The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: NBA Finals, LeBron James and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, June 14, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Monday, June 14 to discuss the NBA Finals, LeBron James's free agency, the World Cup, Stephen Strasburg', 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.

A transcript follows

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Reston, Va.: Hi Mike,

Last week on PTI you said you'd rather watch the NBA finals than Strasburg's debut. As it turns out the question was moot because the two events didn't overlap. But knowing what happened in retrosect, would you have said the same? That was some debut.

BTW - I can't believe on a night with those two events, TK went to see James Taylor and Carol Kane. I don't care that he had tix. Scalp em. Love the guy, but he should have his man credentials revoked for that.

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody! I'm coming at you live from L.A. where I'm STILL covering the NBA Finals...Because The Kid pitched Sunday afternoon, I did get to see his second start, yesterday, and enjoyed it. And of course, his debut was even better. But I'm not invested emotionally in him and his success like fans of the Nationals must be...Even if it was a Cubs pitcher I don't think I'd have been all gaga over the debut. For example, I don't have any idea what Kerry Wood and Mark Prior did in their debut performances. S.S. is unbelievable and his debut was unlike any other I or most anybody else has seen. Now, I wouldn't have wanted to make the choice between a couple of geriatric rockers (I do love James Taylor, by the way) and S.S.'s debut, OR the NBA Finals, for that matter...Luckily The Kid will be around and hopefully in some post-season games that I WILL choose every time over lots of other events. Folks in D.C. who care about baseball should consider themselves damn lucky to have this phenom to watch and call their own...


Washington, D.C.: Do you think L.A. will do just what Boston did: Win two games in a row at home?

Michael Wilbon: You know...I'm starting to not think so...The Lakers played such lousy defense and were so unimaginative on offense that I wonder if they can recover with only one day to travel and make adjustments, AND with Andrew Bynum limping around, too. I thought L.A. was the better team when the series began and picked them in 7...but I don't know. Doc Rivers has the perfect rope-a-dope strategy for Kobe Bryant; just let him shoot himself into fatigue while defending everybody else on the floor. I have a hard time seeing the Celtics win Game 7 here in L.A. on the Lakers' home floor, but it wouldn't be the first time. The team the Cs most compare themselves to, historically, is the 1969 Celtics who did just that...won Game 7 in L.A., after finishing 4th in the Eastern Conference (as these Celtics did) and upsetting teams along the way to win it all...


College Football: Are you excited about the new college football landscape? It seems it will inevitably lead to a playoff system given that every week everybody will be playing a monster schedule, rendering the strength of schedule a moot point. However, I am already not looking forward to every game being treated of it were the Super Bowl.

Michael Wilbon: I want to SEE the playoff system happen first. And I want to see if the natural rivalries which have driven college football, like Oklahoma and Nebraska, are still going to be played. I don't trust these college commissioners and college/university presidents as far as I could throw them. It seems to me to be exclusively a money grab and not something that's good for the game, necessarily. How are 4 Super Conferences of 16 teams each better than what exists now? It's just that the conference chiefs want to split the pie with fewer eaters and this is their way of pushing the poorer schools away from their spots at the table.


Farragut West: Hi Mike,

Do players listen to coaches' pep-talks during time outs? It seems that the coaches seem to make statements that are quite obvious. Doc Rivers imploring his players to "Play together" seems like a relatively obvious statement that they players probably already know.

Phil Jackson, however, I thought made a really insightful comment in the fourth quarter of last night's game when he said the Celtics have given up more fourth quarter leads than any other team in the league.

That seems like a useful comment because it gives the Lakers some belief that they can pull out a win. But more often than not, the coach, if not calling a play, seems to be stating the obvious. Do you happen to know the player's attention to the coach in a time out huddle?

Michael Wilbon: You couldn't have picked a situation that's worked so perfectly opposite to what you're presuming. Doc has gotten the Celtics to listen absolutely to what he says, and neither thing you're referring to was a pre-game talk. The sexiest sound bite from last night was Phil saying the Celtics were losers. The most important instruction from last night was Doc telling his players that Kobe's scoring barrage still counts for two points per basket, not 10, and they shouldn't fall for it by slipping up on their assignments to cheat off on him, that the stated strategy was to let Kobe go crazy if he wanted but to tightly guard the other Celtics. THAT's what worked to perfection...And Doc has successfully implored his team to eschew one-on-one basketball in favor of playing together. When they've done it they've won, when they haven't they've lost. And they respond to that plea throughout the playoffs.


Anonymous: I don't think we should be calling SS The Kid. It's a common nickname and it can't last more than a couple of years. Wasn't Kevin Garnett once The Kid too? Besides, he's married and 21 isn't so young in sports anymore.

I say let's not force a nickname on him. Something will develop organically as we get to know him and watch him pitch.

Michael Wilbon: I'm not doing it for a marketing ploy; I don't care how old he is or his marital status. He's 21 with peach fuzz on his chin so he's a "kid" to me, just like a 21-year-old in my office is "kid." I'm not part of his marketing team and could care less what he's called. All I'm interested in is watching him pitch. Wow


Playoffs?! Playoffs??: (read the above in the voice of Jim Mora)

How in the world is this new conference setup going to bring us closer to a playoff? You summarized it perfectly:

How are 4 Super Conferences of 16 teams each better than what exists now? It's just that the conference chiefs want to split the pie with fewer eaters and this is their way of pushing the poorer schools away from their spots at the table.

I assume the next BCS deal will offer "wild card" spots to second place teams from these superconferences? And squeeze out the Big East, Mountain West and the other "small fry?"

Michael Wilbon: Of course. These people are liars and frauds, many of them, and they just want to find structure that will help them exclude the little guy. They're not to be trusted under any circumstance...


Washington, D.C.: Do you think Byron Scott will be coaching next season? He's had a decent track record, and it's not like Doc Rivers was lighting up the coaching world before the C's acquired Allen, KG, and Rondo.

Michael Wilbon: Byron Scott took a team, the New Jersey Nets, to the Finals twice. And he led the Hornets to their best playoff showing ever...So YES, I think he's a great candidate. I wish my Bulls had hired him. Scott simply knows about winning, as a player and as a coach. He, Avery Johnson and Jeff Van Gundy, because they've proven themselves by leading teams to the Finals, would be at the top of my coaching candidate list, and big ups to Avery for going to the Nets...


Washington, D.C.: If Maryland was offered an invitation to join the Big Ten, with the prestige and TV revenue that would come along with it, would you accept?

Michael Wilbon: Sure, I guess...But what difference does it matter. Maryland doesn't belong in the Big Ten. Its interests aren't the same as the interests of Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwester, Purdue, Michigan State and now Nebraska...The Cornhuskers were a better fit for us than Penn State, actually...Missouri after that. Who knows what will happen to the ACC, and whether they'll attempt to swallow up some Big East schools or whether the SEC will swallow up the ACC schools...I just don't much care anymore.


Washington, D.C.: Does Bynum really make that much of a difference and what was the Zen master thinking when he said that the Celts always lose games in the 4th qtr.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, Bynum can lock down the middle defensively, and the Celtics, I believe, led the NBA this year in fourth-quarter leads blown...especially ones by double-digits...


Fairfax, Va.: Are the Celtics winning in spite of Garnett? He looks old, slow, and tired. A shell of his old self. Is he finished after this season?

Michael Wilbon: Well, KG certainly isn't what he was two years ago when he was arguable MVP of the league after coming from Minnesota in that trade. He is dragging that leg of his and in general looks spent most of the time. Remember, he's been playing in the league for 15 years so he's got great mileage on him if not years. BUT he did put up 18 points and 10 rebounds last night which was more than Bynum or Pau Gasol. Rajon Rondo has replaced KG as the team's best player but the Cs still need contribution from him to finish off this thing.


Washington, D.C.: I was in Cancun last week and caught the Mexican version of PTI called CronoMetro. Have you ever heard of it or met the hosts? One interesting thing is how their lead story was soccer and not the NBA finals.

Michael Wilbon: I have heard of it, yes, and of course in Mexico their lead story would be soccer. Why would a domestic league championship, which is what the NBA is, lead their program over their own domestic interests? True, the NBA does lead some sports/newscasts in Europe, where pro basketball is king. But soccer is, has and presumably always will be kind in Mexico...


Alexandria, Va.: "The Kid" may be taken but calling him SS may be the worst outcome by FAR.

Michael, Here's what I don't get about college football. You say the Presidents are out for the money above all else and I have NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that you're absolutely right.

But if that's the case, then why go to such lengths to avoid a real playoff? Can there be any doubt that a CF playoff would best almost every other sporting event (save, perhaps, the Super Bowl) for ratings and money?

Do the Presidents simply not understand this? or do they still harbor a belief that the general public thinks of them as academicians and not simply political players.

Michael Wilbon: A great many of them have voiced the preference that they simply want college football to operate as it always has, without a playoff...UNTIL the notion of these super conferences producing tens of millions more per school (most in TV revenue) came along and suddenly their not so keen on tradition anymore...Where's the consistency? What happened to the preference for tradition, which is now being blown to smitherines?


Pro Athletes and Media: To what extent do pro-athletes follow sports media? Do they read what you and other columnists write? I imagine that it must vary by athlete.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it does vary greatly. Like any other profession (but probably more than most) some follow it very, very closely and some don;t, and some say they don't but do...I receive feedback from athletes/coaches all the time, then again some never seem to know (or care) what is written or said about them, which by the way I understand completely. But to suggest there's a rhyme or reason to who follows it and who doesn't...I couldn't do that. Like most of the rest of the population, more watch TV than read, though I think a greater percentage of those involved in sports read sports-related things...There's a generational component as well, of course.


McLean, Va.: Mike,

I'm reading some columns this morning suggesting that Kobe's ridiculous third quarter got his teammates out of rhythm and eventually led to the loss. While that may be true, it seemed like their defense was more culpable - and Kobe actually kept the Lakers within striking distance during the Celtics' red-hot third. Am I wrong in thinking that assigning blame to someone who scored 19 points in one quarter is a bit off base?

Michael Wilbon: I think there could be a little bit of truth to it, but I, like you, look at the lack of defense as the No. 1 culprit. I will say that if Kobe takes 27 shots and the next highest number of shots is 12, then 9 it's probably not a good thing. Not in The Finals, against a Boston defense that makes it sooooo difficult for him to score. This isn't some November game against Golden State. We're talking about a team with defensive resources, great pride in the defense they play, and a coach who stresses that above all else. Don't look for Kobe to go for 45 or 48 in Game 6 or 7. If he does, the bet here is the Lakers will lose that game.


Washington, D.C.: Where do you see Bynum's career going forward? He's a huge guy who plays with a lot of weight on his knees. Given that cartilage has a low blood supply making repair very difficult, having a torn meniscus is something that lends me to believe this is all we'll see from him.

Michael Wilbon: Well, it's been a different injury of consequence every year for him, hasn't it? He's been like Yao Ming in that way, which we're seeing more and more from these giants who have so much stress on certain parts of their bodies, which you speak to. I don't where his career will go if he can't have sustained good health. Where is Greg Oden's career going, for instance? Where, still, is Yao's going?


DO CFB playoffs = more money?: Just responding to the poster who asked why college football presidents -- "all about the money" -- can't see that a playoff would bring MORE money than the current structure.

Yes, it would. But it would be spread among more schools. Right now the BCS can give the BCS's money to whomever it decides. Don't play in the BCS or have a conference mate who does? You get bupkis.

But a playoff would be run by the NCAA, who would share the money with ALL schools in ALL conferences, regardless of who plays in the games. So the big-time schools would actually get LESS money in a playoff than in the current BCS system.

Michael Wilbon: A playoff is going to be run by the NCAA? Are you nuts? These super conferences aren't even going to play in the NCAA. They're setting it up right now, by dividing into these leagues, to pull out of the NCAA and govern themselves...and have FEWER teams. They're not going to include the Mountain West! They want to give the finger to the NCAA (hard to disagree with them there) and keep the money among 60-80 schools, not 117...Some on, you have to see this.


Silver Spring, Md.: What do you think the chances are of Strasburg staying with the Nats beyond six years, versus following the money and bolting for a team like the Yankees? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: Of course, that's going to be THE question in years. Just enjoy the kid while he's here...and if the team is super competitive, then why go to the Yankees? Wouldn't there be less temptation if you can win or compete seriously where you are? I don't now what his values are. Not every kid wants to play/live in NYC. I don't know what Strasburg's preferences are when it comes to those things.


What's next for Boston?: Mike, win or lose, the Celtics are showing their age. How many guys in the Big 3 are back next year? Would they make a dramatic move to change their future outlook? Could they end up being players somehow for one of the big free agents (Bosh would be a very interesting steal)?

Michael Wilbon: Question is, would the Celtics, if they win, simply take a bow, blow it all up and start over? Why wouldn't Doc Rivers say, "thank you very much", then walk off to the ovation? Wouldn't it be a pretty cool ending? They knew this had about a 3-year run and this is the third year...It's hard to see any glory beyond this week, but what a three years. Wow. Now, it's fair to wonder what might have happened last year had KG been healthy?


U.S. Open: Would you take Woods or the Field? Will you go north and see some golf after the NBA finals?

Michael Wilbon: The Field. And no, I'm going to Chicago to deliver the Commencement Address at my alma mater, Northwestern University, on Friday...


Home court advantage: How much does home court advantage actually help 30+ year old veterans on the Celtics and the Lakers? I understand how it helps young high school and college players, but I can't imagine that Pierce, Garnett, or Bryant actually care who is cheering for them or against them. Thanks for the chats!

Michael Wilbon: Great question/point. Remember, these Celtics are the first Finals team ever to have a better road record than home maybe they don't give a hoot.


Washington, D.C.: Wilby? Did Jon barry really call you that??? haha.

Should let you know - during the telecast, Jeff Van Gundy made fun of Ron Artest for "flopping/selling" the push from Rondo. "Queensbridge Ron, say queensbridge now!"

I give Jeff a 10 for that comment. By far the funniest moment of the night ... until the Wilby comment.

Now can someone get Jeff some sleep???

Michael Wilbon: JB calls me "Wilby" all the time, as does Avery Johnson. Magic does it less often...It was what people called me in high school pretty damn frequently. Remember, I've known these guys FOREVER, first as a sportswriter and now as a broadcast colleague. I mean, years and years and while it's new to people watching me on TV it ain't new to me...I know it sounds crazy, but I got used to it many years ago...


Bowl Colussus Series: So, if as you suggest the big-timers are going to break football off from the NCAA, do you see that happening for basketball too? March wouldn't be the same without the Butlers and George Masons.

Michael Wilbon: I think the basketballers should look after their own interests; the NCAA rarely has. Why wouldn't Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Georgetown and others create a basketball league or two out of this, and pursue their own agendas?


Washington, D.C.: Can you take a second and give some love to our awesome Chicago Blackhawks? I am again proud to be a fan of theirs, after many dark years. And how about Jeremy Roenick crying after the game? Good stuff (and I mean that in a postive way).

Michael Wilbon: YES SIR! This is a great way to end today's chat...I've rooted for the Blackhawks all my life, and to see them win the Stanley Cup after a 49-year drought was so cool...and the WAY it happened, on that mystery goal in OT on the road in Philly! Had there been a Game 7 I was going to sit in the stands at the United Center with my friend Charles Barkley, who's a hockey fan since his days playing in Philly and getting to know some of the Flyers players of the 1980s and 1990s...That would have been a blast, but I'm glad there was no Game 7...not sure my heart could have taken it...But for all that suffering, to have a team with players this talented (beginning with Kane and Toews) is tremendous. These guys are in their early 20s. Remember, the Blackhawks have the youngest team in the NHL and they've already gotten rid of some of the pressure to win one...Barkley says he believes they'll be the favorite for the next five years...and I hope he's right...even moreso I hope they'll have a run where they win two, three championships. A Stanley Cup Finals series next June of Blackhawks v. Capitals would be just fine with me...

Okay everybody...I've got to run and get over to the studio to do with you next week after the Finals are over, after the U.S. Open is over, and after my first Commencement Address is (thankfully) over...The stress is already killing me! Have a great week...MW


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