The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: FIFA World Cup officiating, NBA Draft, John Wall, LeBron James and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, June 22 to discuss the World Cup's officiating controversies, the NBA Draft, top pick John Wall, the future of the Wizards, LeBron James's free agency, 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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Columbia, Md.: Yahoo! is reporting there might be a trade in the works for Yi Jianlian of the Nets. If the trade goes through, are the Bullets, I mean Wiz kids, moving AB to center? What's your take on the potential trade?

Also another rumor is Gil for Vinsanity. Heard anything to substantiate either trades? Report: Nets to trade Yi Jianlian to Wizards (Pro Basketball Talk, June 29)

Michael Wilbon: Did you guys see my last answer? I have no idea, really because the internet gave way, at least for a minute. If you didn't see it, what I said is that I like the Wizards getting Yi Jianlian, which along with Kirk Hinrich gives the NBA a couple of guys with skill who can play alongside John Wall ... that should make the Wizards a 30-win team and not a 13-win team, which is a big deal. It would be so much better for Wall's development. ... I like the deal a lot. It doesn't mean the Wizards are going to contend for the playoffs of anything crazy. But they'll be worth watching, at least. AND, I still think the most likely deal for Gilbert Arenas will be to New York for Eddie Curry and his onerous contract, but that wouldn't come until after the Knicks see who they can attract in free agency.


Phoenix, Ariz.: Yesterday a FIFA official said it was a mistake to replay the controversial Argentina offsides goal in the stadium during the game because the Mexico players saw it and confronted the ref about it. If FIFA cherishes the controversy of human error, as they claim, then why wouldn't they show it? What a bunch of hypocrites. I can't believe that they haven't put the games on tape delay so they can edit out the egregious officiating.

Michael Wilbon: The idiots/egomaniacs who run FIFA are even worse than the egomaniacs who run college football. Their arrogance is unbelievable, and very real. They are hypocrites, indeed. Now, we hear this morning that Sepp Blatter has talked about "technology" being employed to help ... I presume that means some sort of detection of the ball when it crosses the plane of the goal line...The NFL should go to such a device as well at the goal line ... It's just not that hard. We know the technology is available. Any 7th grade science/technology class these days could come up with that ...


Gilbert, Ariz.: Hey Mike, do you think that the Lakers will need to make a deal sometime in the next week? There are some whispers that they're willing to deal Odom and Bynum to Toronto in a sign and trade deal for Bosh. Couldn't they get away with only offering one of those guys? And wouldn't it be more of a lateral move by them to part with two huge pieces to their championship puzzle this year?

I usually agree with mixing it up a little after a title is won, simply for the fact that bringing in a hungry player (like Ron Ron) can help motivate what could otherwise become a complacent team the following year. But these two guys for Bosh? Would they only want to do this deal as a way to keep another team (Bulls, Heat) from becoming TOO stacked? Clock is ticking for LeBron James and other free agents (, June 28)

Michael Wilbon: If I was the Lakers, and I could trade Odom (who I love) and Bynum (who gets hurt all the time) for Chris Bosh, I'd do it in a heart beat. Not sure I want that deal if I'm Toronto, but it's better than being stuck with nothing. I wonder if the Raptors are already tired of Hedo Turkoglu as well ... But the Lakers aren't afraid to hit the refresh button, as evidence (as you point out) by the deal to take on Ron Artest last year, which indeed worked.


Miami, Fla.: M-Dub,

I'd like to know if you think a team made up of LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh would be good for the NBA?

Michael Wilbon: Absolutely, yes. All we'd talk about is Miami vs. the Lakers in the NBA Finals. I'd rather see LeBron and Bosh lay with Derrick Rose, because I'm from Chicago and biased in favor of the Bulls ... but OF COURSE it would be good for basketball. How could it not be?


Washington, D.C.: Aren't the Wizards over-hyping John Wall? When I think of game changing point guards, the first person I think of is Magic Johnson. Is Wall the second coming of Magic? If not, don't Wizard fans have a right to be disappointed in the F.O.

Michael Wilbon: Is anybody suggesting John Wall is the Second Coming of Magic? I haven't heard that, nor should I. But there are game-changing point guards in the league right now who aren't Magic Johnson. Guys like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose ... these guys are dynamic point guards who have had some impressive playoff games. Williams has been to the conference finals once. I think folks believe John Wall can be in that group.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dear Mike,

Do you think, as some have argued, that soccer could gain strides in reaching the popularity of the NBA, NFL, and, MLB in the U.S. if it stepped up its efforts to reach out more to the inner cities?

Thank you very much for all your work! I enjoy reading your insightful columns.

Michael Wilbon: No. And I've never argued that. You can look it up. I've always said that Americans only embrace the sports that we invented or popularized. American football, baseball, basketball are ours. Golf is NOT ours but the best players the last 50-plus years (Palmer, Nicklaus, Tiger) are ours. Soccer has grown here but I don't think it's going to surpass any of the above in my lifetime, in terms of popularity in America.


Atlanta, Ga.: Hello Mike,

Since you are one of a select few who encourages racial discourse, here is a question: why are white basketball players frequently accentuated for their "cerebral" qualities?

I ask because a national publication had loads to say about Butler's Gordon Hayward, particularly his intellect. He is a smart kid, but so is John Wall, who had a 3.5 GPA when he did not even have to go to class. Can't you be smart and athletic?

Michael Wilbon: You mean like David Robinson and Grant Hill, and for that matter Arthur Ashe, Martina Navratilova, Jim Brown, Bill Bradley ... oh a football playing President of the United States named Gerald Ford? You mean like them? Or a Rhodes Scholar from Florida State who's going to be an NFL rookie, Myron Rolle? Smart, athletic men and women are all over the place, so the two assets are not mutually exclusive.


Fairfax, Va.: Can we start a bet on date and time LeBron announces his decision? Do you think it'll be one of those "12:01AM" things, or will it get drawn out for a few weeks? What can you offer as a prize for the person who comes closest to the actual date and time LeBron announces which team he'll sign with?

Michael Wilbon: Great question ... I'm thinking February 5 ... in other words, not very long at all.


Washington, D.C.: Why can't we get LeBron to come here to play with Wall? Let's start the talk here ...

Michael Wilbon: Because the Wizards don't have $20 million in salary cap room and/or enough players to enable LeBron to contend for seriously for an NBA Championship in 2010-2011 ... That's why.


Washington, D.C.: Turns out, the American forwards or strikers or whatever you call them, struck out in the World Cup. No goals from the guys who are supposed to score goals.

How un-American is that?! I can see if we didn't have any American midfielders, because those guys have to run around a lot and be unselfish and make their teammates look good, and that is asking a lot of us Americans. But, no guys who slam it home? In this country?

We've got one-dimensionals scorers aplenty in our other sports? Where is the Randy Moss/Terrell Owens of soccer? Where is the home run hitter who can't play defense, a la Adam Dunn -- of soccer? Heck, the whole Wizards team can score without playing defense. But, for some reason, the U.S. soccer team can't tap into this long tradition of guys who let their teammates do the work, and collect the glory and the points?

Something is wrong in this country ...

Michael Wilbon: That's a nice rant ... I like it ... even though I'm CERTAIN somebody is going to trump you momentarily with a thoughtful counter-argument.


Buenos Aires, Argentina: Mike,

Do you share in the view that poor officiating and a lack of technology use in the World Cup is part of the reason as to why some Americans are not as receptive to soccer in this country?

Michael Wilbon: No. We didn't embrace soccer (relative to other sports) before this ... so what was the excuse in 2006? In 2002? In 1998 or 1994?


Boston: While I was disappointed the U.S. team lost, I wasn't shocked (despite what Tony K. says about FIFA rankings and country size). The U.S.'s lack of quality centerbacks left their defense exposed to a young, fast, athletic Ghanaian team.

What was your take on the American loss?

Michael Wilbon: Much the same as yours, mostly that Ghana was so physically superior, particularly when it comes to speed, to Team USA. It was obvious ...


Long Beach, Calif.: Mike,

You've written a few (maybe more than a few) times about the differences between how various sports are run. The NFL is all about parity, the NBA loves its stars, etc. Would you like to see one of these models - or any I haven't mentioned - applied to a sport that doesn't current operated that way? Like the NBA aiming for parity, as an example. Just curious what experiment you would most like to see and why.

Michael Wilbon: I think the reason the leagues take these various approaches is because it's been found each path works for that league...NBA fans simply do not love parity. So, why would the NBA even go in that direction? The NFL has to have helmets, so you're not going to know the people, and because they're so many of's part of what plays into parity. The NFL is also the only true NATIONAL league, in that people care deeply about teams in other cities...not the players but the jerseys. I think the league understand exactly why they have specific stratgies, and there's no real upside in going against the grain just to try something different.


Georgetown U.: Dear Mr. Wilbon,

Do you view the U.S. soccer team's elimination from the World Cup as a missed opportunity to grow the sport in this country?

Michael Wilbon: Great question...First, there was simply zero chance the U.S. would win it ... so we're talking about winning one more game, maybe two. Would that change things in the short term? Yes. Would it alter the way soccer is perceived throughout America? I don't think so. Did the "Miracle on Ice" make hockey more popular than baseball, basketball or pro football in America? No, not in the short term and not in the long-term either.


Washington, D.C.: One amazing fact from the World Cup is that out of four games, the U.S. team only lead their opponents for a total of 3 minutes. While they played well at times, getting back into games, I think having to come from behind every time was simply too much for them.

Michael Wilbon: That's right ... WE'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH ... Why did people think the U.S. team was going to go deep into the tournament? Why? Based on what? All you have to look at is Ghana's players running by us like the Road Runner going past Wil E. Coyote.


Washington, D.C.: In your mind which team had the best NBA Draft day last Thursday?

Michael Wilbon: The Wizards or the Nets or the T-Wolves. I like Wall, I like D. Favors and Wes Johnson ... Those are all rookies I'm excited to see who I think can make an immediate impact.


Washington, D.C.: Were you surprised to see that Grevis Vasquez was picked in the First Round?

Michael Wilbon: No ... not surprised. Vasquez has a shot to be a pretty good NBA player. And if he gets any time playing for Memphis, where they have some guys who can score, he could do a good job ...


Washington, D.C.: Best of Luck to Debbie Yow on her move to N.C. State. There were up and downs during her tenure at Maryland but overall she did a magnificent job as the Athletic Director.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, she did. I know the relationship between Debbie Yow and Gary Williams and Debbie Yow and Ralph Friedgen weren't always free-flowing. But Maryland won 20 championships during her tenure, which as they say, speaks for itself...Congratulations to her for the new gig in Raleigh and good luck. I enjoyed a great relationship with Debbie and hope she does well. I don't think there's any question she left the Maryland athletic department in very, very, very good shape.


Soccer: Point of fact, soccer has been, since the early 1980s, the single biggest participation sport in the US. This means specifically that more people play organized soccer than any other sport including basketball, football and baseball.

This does NOT mean that a professional soccer league in the US has achieved or will achieve the popularity of those sports. Our professional soccer league, MLS, is roughly equivalent to the first division in England's Premier League. Which means that we are at best second rate. Even those of us who love soccer and were born and raised with it here in the states understand that it is an inferior product. Many of us, while we might root for DC United and there are certainly huge fan orgs for MLS teams, are still more interested and spend more time and money following teams from the big European leagues.

Is it possible that this could change and soccer can be as money loaded here in the U.S. as the other sports? History would suggest yes. None of the other leagues was particularly lauded or embraced in their early iterations. It took a long time and lots of marketing for them to rise to that level. Part of that marketing included the fact that they were the "best" quality leagues in their respective sports. This is an arrow that is not in the quiver of the MLS and won't be. So, I'm not holding my breath, but when we talk about popularity, strictly speaking in terms of participation, it already is the biggest sport in America.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you, first of all, for such a smart comment to start your question ... I don't think the best players in the world are going to come, in their primes, to play in a league in the United States when they can play in countries where soccer -- professional soccer to continue with your smart and accurate distinction -- has infrastructure and support and a certain mania that helps any sport thrive. I just don't expect to see that in my lifetime (and I hope to be around for awhile). But you draw an important difference between participation and support of a league whose players aren't the best ... Thanks ...

Okay, I gotta run ... Have to prepare for PTI AND for a Free Agent Summit show tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN. TK, Bill Simmons, LeBatard and Wilbon, right after SportsCenter. See you guys next week when perhaps we'll have cleared up the free agent mess ... Have a great week everybody ... MW


Washington, D.C.: Is Maradona a good character or a good coach?

Michael Wilbon: Seems to be both.


Arlington, Va.: Telling John Wall "No" to having Elvin Hayes' No. 11 is a small thing but I think it sets an organizational precedent that you are not in charge and that there is a basketball history/organization that is bigger than you...something that they never did with Arenas. Mr Wall seems to be humble and have good character ... let's keep it that way. What do you think?

Michael Wilbon: I think what you think ... It's retired. It belonged to Elvin Hayes, who was a Hall of Famer and champion. Look him up. Google him, young man, then come back and tell me something about him. Hooray!


RE: U.S. forwards: The problem with the U.S. is that while they have always produced good goalkeepers, they have never produced any top goal scorers (midfielders included). It's tough to win at the World Cup when you played four games and only lead your opponents by a total of 3 minutes.

Michael Wilbon: I know we're done but I have to post a few comments which I think are very smart ... MW


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