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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: World Cup, NBA free agency, LeBron James and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, July 6, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tuesday, July 6 to discuss LeBron James free agency, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire's new contracts, the rest of NBA free agency, the Redskins and all the latest sports news and his recent columns. 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

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos

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Washington, D.C.: Who would you take in a 7-game playoff:

the Bulls with LeBron, Rose, Noah and Boozer,

or the Heat with Wade, Bosh, Miller, and Haywood.

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody! This is the only place to start since there's hot stuff on the front burner right now in the free agency watch. To answer the question I'd take the Bulls, of course, but I'm a Chicagoan so I've got a certain bias ... The latest, for those involved, is that Toronto has a sign-and-trade deal on the table with the Cavaliers that would allow Chris Bosh to become a max player in Cleveland and join LeBron James. Problem: Bosh says he doesn't want to play in Cleveland. He'd like to play with LeBron in Miami, or LeBron in New Jersey, or LeBron in Chicago ... but not Cleveland...but Toronto says it isn't accepting a sign-and-trade offer from Miami because the Heat doesn't have jack to offer ... so, craziness in free agency. The Chicago Bulls, it seems to be, are on the verge of being squeezed out, which was unthinkable a week ago. BUT, if LeBron stays in Cleveland and Wade stays in Miami and Stoudemire is already in New York. That leaves the Bulls trying to grab Carlos Boozer or David Lee and maybe J.J. Reddick, if anything. But it's amazing to me that we're six days into this and so little has happened ....

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Annapolis,Md: Will we ever see Mayweather vs.Pacquiao?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, likely in November...I can't wait for that. I believe Pacquiao will knock Mayweather's face off, but that's just me. I definitely play to be at this fight, whether as a working journalist or a paying customer ... As a fight fanatic I can hardly wait.

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Irvine, Calif.: Prediction on the Spain vs. Germany World Cup game?

Michael Wilbon: How can you pick against Germany right now? I suppose there's some great case to be made for Spain but aren't The Netherlands and Germany on a collision course for the championship match?

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Clinton, Md.: Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the NBA as a group having financial problems? Aren't some teams facing some severe cutbacks? Either NBA owners are just crazy or they know something fans don't because when I see good players make max salaries (Gay, Johnson) and mediocre players (Milicic) get unjustified raises, I think the commissioner needs to step in and save them from themselves.

Michael Wilbon: He has. It'll happen at the end of this season when the owners presumably lock out the players. The NFL and NBA are facing what I feel are inevitable lockouts. And I think in both cases the owners (management) will come out the big winners because in the NFL management can simply trot out replacement players like they did in 1987 and the players will come scurrying back in and in the NBA players simply have lifestyles that have to be supported by an uninterrupted flow of cash ... So, I see major concessions from labor in both the NFL and NBA, and the size of those NBA max contracts will come sliding down in the future. You don't expect owners to control themselves voluntarily, do you?

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Washington, D.C.: I don't like New York or the Knicks but wouldn't it be exciting to see LeBron in a Mike D'Antoni offense? He would probably average a triple double!

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I think you're right. Look, LeBron loves D'Antoni from their time together on Team USA, where D'Antoni is an assistant coach. LeBron is very familiar with the system. I think he could average close to a triple double, but I think he'd have to have played for Mike in Phoenix, because in the Western Conference the play is much more wide open and you have so many nights of 115-110, which is partially why Steph Curry had a few triple doubles as a rookie and is great in open-court Western Conference games. And as we know, as good and as exciting as Curry is, he's no LeBron James. I'm totally with you on this ...

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Washington, D.C.: Spain has a really good team that still hasn't played it's best game yet, so if tomorrow they're firing on all cylinders, look out.

I would love to see Spain vs. Netherlands, two teams who have been favored in years past but have never won. Of course, Germany vs. Netherlands would be great too, seeing as how historically those two teams HATE each other.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that ...

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Washington, D.C.: Who is today's PTI Guest?

Michael Wilbon: No guest today ... We might have to do the entire show live, depending on the Uruguay vs. The Netherlands and free agency developments. When you have this much going on it's virtually impossible to schedule a guest and deal with one topic in a specific time span. Sorry ...

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Just a hypothetical, but let's say LeBron is in the in the league for another 10 years and averages 30, 10, and 5 during that time BUT he NEVER wins a title. If that happened, granted he'd still go to the Hall of Fame, would you say he was a bust?

Michael Wilbon: No, not a bust ... I would NEVER say Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor for cryin' out loud, were busts. They're all the most legit of Hall of Famers ... Would their resumes be lacking a line at the top? Yes, of course. But they were still great, great, great players.

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20006: The latest speculation about free agency, along with the high profile finals, seems to have catapulted the NBA into a new era of relevence. This is somewhat interesting because the Finals, from a pure hoops perspective, was poorly played. And, of course, none of this free agency stuff actually happens on the court. In the new era of sports media, in which off court intrigue nearly overshadows what happens inside the lines, what have we lost?

Michael Wilbon: Well, depends on your point of view. The NFL has used off-the-field intrigue to rise to the top of the sports/entertainment pyramid in America. Nothing happens for six days except silly talk and speculation, much of it about junk, and people lose their minds. NOTHING in America is as popular as professional football. So, maybe this will work for the NBA ... I'd caution this is a temporary thing because not every summer will find the most famous players on earth shopping for a team. Action, at some point, will have to carry the day and inspire people to pay attention.

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Germantown, Md.: Mike,

Hearing that AI wants to return made me flash back to last year during that press conference when he got really emotional and the Philly fans really welcomed him back. Do you see any team wanting him at all?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. I think Shaq and Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady are all going to play in the NBA this coming season. Where? I have no idea yet. Neither do they. Boston, with Kendrick Perkins injured and out for months, needs a big man and will likely at least talk to Shaq. If Iverson shows he has something left in his furnace, somebody will sign him. But his days of being a dominant player are over, just as they're over for Shaq.

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Cleveland: "To answer the question I'd take the Bulls, of course, but I'm a Chicagoan so I've got a certain bias."

I've heard talk about that on talk radio lately -- that your article in the post saying LBJ's best two choices were Chicago and Miami reflected that bias. Any response? Should you have not written that column because of your bias in the situation?

Michael Wilbon: We all have bias. I just admit mine up front and people are usually too dishonest or scared or agenda-driven to admit theirs. I don't care if people say that; question is can they say my case wasn't sound? Can they shoot holes in my argument? That I would care about. Everybody, and I mean everybody including the guys talking on radio have their bias ... let them just man up and say it up front. Trust me, it's not that difficult.

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LeBron: If it really is all about winning and LeBron can make millions off the court, why not take the minimum to play for a team like the Lakers or take the minimum and get Bosh and Wade to come to Cleveland?

Michael Wilbon: He's not Tiger Woods...or even Michael Jordan yet. We looked this up the other day; I think LeBron made something like $30 million off the court last year ... so it's not like Tiger's $100 million off-the-course money (which ain't happening anymore). LeBron has every right to get either the Bird max ($120 mil) or the regular max ($96 mil). Yeah, he could take less and play wherever he wants. but he can do that right now anyway, can't he? New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami are all in play. Where else does he need? Even if he plays in Cleveland for $5 million, Cleveland' I think would be at or around the salary cap and unable to bring in a max free agent.

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Fairfax, Va.: Did you read the article over the weekend about Joe Gibbs bringing some business/finance folks to Redskins Park to talk to players? It said a study has determined that something like 70 percent of football players have financial trouble just TWO YEARS out of the game.

How is this possible?? I mean, given that, I can see why the players keep wanting more and more ... but the owners can only lead 'em to water. What can be done about this, anything?

Michael Wilbon: What can be done about it? Joe Gibbs did it. They can be educated, that's what. In college and while they're playing professionally by people they respect and will listen to. Very, very, very admirable thing for Coach Gibbs to do. Very.

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Takoma Park, Md.: After his arrest for possession of codeine syrup, has JaMarcus Russell replaced Ryan Leaf as the biggest NFL draft bust?

Michael Wilbon: They're tied at the hip, to me. And when did codeine/Sprite/jolly rancher candies become felonious. I mean, cough syrup with codeine, Spirte and apple flavored jolly racher candies were three of my favorite things as a kid. I think cough syrup with codeine (somebody correct me if I'm wrong) was in every medicince cabinet in America is the 1960s, right? Do they cook it? What? I'm so out of the loop on this ... I have to reserach this because when I first heard abou the "Purple Drank" or "Lean" or "Syrup" today and it being popular at LSU among other places, my first response was to laugh out loud. I didn't know what to make of it. Now, having heard a little bit, I'm still in awe that three such relatively innocent things can be mixed together. I didn't even know codeine now had to be prescribed ... Man, I'm getting old.

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Falls Church, Va.: Who would you rather see in a Chicago Bulls jersey next season - Dwyane Wade or LeBron James?

Michael Wilbon: I was hoping nobody would ask me that. I suspect I'm like, oh, 75 percent of people born and raised in Chicago (as supposed to Johnny-come-latelys) who would rather see Wade than LeBron. Look, I'd like to see either (though not both). I'll take LeBron and be thrilled. I'd take Wade and be thrilled. But Wade grew up where I did. His agent, Hank Thomas, is a Chicagoan. Wade would be such a Conquering Hero if he came and played at home, and yes, bigger than LeBron to Chicagoans. It's simply how we are. LeBron's signing there would be much bigger news outside Chicago. But Wade stayed home in the midwest and played at Marquette (90 miles from Chicago). He won a championship already in the NBA. He comes home in the summer and does great charitable work...People already KNOW him. His family lives there. You know what Chicagoans who are real basketball fans were hoping for this summer: Wade coming as a free agent and Doc Rivers coming to coach the team, that's what. Having said ALL that, LeBron would be such an incredible fit with D. Rose and Jokim Noah ... I can't say "Push" (either) can I? I have to pick?

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Washington, D.C.: Paul, Germany's prognosticating octopus with a 5-0 record predicting Germany's performance so far, picked Spain earlier today. So someone's going against Germany ...

In other news, it's sad about Bob Probert, after spending so long trying to straighten his life out, passing away so suddenly and leaving a wife and four kids. It isn't often that two NHL cities mourn the loss of a former player.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for mentioning Probert, who is mourned in rival NHL cities (Detroit and Chicago) at that. I was never a fan of his kind of play; I'm just not attracting to the fighting. But I understand how respected he was through 17 years in the league.

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Clinton, Md.: Mike: Very good point about biases. It is obvious when you listen to some sportscasters that they have biases. Statements like "class act," "heady player," and others accolades when describing some players, followed by raised voices when those guys take shots demonstrates commentator bias to me. I'm just glad you are one of the few who will actually admit it.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you. And Chicago ain't the only bias I have ... I don't have as many as most. I watch plenty games and have zero preference about who wins. But sometimes I do have my favorites ... I hope it doesn't prevent me from praising or criticizing based on what happens.

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Anonymous: "Should you have not written that column because of your bias in the situation?"

You're a sports writer, correct? It's not like you're writing about politics and telling people who to vote for. Nor are you writing a story touting a stock you own without divulging it, right?

People, give the guy a break! What's the harm in being biased when it comes to sports? Besides, I wouldn't want to read articles in the sports page written by someone who has no idea what it's like to be a fan.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that point of view as well.

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Anonymous: I'm not sure I understand foreign soccer fans. Uruguay fans are enraged at that one player, Suarez, for using his hand in that last game and getting a red card. But if he didn't use his hand, it would have been a goal. But the pk was missed, so the hand ball looks like a brilliant act of martyrdom for a team. Or is my view of this skewed?

Michael Wilbon: Your view is exactly my view. I don't see how it's the only view.

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Pat Riley's Chances?: What do you think Pat Riley's chances are of pulling another rabbit out of the hat and garnering LBJ plus another championship similarly as he did in dumping then injured Brian Grant on the Lakers for Shaq and 1 Championship for the 2006 season? The next year, Riley dumped Shaq and his $20million/year salary on Phoenix? At least the Lakers got Lamar Odom who has turned out very good. What did Shaq's short tenure in Phoenix say about then Sun's management (is that why Kerr is gone) and Shaq's performance numbers for the Cavs say about Cleveland's former management?

Michael Wilbon: Problem seems to be that LeBron James doesn't want to play in Miami. He knows it's D-Wade's city and D-Wade's team and he'd just be joining a squad that belongs to somebody else. Seems a fair and accurate read of the situation by LeBron to me.

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Bethesda, Md.: Wilbon, Derek Fisher has career averages of 9.0 ppg., 3.2 apg., and 2.2 rpg. A lot of people feel the Horry should go to the Hall of Fame, but do you think Fisher has a shot? Kobe says the Lakers could never have won any without Fisher's play and he is a clutch performer. So, the Laker won his 5th (and he's been a critical piece), is he a Hall of Famer?

Michael Wilbon: D. Fish is one of my absolute favorite ball players ever...because he's talented enough to stay in the league for 13 years, smart enough to play for one of the demanding coaches ever. He's always physically ready to go. He knows what everybody on the floor is or should be doing. He's an exemplary ballplayer. Is he the most talented guy on the floor? Never. Is he going to the Hall of Fame? I doubt it. But I'll tell you this: He brought to that Lakers team over the years some of the things Dennis Johnson brought to the Celtics and John Paxson/Steve Kerr brought to Michael Jordan's Bulls ... There's a passion, tenacity and intelligence about everything he does ... high school coaches everywhere out to point to D. Fish as what they should aspire to be.

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D-Wade: I saw a few crawls on ESPN talking about how Wade's family situation might come into play with his decision. Can you shed some light on that and how it might come into play?

Michael Wilbon: I'm sure you can google the details. But a very public and unpleasant divorce and custody of two young sons is what they're talking about. And yes, it figures to have some impact since (as I'm told) the kids have lived in and continue to live in Chicago, Dwyane's hometown. His mom also lives there, and other family members.

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Germantown, Md.: I keep hearing the owners are willing to give out the crazy contracts because they will be able to roll them back after the lockout. I know you aren't a lawyer but is it possible to alter a signed contract after the fact?

Michael Wilbon: No, there isn't going to be any rollback. That's ridiculous. THAT's worth the players fighting for. But that's not going to happen. If you mean rollback in terms of future max contracts, sure. I think the number of years guaranteed will be reduced and the amount. We could be looking at nobody making more than $15 million and for four years, with additional years not guaranteed ... something like that. I'm sure owners will be pushing for less and players for more.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think Michael Vick would get picked up if the Eagles were to cut him, or do you think he'd be done as far as the NFL?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. I think it's entirely possible if the Eagles cut him he'd be done. Not certain of that, but it could be the case ... Okay, gotta run and watch soccer and prepare for PTI...We'll chat again when this free agency starts to settle, so this isn't the last one, not yet ... Talk next week. Stay tuned for time and date ... Very likely Monday as usual ... have a great week. MW

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