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, in addition to writing for ESPNChicago.com. 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 1:45 p.m. ET!
mike wilbon (1:54 PM)
Hi Everybody...Thanks for chatting late today...Just returning to Washington from Miami and the end of another NBA season, which we'll jump right into...
Brian Cardinal (Dallas, Tx)
I got lucky and won a championship riding the bench? Your thoughts?
mike wilbon (1:58 PM)
I'm posting this question because of the first 50 I have 48 appear to be about the lockout and 2 are about Dallas...So when people whine, "Why do you guys always talk about LeBron" it seems the interest among readers/viewers/listeners is pretty accurately assessed...Anyway, Brian Cardinal was an important part of the Dallas run to the championship...not because of any statistical measure but because Rick Carlisle made some very, very nice if subtle changes that helped his team immensely, like putting JJ Barea into the starting lineup and sitting DeShawn Stevenson, both of who improved in their new roles, and by sitting Peja Stojakovic and playing Cardinal, who hit a couple of baskets and committed some well-timed hard fouls last night...Kudos to Carlisle not only for the move but for getting the replaced guys to not pout but still contribute. When you don't have a "Big 3" but need a little here and there from 8 ot 9 guys every night it's a very important approach.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Michael W: I appreciate your opinions and your objectiveness, but I do not think even you can defend LeBron's performance this series. With the NBA greats like Michael, Magic, Kobe, etc, you clearly knew they were going to try to take over the game. At no point this series did it appear LeBron was going to take over the game. Obviously, it's not a physical problem...what will it take to get LeBron there mentally? (LeBron Joke of the Day: Why didn't LeBron go to college? Cause he didn't want to go to the Finals!)
mike wilbon (2:01 PM)
What makes you think I am going to defend LeBron's performance? LeBron, particularly last night in Game 6, was so passive you wonder if he had taken some kind of sleeping pill at halftime. It was unreal late in the fourth quarter that he essentially refused to shoot the ball. From places on the floor with space, LeBron fires away 90 percent of the time in the regular season and just played hot-potato last night...And no, the all-time greats would never, ever in their worst nightmares have done that. And you know what? Nobody can explain it. I've talked to 20 current and former players, including a half-dozen Hall of Famers since Thursday and all are lost when it comes to finding an explanation. Lost. Nothing.
mike wilbon (2:10 PM)
To continue that last question/answer, you will not read under my name any suggestion that LeBron won't and cannot get better. Why wouldn't he? Who, with relative health and dedication, isn't better at 28 than at 25 in any discipline. I know I was damn better at writing and reporting at 28, 29 than I was at 25. And I don't think LeBron is a slacker, that he's not going to work at what he does. Does that mean he'll win a bunch of championships? No, it doesn't. For one, I want to see if he can lead in the traditional way we praise athletes for leading. Haven't seen it yet deep in the playoffs other than glimpses. Is he willing to develop a post-up game, because he doesn't have one now? So many questions that only he can answer...
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
While I recognize the Mavs would not be front runner favorites for next year's title, if they resign Chandler would you want to play this team in the playoffs plus a healthy Caron Butler?
mike wilbon (2:15 PM)
That's a very legit question because Butler is quite possibly Dallas' second-best all-court player, at least their second-best two-way player...We're talking about a guy who can give you 20, 6 rebounds two or three assists AND be assigned to Wade or LeBron for 25-30 minutes...Very, very valuable and Rick Carlisle told me last week Butler's presence would give the Mavs an entirely different dimension...So much, though, depends on JKidd and his losing battle with Father Time. Same with Shawn Marion...and these are two of my favorite players the last 10 years because they're so versatile. Kidd, obviously, is going to the Hall of Fame...But so much changes in a year. Another thing: we don't know how the new collective bargaining agreement will affect rosters...Dirk has another year or two, at least, at the top of his powers, one would think...but Peja seems done, Barena is a free agent who will be covted (think the Knicks couldn't use a kid with that kind of talent, who happens to be Puerto Rican and dates Miss Universe...Is he made for NYC or what?) But so much we don't know about the roster going forward. Now, that front office knows how to fill in around Dirk...we'll see.
Billy D (Miami, Florida)
Is Miami's biggest need in the offseason, a point guard? If so, how the heck to they get one?
mike wilbon (2:17 PM)
Let me tell you what four different agents told me two weeks ago during the Bulls-Miami series: good players are SCREAMING to play with Miami (the non-scorers and fill-in guys, rebounders, shot blockers) while the scorers are SCREAMING to play with Derrick Rose. You've got big markets and players veteran guys who want rings are begging, literally, to play with. Miami won't have any trouble upgrading its roster AND we're talking Pat Riley here, folks...
Michael, the recent trend in the NBA has been to acquire an athletic, dynamic point guard to lead the team. Has the success of Dallas and Miami called that formula into question? LeBron gave Rose fits in their series, and the size of Dallas forced OKC into all kinds of bad shots.
mike wilbon (2:25 PM)
Great question...Thing is, Dallas has one of the unique players in the history of the NBA, a 7-foot shotmaking fool. Nobody's like Dirk, so you can't expect to draft a guy like him and fill around him. There are simply more talented 6-foot-3 guys than there are 7-footers who can stroke it from anywhere and at the age of 30 decide to develop Elvin Hayes' post-up game...So, I think the numbers (human supply) will determine that. And don't forget, Miami is still looking for a big guard (why do I see Andre Miller in this role?)
Who has a batter chance of losing games to a lockout, NFL or NBA. Being from chicago, I really hope the NBA/Players can solve this. I see bigger things for Bulls than Bears....
mike wilbon (2:29 PM)
Oh, NBA. Easy answer. Every NFL player I ran into in Dallas and Miami (had to be between 15 and 20 because so many followed the NBA Finals in person because there are no OTAs) thinks they'll be back by some point of training camp. They're not seeking, the NFL and its players, a completely new system of partnership. The NBA is...or very close to it. Hard to imagine, even with this new sense of cooperation between the NBA owners and players, that basketball will start before Christmas. I hope I'm wrong. People who love professional basketball are more tied to the goings-on than at any time the last 13 years, and to lose that momentum would be awful...BUT, there are quite a few owners in basketball who are (not say they are, but actually are) losing money. And they're hell bent on doing something about it. And the players, who seem ready to comprimise because they know these are real issues, don't want rollbacks they characterize as nearly 40 percent...
Andrew (New York)
I've puzzled for the last few years about Lebron's game, in particular, why he has never developed the ability to play in the post. It seems so logical, he has such a height/quickness combo that he'd present an impossible dilemma of whether to guard him with big or small in the post. And yet, he hasn't brought this into his game at all. Do you have any good explanation for why he hasn't developed a post game where Michael and Kobe both did?
mike wilbon (2:35 PM)
This is the central question about LeBron the baskeetball player. Why has he no post game? Magic talks about this every night we watch LeBron, the ability of a 6-foot-9 guy to catch the ball with his back to the basket and either score over what almost certainly will be a smaller defender or pass the ball to an open teammate if the double-team comes. Adrian Dantley, 6-4 1/2 and 240, made a living for 12 years posting up and he's a miniature version of LeBron and nowhere near the explosion...It defies logic. One thing I know Magic and Michael Jordan agree on is that LeBron, had he gone to college, would have developed this even in one year because a coach would have insisted. But he didn't, and nobody seems to DEMAND anything of him. If he's going to be a dominant player late in the post-season, he'll have to post. Look at how it changed Dirk's life, the acquisition of a post-up game. He couldn't in 2006 and let little dudes make his life miserable. But now that he can he punished people, killed them...How many times did he twirl on slight Chris Bosh and take take him to the rim with left or right hand? Does LeBron not see this when he is on the court? Nobody gets it, trust me. I've asked so many of today's great players and they just don't understand why not.
Brent (Bakersfield, CA)
The last four champs have come out of the West... with all the talent in the East, do you think they're wearing each other out throughout the season and early playoffs? With L.A., Dallas, and OKC, I think we could see more Western Champs. You?
mike wilbon (2:38 PM)
it's cyclical...I think it depends largely on the Bulls and whether they'll dare to get better or just rest on the pile of money the franchise makes. Let's see. They have to go out and get another player or two of consequence...I have to see whether Russell Westbrook wants to play with Kevin Durant or above him before I annoint OKC a champ...L.A. is in slow decline and I don't trust the new owner (Jimmy, not Jerry, Buss)...I think the east is poised for a run with Miami and Chicago...Dallas gets maybe one more, but not a run, not with so many players in their 30s.
A doctor of psychology just phoned in on the Jim Rome show and one of her points was that maybe Lebron's ties to Cleveland are so deep rooted that part of him (deep down) wanted to lose in the finals so that it would be like Cleveland 'won'... any merit to it in your mind Wilbon? Love your work man!
mike wilbon (2:38 PM)
You at least brought a laugh out of me! Thanks for mentioning that. And, ah, no. None. Zero. Nada. no. Very funny though.
Michael ... i know you kept picking against the mavs all series long .... but how did you miss the mavs "destiny feeling" it was so obvious?????
mike wilbon (2:41 PM)
It's obvious at the end. It's not obvious during. And it's not obvious if you're not rooting. I don't care who wins, though I am thrilled for Dirk and JKidd and JTerry...I know Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion, so I am happy for those guys, but also know DWade and Juwon Howard very well, LeBron a little bit...I'd have been happy for them, too...But I'm not big on destiny in professional sports. Little things, sometimes tiny things, determine series winners. I picked Portland to beat Dallas in the first round this year, just like I picked the Spurs to destroy Dallas in the first round last year...I'm shooting 50 percent on that, but I didn't see Dallas winning and at the very least I have a LOT of company.
Mike, does Lebron come back super-determined or super-fragile? Missing 20 ft jumpers would be one thing, but those mental mistakes and lack of hustle were hard to watch.
mike wilbon (2:45 PM)
I'm wondering the exact same thing...Just talking about that with Mike Tirico this morning on the flight from Miami to D.c. (he's covering the U.S. Open this week)...how will LeBron come back. Remember last year Kobe, after winning a championship, went to see Hakeem Olajuwon to work on some elements to improve. Will LeBrom do that? Does he even see the value in going to older players or does he think that's a weakness? I don't know. If he comes back with no improvement in the low-post game, we could have our answer. But let me say I believe firmly LeBron has pride; you don't get to be as great a player as he is without great pride and determination...That has to guide him this summer in some ways...I know it did with Magic when he was criticized in 1984 after losing a 7-game Finals to Boston and everybody killed Magic for having a bad series...Magic spent the whole summer killing himself, improving his post-up game, getting that really effective set shot...let's see if LeBron is willing to take this challenge head-on.
Do you make anything out of the fact that Bosh had a solo press conference last night and referenced that he didn't get as many touches as he'd like? I wonder if there is a chemistry issue amongst the big 3.
mike wilbon (2:47 PM)
Yeah, I did wonder about the comments (not the post-game set up.; Bosh is usually by himself while Wade and LeBron are often together). I'll tell you this: that theme of Bosh not getting enough touches (and he is right) played out too long. In January okay...March, acceptable, but mid-June?) Why wasn't this stuff set straight months ago? That's a coaching issue, as is figuring out a clear pecking order so that Miami doesn't keep having situations like Game 2 where Wade has 36 but gets only 2 shots the final seven minutes.
Jason J (NYC)
Everyone is talking about what the Heat will do moving forward, but what about the Mavs? Can they keep all their main cogs (I know Barea's deal is up)? If they do keep everyone will that be enough to repeat? They are elder statesman at this point.
mike wilbon (2:53 PM)
Totally depends on the new collective bargaining agreement and how hard the salary cap will be going forward, whether there will be a "franchise player" tag that the NBA adopts, much like the NFL...We just don't know. It's too bad the league can't just roll with the momentum built by LeBron's summer of 2010, the emergence of young stars in 2011, and the playoffs which were fabulous...Oh well, this is the reality of professional sports.Okay, I gotta run and prepare for PTI...I need to tell you guys it's great for me to interact like this with you every week...I'm going to take some time off the next couple of months. I'll do PTI some (reduced summer sked) but largely disappear in other ways...So, the chat will be down the rest of June and July but we'll pick it up either in NFL pre-season in August or at the time that stuff should be happening, which again, is in August...Anyway, you've had enough of me by now anyway so take a rest...Again, I can't thank you enough and look forward to resuming late-summer after a little hiatus! Be well, enjoy the summer...MW