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

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, May 3, 2010; 2:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, May 3 to discuss the beginnings of the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Capitals, 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.

A transcript follows

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Washington, D.C.: While the NBA playoffs for the most part lack any real excitement, they are a far better indication of the regular season than the NNL playoffs, where both the Flyers and Canadiens who each ended the season with 88 points are still playing.

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody ... sorry we're chatting late today but I flew from NYC to Phoenix this morn and got in a bit late...I somehow flubbed the first question I attempted to publish/answer, which asked whether the Capitals loss is the biggest disappointment in D.C. sports history, and I just laugh at that. No, of course it isn't. Look, metropolitan Washington has a ton of new hockey fans, Capitals fans really, which is fabulous. It's great to have a team that inspires that kind of passion locally ... but the Capitals aren't the Redskins when it comes to the size of the fanbase, or even the Bullets/Wizards even though it is now fashionable (and legit) to trash the product that's been on the floor. The Capitals don't even have (yet) the fanbase of Maryland basketball locally ... So let's not get carried away. Most Capitals could walk down Connecticut Ave. and have very, very few if any people recognize them. The Capitals losing, while jolting in a context appreciated by sports nuts and sports media folks, isn't close to the disappointment of a Redskins loss in the playoffs, or a crushing loss in the regular season to the Cowboys or Eagles or Giants. Not close. Not even close to close. The Bullets, who were a HUGE favorite to win the NBA Championship in 1975, were swept by the Rick Barry Warriors in the Finals. Hell, I wasn't even living in D.C. then and I know what a crusher that was to metropolitan D.C. The Redskins loss on the final Sunday of the season to the Cowboys in Texas Stadium after leading by 13 in the fourth quarter ... Crusher ... There were playoff losses that were crushers. Georgetown losing to Villanova? Were you an adult in 1985? Do you remember how nuts metropolitan D.C. (all except the Maryland fans) were over the Thompson/Ewing Hoyas embarking on back-to-back titles? This isn't close to that ... NOT CLOSE TO CLOSE to that. A still relatively small number of people in the D.C. area follow professional hockey. It's a community made up of people from places and culture where hockey simply isn't on the radar. I'm not sure how much it's on the radar in the actually District of Columbia which is still two-thirds African-American where hockey largely doesn't register. Is it the big story of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring? Yes. Is it a big-time choke job? Yes. I'll combine it with this second question and say, yes, the NBA playoffs more often resemble the regular season for results, and that's because the NBA doesn't have the position of goaltender, which can rearrange the entire Stanley Cup ... If you think there's no excitement in the Dallas-San Antonio series, that's your personal agenda which probably relates to other issues ... or Lakers-Ok City, for that matter. Still, the Capitals loss is enormous, but it's not like they've been a power for 20 years and are so entrenched that it was unthinkable they'd lose. The Capitals aren't the Yankees or Celtics or Red Wings. They're still struggling, like most franchises, to win one...the first one. Big loss and huge disappointment, yes. Biggest disappiontment ever? Stop. As Ocho Cinco would say, "Child, please."


Washington, D.C.: Michael, a bunch of us were debating who has had the biggest 'fall' in the past 30 years. We're looking for your thoughts. Here are the candidates: Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, John Edwards. People forget O.J. was Tiger before there was Tiger. Mike Tyson was a video game (in fact, he had one of the most famous in Nintendo history AND he was one of the first to have a game named after him.) Then there is John Edwards... the man was the presumptive Democratic nominee for President AND, based on the way things were rolling... it was his to lose. Now, the man is in hiding.

Michael Wilbon: O.J. Simpson, to me, by quite a bit. I don't have Tiger anywhere near the list...If he goes winless for two years then maybe. John Edwards, yes, because he could have been President and now, as you suggest, wow. But I'm not good at these lists. There are all kinds of people who've been disgraced who you haven't mentioned. Nixon? A man who was President as was disgraced ... Michael Vick, if we're talking athletes, lost $100 million bucks; that's got to rank him pretty high up there.


Ovechkin Hater?: Wilbon, On PTI I saw that you took another shot at Ovie. What's up with that? Comparing him to Lebron? Are you kidding me? James is older and has yet to get a Ring. Ovie is 24 and still has his best years ahead!

Michael Wilbon: LeBron is 25, Ovie is 24 ... You tell me the difference. I see you're just another apologist who would try to convince me (yourself?) that Ovechkin's career is in the same place as Sidney Crosby's ... Go somewhere else to try that. Any discussion of sports led by a sportswriter includes critical looks at people and their careers. Sorry that offends you.


Memphis: Which team is best poised to abuse the second team of the Lakers. I'm thinking the Spurs (looking ahead). What do you think?

Michael Wilbon: I think the Spurs, too. If you rank all 16 playoff teams in order of how they performed in the first round the Spurs would be No. 1 to me. Why people thought Dallas would beat them is a mystery to me, especially when the Spurs had the two best players in the series (Duncan and Ginobili) and the best coach in the playoffs (Gregg Popovich) other than Phil Jackson ... The Spurs have Tony Parker, an All-Star, COMING OFF THE BENCH ... DeJuan Blair brings all that youthful energy off the bench crashing after rebounds and loose balls ... Matt Bonner, particularly at home, strokes the 3-ball. Roger Mason Jr. can't even get off the bench right now; that's how deep and talented the Spurs are. I think the Spurs can win it all...


New Jersey: Mike - we all know that Ariz. is close to your heart. I think in their tunnel vision look at this, the state took a very backwards look at immigration reform. There is talk of hispanic ballplayers skipping the 2011 MLB All-Star if selected and calls for MLB to pull the game out of Phoenix. Are we Easterners looking at this with our own set of colored glasses which does not take into account real illegal immigration problems? Your take from a Ariz. citizen and a sports standpoint?

Michael Wilbon: I'm a part-time Arizona citizen (20 percent of the year here) who understands the concerns but loathes what has been signed into law. Of more importance than where I pay taxes is that I'm a person of color who also anticipates (based on history throughout this country) the abuses that will be visited on brown people (and perhaps black ones since a great percentage of people, according to the polls, don't always see us as U.S. citizens even though our ancestors in many cases have been here 400 years, or four times longer than some of the white folks questioning our heritage). So geography doesn't define my feeling about this. And if people want to boycott visiting my part-time home state, including the 2011 MLB All-Star game, which features so many Hispanic players, well, that's the democratic way isn't it?


Washington D.C.: Hey World Wide Wilbon. Quick question. What is the actual point of the rule that forbids players from entering the NBA draft right out of high school? It seems rather silly especially when it comes to light that Kentucky, whom last time I checked has I think four players heading to the NBA this year, had the lowest average GPA in college basketball.

To me is just seems like the NBA cares more about its image then anything else.

Michael Wilbon: You contradict your own question. If image was all of this you wouldn't want kids who had such low GPAs, would you? And I should point out that their average GPAs made them eligible under the NCAA rules. So do you want to raise the minimum GPA or do you want to ignore the rule? Which is it? And what does the NBA have to do with the GPAs of college kids. Sounds like you just want to rant and don't know where to direct your frustration.


Tiger Quits: I never thought I would see Tiger just quit. Is it rust or is his mind (understandably) just not right for the daily grind of the PGA Tour? He just looked completely lost (again, after everything he has been through it may be understandable).

Michael Wilbon: Great point. I think I wrote in this space a number of times before The Masters, you can't just walk in off the street with this kind of emotional upheaval and win in professional sports. This isn't like playing in the wake of you father or mother's death and pouring all you've got into winning a tournament or something like that. This involved public humiliation, guilt, serious family problems that you brough upon them and yourself ... And to just walk out of that and into the winner's circle? I didn't understand for one second why people thought Tiger would win at Augusta or in Charlotte. I just don't get it. I thought he needed practice and tournament play before jumping into major competition and I think it's going to take months of attention to his golf game and his personal life before we see the old Tiger Woods back, presuming we do at all.


Cubs Fan in Arlington: Cubs are at .500 - woo hoo! Is Sweet Lou on the clock this year? If no post-season, does he go?

Michael Wilbon: The whole team is on the clock. Just like the Wizards had an expiration date that came due this winter, this core group of Cubs (Zambrano, D. Lee, Ramirez, Sweet Lou, etc.) has had so much disappointment, some as far back as 2003, then the playoff sweeps in 2007 and 2008, the crash and burn last summer...there's only so much a group can handle before you have to start over and I fear the Cubs are just about to that point.


Anonymous: What chance do you give the ATL to upset Orlando and how long will Jerry Sloan take an underrated Jazz team to the playoffs to bow out early before getting them back to the stockton/malone days?

Michael Wilbon: I give ATL, even with all that talent, zero chance of upsetting Orlando in the playoffs and Sloan (and a front office which can scout its butt off) always has the Jazz in contention. They're always viable, which in that market is what's needed ... People there aren't expecting the Yankees and they don't whine when their team loses in the first round. They enjoy their team, support it in an unwavering fashion, and appreciate that the boys are always in contention. And they love the guys they have, especially Deron Williams, who is the best-possible guy to follow John Stockton, both as a player and person. Will they beat the Lakers? No. I think it's a five or six-game series ... Remember, Utah is playing pretty darn well for missing two frontcourt starters, Okur and Kirilenko.


Caps should stay the course: There's all this talk about the Caps not being built for the playoffs - I don't buy it. This team won a TON of games this season and I don't think it was by accident - I think it's because they're better than most teams in the NHL. Yes, the Caps needs to make adjustments to be able to succeed in the playoffs, but I don't buy into this mentality that the team is not built to win in the playoffs. I'm also surprised at this early stage in his career that you've written off Ovechkin as someone who "cannot" win in the playoffs. I think the biggest reason this team exited early is overconfidence and I don't see how they could not have been humbled by this latest playoff disaster. What are your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: See, I hate people who simply fabricate stuff to make their point. You didn't read anywhere that I said Ovechkin cannot win in the playoffs. Why would you simply lie and attribute something to me that I didn't write. I know exactly the criticisms I've made of Ovechkin. Don't like to make your point and attribute your misinformation to me ... thank you. The rest of your question, considering your tactics, falls on deaf ears.


Did Tiger give up??: Personal relationship aside, did it appear to you that Tiger mailed it in on Friday? I've never seen him look more disinterested on a course in his entire career. This is a guy prides himself on his mental toughness and there he is three putting from 8 feet, throwing a 4 putt on his card and shooting a 43 on the back nine Friday. After Thursdays round when asked if he would hit the range he responded "What the hell for".

Any chance Hank Haney gets the boot soon? Tiger's swing - especially off the tee - seems to have gone progressively downhill since he started seeing Hank. And sorry TW but 3/14 fairways a round isnt going to cut it in USOpen rough.

I've watched probably 95% of the TV rounds Tiger has played and have never, ever seen a more defeated look or body language. Not that I blame the guy but just wondering if you had any comments.

Michael Wilbon: I wasn't there and couldn't read expressions or observe how he was during or afterward, but I suspect his own disappointment in how he has played just overwhelmed him. We see this in competition, no matter the sport, fairly frequently...but not from HIM. Yeah, it's surprising. I can't imagine seeing it before this personal crisis. Can't imagine it. I think mental toughness comes, in part, from extremem preparation. That's been Tiger's calling card. And I can't imagine he's been prepared, like he always has been, for these tournaments.


Anonymous: Do you think the Wizards will/should keep Flip. I'm not a huge fan, i think someone like Avery Johnson could keep Gil in check and make a good atmosphere for the team.

your take?

Michael Wilbon: I thought Avery Johnson was the guy to hire before, specifically because Gilbert didn't want him. Letting Gilbert sign off on the coach was a mistake (through no fault of Flip's). I don't really see the club paying Flip $4.5 million a year for three more years to sit, when the team isn't going to be a contender anyway. Why fire this coach, then pay a new coach who isn't going to contend? I think Flip will stay, but maybe the new owner and whoever runs the team for him will have different ideas. I haven't asked Ted Leonsis this question, I'm just giving you my opinion, but one based on talking to owners over many years ... including Ted.


Washington, D.C.: Mike - What I'm about to ask is just silly theorizing almost as bad as the NFL draft, but because it's entertaining perhaps you'll entertain it...

I read Chris Broussard's interpretation of LBJ's MVP speech - he thought it was all about loyalty and meant LBJ was staying in Cleveland. Funny cause I thought the exact opposite - sounded like he was reassuring Ohio it would always be #1 in his heart and prepping for an apology but planning on taking off. Did you see the speech and did you think anything of it?

Michael Wilbon: Great question ... I was on the ABC set yesterday and during halftime we spoke to LeBron (by we I mean, Stuart Scott, Jon Barry, Magic Johnson and me) ... I heard his speech, too, and I don't spend any time parsing it, none. I don't really think LeBron necessarily knows yet what he's going to do. He probably has a good idea. But is it set in stone? I tend to doubt it. I think he'll wind up staying in Cleveland for three years, but I don't assign any great meaning to off-the-cuff remarks by athletes. It's a waste of time. From what I heard out of LeBron, you could spin it either way.


The Big Fall: Pete Rose...

Michael Wilbon: Yes sir ... thanks for that!


New York, NY: By all accounts Mayweather dominated Mosely however with his 24/7 persona he comes across as Reverend Ike with boxing gloves based on his love of money and material things. At this juncture and especially after we have revisited the Ali-Frazier relationship and the open wounds not to mention ugly racial categorizing that took place back when they fought (Ali the peoples champ whom many of us loved and Frazier the uncle tom if not sometimes compared to an animal found in the jungle) therefor is it not time that we tell Floyd to shut up and show some respect for his opponents and himself and hopefully find something more important than money to worship as if in a low brow rap video? Prove it (as he has done) in the ring and stop making negative personal comments about his opponents especially when it is two black men going after each other to the delight of the masses but to the detriment of themselves and black folks in general.

Michael Wilbon: I want Floyd to shut up and fight Pacquiao (did I butcher that spelling?) Okay, I want Floyd to shut up and fight Manny! How's that? Anything else he says is. Floyd isn't worth listening to. He's not talking about anything. He's a fighter, not a talker. Let him fight Manny, who I still think will whip his butt ...


Arlington, VA: LeBron and Ovechkin may be similar in age, but LeBron entered the NBA right out of high school. Ovechkin has been playing far fewer years of pro-length seasons.

Michael Wilbon: So what? LeBron never went out in the first round after choking on a 3-1 lead either, did he? You really want to play the excuse game after that choke. Do you? You just sound silly. LeBron won his first round, 1-8 series, didn't he


Washington DC: Mike,

Did you watch the fight? Do you still think Manny Pacquaio can beat Floyd Mayweather?

Michael Wilbon: Did you read that answer a minute or so ago? Yes. yes. and oh, yes.


Burke, Va: Wilbon, you don't understand why people thought Tiger would win the Masters? He finished fourth!!! That not exactly missing the cut. You need to man up and admit that your pre-Masters predictions of Tiger bombing at Augusta were dead wrong.

Michael Wilbon: Dude, my prediction was he wouldn't win, and he didn't. Tiger doesn't play majors to finish 4th ... Tiger, to occupy the spot in the sports world that he has, has to win again. I think he will. I believe he will...just not two minutes after this crisis ... it'll take some time.


Springfield, Va.: I know they won't draw fans like Tiger and Phil, but I would love to see some final round pairings of Rory McIlroy and Anthony Kim this year.

Michael Wilbon: You and me both ... Wouldn't that be a pairing worth following? That could be what we're dying to see through the next decade.


Albany, N.Y.: Rings aren't everything. Michael Jordan was clearly great at 24 but he was 28 before he won his first ring. I'm loathe to write off Ovie or LeBron at this point; they ain't done yet.

Michael Wilbon: What is this insistence on "wrting them off." Did you write them off. Who "wrote them off." Enough, all of us, with the lazy cliches. You can be critical of somebody without "writing them off." This is what sportstalk radio has done to us ... You can't say, "A guy needs to improve his jump shot next offseason" without people screaming, "You wrote him off." No, I said he needs to improve his damn jump shot.


Bowie, Md.: For the question about who has had the biggest "fall from grace" and where Tiger ranks, that sort of question shows how little perspective people can have sometimes. O.J. Simpson was a charming star accused of murder (and while not convicted, lost a civil trial for wrongful death). Michael Vick was convicted of extreme cruelty to animals in the form of dogfighting. Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. Guys like OJ are on their own island, and Vick is probably a notch or so below that, but Tiger Woods' name belongs NOWHERE near guys like that.

Michael Wilbon: I completely agree. John Edwards, same offense, was included in that discussion so it was very broad ... clearly too broad ... thanks for grounding us.


Washington, D.C.: Please correct me if I'm wrong - aren't NBA coaches salaries fully guaranteed? I think the Wiz are paying $4.5 mil/year to Flip for a crap team one way or the other.

Michael Wilbon: You're right ... So my point is, why fire him, have to pay him the $4.5, then hire another coach at $3 mill or whatever, then fire him because the team isn't going to contend for three years anyway? It's a waste of money.


Boston: What team in the West is the team the Cleveland LeBrons would least like to see? Not sure if there's a defensive stopper who can make the King wear himself out getting his...

Michael Wilbon: San Antonio maybe ... Ron Artest can't guard on the perimeter like he used to, so he can't stay with LeBron 20 feet from the basket and they have nobody else ... San Antonio has Richard Jefferson/George Hill combo ... Look, I don't think LeBron much cares about any single person guarding him because nobody can. But, the Spurs know how to play defense, team defense, pass him off, use different guys, stick with the gameplan...I think the Spurs are a real threat if they can get past the Lakers ... I think the Spurs will beat the Suns, the way San Antonio is playing now ...

Okay, I gotta run ... This was spirited today, wow. A bunch of different topics, too, which is how I like it ... See you guys next Monday afternoon. Thanks for chatting and have a great week ... MW


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