around 1:15, 1:30...I get here around 2:15-2:30 when I'm in D.C. I do more prep at night while I'm watching games...anyway, we get together around 3ish, talk formally about what we're going to talk about, get makeup and go to the set to let it rip, depending on what time we have our guest...So, there it is, more than you wanted to know.

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There's no defense in the NBA - uh, no: I am one of those seemingly rare people who doesn't feel the need to disparage the NBA to promote college hoops (or vice versa). However, one thing I hear from those who don't like (and don't watch) the NBA is how there's no defense. I think the Lakers-Thunder game yesterday disproved that. Durant is probably the best pure scorer in the league and he was utterly befuddled and frustrated by Artest (and the rest of the Lakers). It shows you what can be done to a playoff rookie when the other team gets time to gameplan.

Michael Wilbon: People who say stupid stuff like that don't realize that if Evan Turner or John Wall played against the Lakers this week they'd have gone scoreless yesterday. If Kevin Durant shot 7-for-24 yesterday, what do you think Evan Turner would have done? They're bigger, faster, more talented and college kids would sit down on the court and cry if they had to face Ron Artest in April/May/June.

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Cubs Fan in Arlington: Great day to be a WDC sports fan on Saturday - saw the Nats shut out win against the Brew Crew Saturday, walked to Verizon, and saw the Caps win in OT. Voice is still shot.

Who ya got for tonight's Caps game?

Michael Wilbon: I think the Capitals comeback in Game 2 was a transformative victory...I think the Caps win tonight and perhaps sweep the rest of the series.

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DC: If you were an owner, would you want Ben Roethlisberger as the face of your franchise?

Michael Wilbon: Depends on where my franchise was located. Raiders? Sure. In a hearbeat. How many franchises have had teams where NOBODY ever got in big trouble?

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DC: The 1968-69 champion Celtics went 48-34 in the regular season and finished fourth in their division. Most of that team were all over the age of 30. Do you think this Celtic team can make it at least to the conference finals?

Michael Wilbon: No. Boston would have to beat Cleveland and I don't see that happening. I'm not sure Boston could get two games off the Cavaliers this spring.

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RE: Wizards and Cap Space: Michael Lee just posted on the Insider that the Wiz have 21.2 million available. Can't we dream that one of the elite players might consider coming to play here with Arenas, McGee, Blatche, and Thorton? That's not too shabby a group there. YES, I know Blatche is a knuckhead but he did post some very nice second half numbers. Maybe he'll grow up some this summer??

Michael Wilbon: You can dream whatever you want, but it's not happening. An elite player? You mean like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, Boozer? Ummmmm, no. No chance. Why would he? There are lots of teams with money. Why come here when you don't yet know what the philosophy is, who else is going to be here, who's going to run the show, call the shots?

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Portland, OR: Although Phoenix area is one of your abodes, did you have any disappointment at the Blazers' win last night?

Michael Wilbon: Major disappointment. The Blazers were everything a coach could ask and the Suns were uninspired, flat...Of the 16 playoff teams 15 of them showed up for the playoffs. One, the Suns, did not, which is disappointing.

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Arlington, VA: Michael -- I know you picked LA in the West, but I'm impressed most by Dallas. With Dirk still at the top of his game, the late-season addition of Caron and Brendan has made the Mavs a well-balanced offensive team with an improved front-court defense. I can't wait for the inevitable Dallas/Phoenix series.

Michael Wilbon: A lot of folks believe Dallas can beat the Lakers, which would be the conference championship series in the west. I've got to see more. I love Dallas' balance, depth, know-how. I like Jason Kidd and Dirk anchoring a team with Caron Butler and Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood. I like what Dallas has assembled. BUT, San Antonio is going to make this a tough series; watch. This is going 6-7 games; I really believe that, especially after Gregg Popovich ripped into his team post-game...Very, very intrested in the rest of the Spurs-Mavs series.

Okay, gotta run and get ready for PTI...See you all next Monday...Be well. Thanks for chatting.

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