Chat with Michael Wilbon
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's Michael Wilbon stops by to chat and share his thoughts on the sports world.
Wilbon, a longtime Washington Post sports columnist, is co-host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, the popular weekday sports debate and discussion program, as well as an NBA studio analyst for both ESPN and ABC. A pioneer in sports journalism, Wilbon was one of the first sports writers to broaden his success beyond newspapers to include television, radio and other media.
Send your questions now and join Wilbon Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
mike wilbon (1:04 PM)
Hi everybody...Happy Monday...Pretty damn impressive weekend of sports on so many fronts so we'll jump right in...I have to start by giving big props to Jon Barry, my colleague on ESPN's NBA coverage who said at 11 a.m. that McIlroy kid would unravel under the pressure of Sunday leading Charl would win, and that the winnning score would probably be 13-under (wso JB missed that one by one stroke)...But JB is the only person I knew who saw it coming...What a dramatic tournament, Tiger and all...
Is Charl really 140 pounds? You were there, does he look as tiny as he seems?
mike wilbon (1:06 PM)
No, I was not there...I was in the ESPN studios in Bristol working the NBA coverage for ABC...I watched it like just about everybody else on the tele...I could see he's a slight fellow...I would have guessed 160 pounds, but wow, 140! Is that true? Whatever, his nerve seems to be pretty big to birdie out like that on Sunday at Augusta...Seriously, that's an all-time finish, isn't it?
mike wilbon (1:12 PM)
Yeah, the Celtics need somebody to throw them a lifeline. All season long, until this past week, I've been writing and saying the Celtics are the best team in the East, the Celtics are the best team in the East, no way the Heat can beat the Celtics four times in a seven-game series, blah, blah, blah...Well, the Celtics have fallen and it doesn't appear they can get up. And while a number of things appear to be wrong (poor rebounding, though they were plagued by that as well last year and it it didn't matter, poor three-point shooting, lack of scoring in general) it's the trading of Kendrick Perkins that seems like the biggest problem. The Bulls beat the Celtics 44-22 in the paint Thursday night and Miami beat the Celtics 44-26 yesterday...And NOBODY is afraid to drive the lane anymore on Boston, nobody. The Celtics, from where I sit now, seem to have traded away their identity. Where's the growl, the toughness? Oh, it's in Oklahoma City putting Kobe Bryant in a headlock! Have you seen the number of enforcer-type scraps Perkins has been involved in since he got into that Thunder lineup? Ok City is SOOOO much better now; ask the Lakers. I don't see how Boston, with so little muscle and inside presence, can beat Miami...Certainly not Miami and Chicago in back-to-back playoff series.
What are the chances that the Knicks have of upsetting a team like the Celtics or the Heat in first round?
mike wilbon (1:15 PM)
Well, this is sort of a follow-up to the previous question, isn't it? The knicks are so up-and-down right now...Six straight losses, seven straight victories...they're on a roll right now but can they take it into the playoffs against Miami or the Celtics. Three or four weeks ago I thought the Knicks had a really good chance to beat Miami, then the Knicks went south...But when they're playing like this, like they did last night even without Amare in a game the Knicks secured on a DEFENSIVE play by Carmelo, of all people, the Knicks can seriously threaten the Celtics and Heat...I think the Celtics are more vulnerable right now...The question about the Knicks is whether they're committed to play defense, oh, 60 percent of the time. They're not going to do it every night like the Bulls or Lakers. But will they do it four or five times in a seven-game series?
Larry (Richton Park)
Can Omer Asik be a force in the playoff??
mike wilbon (1:18 PM)
Ah, no. Come on, when have you ever seen an 8th or 9th man be a "force" in the playoffs? No. Thankfully, the Bulls aren't going to ask him to be. The question is can Asik be a contributor on any meaningful level...I think the answer is perhaps. Depends on the matchups. Can he come in and help keep Indiana's Roy Hibbert from having a big game, which he's had a few of lately? Yes. Can Asik help against smallish Miami? Yes, we've seen him get 13 rebounds in Miami recently...Can he help against a size-challenged Orlando team? Probably...But a force? Stay calm Larry...Some rebounds and defense and well-timed fouls is what you're looking for...
Andre (Raleigh, NC)
Hello Michael. What is your feelings about the COY? My feeling is that Doug Collins should win that hands down. Tom Thibodeau is put in the conversation but his team has much more talent than Sixers and it would seem that coaching the Sixers to the playoffs is a much more difficult task than coaching the Bulls.
mike wilbon (1:23 PM)
I can't say anybody should win "hands down." There are too many coaches who've done really, really good jobs this season. I'm going to hit the "done" button on my ballot tomorrow and I don't even know who I'm voting first yet...Doug is high on the list, given where Philly was last season and even the start of this season (3-13, right?) Doug has turned that team around in almost no time, changed the way Iguodala plays, helped Jrue Holiday, developed a real bench...But how do you discout Tibbs taking a team from 41 wins to perhaps 62? Or what Lionel Hollins has done in Memphis without the team's second-best player (Rudy Gay)? How about Pop chaging EVERYTHING about the way the Spurs play and leading the league in victories? How about Nate McMillan losing his prize young big man (Greg Oden) and his franchise player (Brandon Roy) for a chunk of time and still finishing as high as 6th in the West? Oh, how about George Karl, enduring all that $#@%&* during the Melo-drama, then taking the Knicks cast-offs and running off the second-best record in the West post-All-Star break? It's a tough choice, so as much as I like what Doug has done nobody is "hands down" the winner of the Coach of the Year award...
Can Orlando upset You Bulls?
mike wilbon (1:23 PM)
When will you guys give Carmelo his due? Let everyone know he is the most clutch with 1 shot to take!
mike wilbon (1:25 PM)
Carmelo's the best in the league at that, okay maybe even with Kobe but maybe even statistically better than Kobe. He's gotten credit, deservedly. That's why we know about the number (16 of them in his career, which is staggering). You get real credit, as Melo knows from his college days, for winning. Melo's credit from here on in will be tied, justifiably, to winning, period. And that's as it should be...LeBron will be held to the same standard, again, as it should be.
RON (CONWAY ,SC)
CAN YOU HEAR THE THUNDER???
mike wilbon (1:27 PM)
Oh yes...Goodness, the Lakers really, really, really wanted to win that game last night and couldn't. Not "didn't" but "couldn't." And that's a bad sign for the defending champs. If Oklahoma City has home-court advantage in a series with the Lakers it's going to be a long, contentious, difficult test for the champions. I'm not about to pick a winner in that series now; let's see how the first round plays out. But with Perkins in there anchoring the defense and Durant and Westbrook playing the way they did last night...lot of possibilities for Ok City...
Scottee T. (Virginia)
At the end of the day, who do you think reps the East in the NBA Finals?
mike wilbon (1:30 PM)
I can't make up my mind right now between the Bulls and Heat. Miami's problem, still, is that they're not going to be able to manufacture a bunch of transition points against a defense as smothering as the Bulls' is. Miami has the worst bench in the league and they'd be playing the best bench, arguably, in the league...I sound like I'm building an argument for the Bulls...I guess I am...At the start of the season I picked Lakers-Miami as my NBA Finals...Hmmmm, I guess there's no reason to run from that, but I guess if the season started today I'd pick the Bulls over Miami in seven with each team winning once on the road but Game 7 going to the home team, Chicago...Note: I think I have this stat right...The Bulls, in club history, have only lost one series when they had home-court advantage...One. That was to the Wizards a few years ago when Luol Deng (maybe in his second season then) and Eddie Curry, two starters, were out injured...Other than that, whether we're talking Sloan/Walker/Love/Van Lier/Boerwinkle or MJ/Pip the Bulls have delivered historically when they have home court...This is no small point.
Brendan ((Pittsfield, MA))
Hey Mike - I just have to say that I LOVED hearing you call out all these stat junkies on NBA Countdown yesterday when you and JB did your top 5 MVP. All you have to do is actually watch a game to see how special and amazing Derick Rose is. Oh - and the fact that his team is 1st in the East, 1 game out of the best record in the NBA and finished 7-1 against the Heat and Magic. MVP. Case closed.
mike wilbon (1:33 PM)
It is case closed. I'll make public the rest of my ballot for all the NBA Awards in a column that will run tomorrow on ESPN.com. I just think all these votes should be made public if people care, and they usually do...I am thinking, not that it really matters though, of moving LeBron from 4th to 2nd...because Kobe and the Lakers either flat-lined again or are on a downward spiral, neither of which is good, and because Dwight Howard sabotages his team with these silly technical fouls...
Were you rooting for Tiger to put on the green jacket yesterday? i had flashbacks of 2000 Tiger watching him on the front 9...
mike wilbon (1:38 PM)
As a writer, I always root for the drama...Always. But after that, I usually root for Tiger. Often Phil, and sometimes friends in Arizona whose lives and families I've come to know (Roger Tambollini, my former neighbor and dear friend, for example)...But given the way Tiger's greatness has elevated golf in the last 15 years, I absolutely root for Tiger, if not to win then certainly to be in the mix like he was yesterday...I didn't think he was going to win yesterday, no. He was too far back and The Masters isn't The U.S. Open where people just melt away. The Masters is almost always the site of great shot making and that was the case yesterday. When Tiger couldn't get to 13-under, he knew he was cooked...Still, to have that many guys on the leader board draining putts and hitting irons close...it was just fabulous to watch...
Derrick Rose moved up to 4th place on Hollinger's MVP list. Did someone at ESPN finally pull him aside and tell him he was starting to look bad for ranking Rose 6th? I don't mind if someone makes a different MVP argument, but c'mon.
mike wilbon (1:47 PM)
I respect John very much...but to giving yourself over to numbers is always the wrong way to go. Numbers can't tell you how hard a guy practices and whether his infectious work habits affect the work habits of teammates. Numbers can't tell you whether a guy grabbed somebody by the collar in the locker room and said, "You're playing tonight or I'm going to put my fist through your chest" which, trust me, happens. Numbers can't tell you whether a guy played through a sprained ankle when he shouldn't have and either inspired or scared the hell out of his teammates. Numbers can't tell you whether teammates and opponents hold a player in awe because of something he does during the game. Numbers tell you a portion of the story, and then you have to use your eyes and sense of the game, hopefully acquired over years and years of watching and listening, and make an assessment. .
mike wilbon (1:47 PM)
second part of answer...If numbers prevent you from making those kinds of judgement, based on your own watching and listening to coaches/players/trainers, etc. then to me you're not doing your job. Now, again, I KNOW Hollinger does his job and works at it passionately...I just completely disagree with any of these stat metrics which have contributed to a tyrrany of statistics, many of which obscure the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter this year is that NO player in the NBA has meant as much to his team, has played as well, has led as effectively, has been as accountable and as responsible as D. Rose of the Chicago Bulls. Fortunately, I think the vast majority of the voters know this. I know Doc Rivers pulled me aside in January and said, "Rose is going to the MVP of the league THIS year." Doc said that. I'll take his informed judgement over all the numbers Hollinger and anybody else can produce
Sir Knick Esquire (NYC)
do you not think the NY Knicks will SWEEP the Celtics???because...I DO ! ! !
mike wilbon (1:48 PM)
Sweep? Are you one of the people who when the Knicks lost six straight was in total despair? I'm thinking you were...
Tiger looks like he's getting closer, but still fell short. Do you believe he'll win a major this year?
mike wilbon (1:53 PM)
Great question...I don't care one iota about all the stuff a lot of people in my business claims Tiger has to change, from his lifestyle to his caddie to his management, blah, blah, blah. I do think he needs to change one thing: his schedule. If you're going to have the kind of swing change he's had you need reps, I don't care who you are. This new swing ans its results have to become second nature and that doesn't happen in practice; it happens on the golf course under the pressure of the best competition in the world. So, if Tiger plays a couple of times between now and the U.S. Open and a once between that and the British Open and a time or two between that and the PGA Championship, then no. I'm not saying he has to be Vijay Singh and play 35 times a year...But he's going to have to play more, I think, anyway, simply because he's getting older and the young guns behind him have game, BIG GAME in some cases. I want to see what he does with his schedule...but it's hard to see right now. He finished fourth or tied for fourth in The Masters last year, didn't he, and it didn't mean anything the rest of the year. Tiger still hasn't played consecutive great rounds of golf, much less three or four straight great rounds. I need to see that happen first before I make the leap of faith that he's going to win a major...
DR (West Hollywood, CA)
What can D Rose do to improve? Is that even possible?
mike wilbon (1:55 PM)
of course, it is. Rose can play better defense, no doubt. And he can learn how to better utilize his teammates. His assists should increase from 8 per game to something closer to 10...We should see more double-digit assists totals moving forward...These are things I feel reasonably certain he'll do, simply because he wants to do them...If he can improve his shooting the way he has in one summer, imagine what other things he can do because he's so committed to improving...
Daniel (Chattanooga, TN)
Do you see any teams coasting? Which two teams seem most likely to throw it into another gear come this weekend?
mike wilbon (1:56 PM)
Well, I guess the obvious answer to that question would be "The Celtics and Lakers." And it may prove to be the most important question and answwer heading into the playoffs. But I'm starting to doubt it, as I said earlier, specifically as it pertains to the Celtics. Could the NBA have two new finalists come June? yes, possible. Chicago and Oklahoma City? Miami and Oklahoma City? Just asking.
Mike (Stockton, CA)
of course, when the thunder beat the lakers it's because they have the advantage over the lakers, but when portland or any of their other recent opponents beats them its because they're coasting to the playoffs. The thunder get way too much media hype and the lakers have a 90% chance of winning the title
mike wilbon (1:58 PM)
Okay, let's make sure to either give you credit when it happens or ridicule you with gusto if you're wrong...I like to keep track of these things, like Kornheiser saying with the same kind of dismissive arrogance last Wednesday that Phil just had to win The Masters, that anything else was unexpected. Sure. Right.
mike wilbon (2:00 PM)
Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI which is back on after a three days off last week for Masters coverage...We'll chat next Monday, at which time we'll have had one game of every single playoff series in the booksOh, and we'll see if the Blackhawks can steal a game in Vancouver, which I think they will. have a good week everybody and thanks for chatting...MW