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 1:30 p.m. ET!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
With the Final Four Set, Who do you got as the National Champions in Men's College Basketball?
Mike Wilbon (1:36 PM)
Hi Everybody! We've got a ton to talk about, starting with The Final Four...My bracket, like those of a great many people, is busted. But I do have Florida winning the whole thing (beating Louisville...OUCH!) so I still have a chance to get the winner right but I didn't think for one second UCONN would get there...A team with multiple national championships is hardly Cinderella...and neither is Wisconsin...So there are four heavyweights in the ring this weekend in Dallas...I'll stay with Florida. Hell, they haven't lost since the first couple of days of December and if there's anybody they should burn to beat its UCONN in a rematch...I'll stay with Florida...knowing full well any of the four would be a worthy champ...
Which NBA team will be knocking on Calipari's door this offseason? Do you think he'll give it another shot?
Mike Wilbon (1:42 PM)
Great question...I was wondering the same thing last night after Kentucky won...Well, it won't be the Knicks. (LOL)...I think if Kentucky wins Cal has to be gone, right? I mean, nothing is ever good enough for those folk in Wildcat Nation. They're never satisfied...so why not give 'em two NCAA Championships and wave goodbye on good terms, if you can ever leave Kentucky on good terms. Anyway, I like the job Randy Wittman is doing in Washington with the Wizards, and I don't know what GM Ernie Grunfeld thinks of Cal, who must have a pretty darn good relationship with the Wizards most important player, John Wall...That speculation will come up if the Wizards disappoint the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs...We know there will be speculation around every team that doesn't make the playoffs, especially ones with one really good player to perhaps build around (Cleveland?)...But Cal is in a great position. He doesn't NEED the NBA, so its not like he has to jump if Milwaukee calls. I also know people are picking at my man Mark Jackson in Oakland; all he's doing is leading a franchise which has made the playoffs twice in 25 years to back-to-back playoffs ...So, we'll hear Cal's name all over the place and even if kentucky doesn't win I think he's going back to the NBA...but certainly on his terms.
If Doug McDermott was black, would he be the number 1 overall pick this year?
Mike Wilbon (1:47 PM)
Love this question! Not #1 but I don't think we'd be hearing this stuff about him perhaps not being in the top 15...Look, McDermott isn't a lock great player in the NBA, but neither was the kid taken out of UNLV last year. People get angry when I say race colors everything (pun intended) but it does...In this case, like so many others, the people down on McDermott in most cases are white talent evaluators...I love the kid. I hope he slips to the Bulls, which would be insane. He can shoot it from anywhere on the court, he's got size, he's tough...even to the point of having a little bit of nasty in him (compliment, not criticism...But we still presume when it comes to basketball, just like we presume things when it comes to math and science or other disciplines. You'd think there are enough damn good white players in the world for this to simply go away and no longer be an issue, but it is...McDermott is compared mostly to white players...because it's easy (lazy?)...TK came up with the comparison I like the most: Xavier McDaniel...although everybody shoots it from further out now than 20 years ago when X was coming along, but I love that analogy...Anyway, I think the kid can play in the NBA and be a 12-15-point per game guy right away, as a rookie...
I think ESPNs newest darling - Indiana - has some serious flaws. They're not a team that can just flip a switch and turn it on come playoff time. What odds do you give teams like BKN and CHI of making it to the ECF now? I won't say 50/50, but I think it's between 25-40% likely. Your thoughts?
Mike Wilbon (1:51 PM)
I'm with you...I don't know why you call them ESPN darlings, unless you're not paying attention. There are plenty of people on the network (cough, cough!) who believe the Pacers are in some trouble...Hell, Tim Legler and Stephen A. and more important P.J. Carlesimo talked about the issues confronting the Pacers all day Wednesday leading up to Heat-Pacers. Granted, that win gave Indy some breathing room...but not for long. They struggle to score. Guys like Lance Stephenson have reverted to previous bad habits. I wonder if Coach Vogel is confrontational enough with his own team; he's a little chesty with outsiders but what about his own guys? Plus, Indy has really tough games left with San Antonio (is that tonight?), at Toronto, OKC....oh, and at Miami...Yes, I think the Nets and Bulls (in that order) could beat Indy...NOT Miami, but Indy...yes. The Pacers don't have any kind of great playoff reservoir to draw from...
What do make of the recent winning streak of the Spurs? Do you think it is a legit winning streak or have they just played some weaker teams. Or have they just really hit their stride at the right time?
Mike Wilbon (1:54 PM)
Some of everything. The schedule always helps in an NBA season, but the Spurs are just damn great. They've got great players, smart players (some brilliant--Duncan, Parker, Ginobili)...They've got one of the great coaches in the history of the game...They're resilient, psychologically like steel. Hell, that loss in Game 6 would have crushed most teams, but here are the Spurs again...I don't mind saying I'm rooting like hell for the Spurs to have a long run again. And I think given the way they lost in Miami last June that for the first time a lot of people will look at the Spurs differently.
Michael- Leave it to your Alma mater to potentially change the future of college athletics. The NCAA and its schools got way too greedy (hogs get slaughtered) and some correction to the way they've been doing business (let's not insult anyone by referring to these kids as amateurs) was long overdue. Agree or disagree?
Mike Wilbon (2:04 PM)
Look, I'm conflicted here to a degree. I'm a trustee of Northwestern University and I support the university in just about every way...BUT, this issue, this protest, this action taken by some of our football players is so much larger than our school. The NCAA's greed, arrogance and sometimes incompetence is what led to this and the fact that it happened in Evanston first points to us having some damn smart student-athletes who are intellectually capable of doing more than playing football and I'm proud of that. I know Kain Colter and know him well...talk to him all the time. I wish he'd done a few things differently along the way but protest has often begun at the college level and it takes some really curious and forward-thinking kids who explore it intellectually and challenge not only the school and the NCAA's archaic system but themselves...I haven't dealt with this publicly yet because I am conflicted...but anybody who has followed my work over the years knows how critical I am of the NCAA...and student-athletes everywhere are going to look closely at this and ultimately, I suspect the chicken's have come home to roost for the NCAA. So, it has little to do with any individual school, including my own alma mater whose standards and practices regarding intercollegiate athletics I know to the letter and defend without reservation, and almost entirely to do with the system that has failed most of these students, particularly the ones who produce the money that make college football and basketball what they are today...and get so little in return...
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Michael - Since the NCAA tournament had a very successful return to Madison Square Garden this past weekend return to the venue in 2016 and beyond ?
Mike Wilbon (2:06 PM)
I think you're asking if the tournament should return to the Garden? Sure...if the Garden wants it and can fit it in...But there is already a rotation and I don't know how far into the future contracts have been signed in eastern cities with big arenas bidding for the tournament games...But to me, having watched probably a hundred college basketball games in MSG, it should be there as often as possible...
The Cubs are still in first place! You excited for the start of baseball?
Mike Wilbon (2:09 PM)
Not really. As I type these words I'm watching the Cubs season opener in Pittsburgh. I went to a spring training game in Mesa a few days ago, Thursday, Cubs and White Sox...So, I'm putting my toes in the water (hope they don't freeze in most cities)...Baseball was my first love and a big reason I wanted to be a sportswriter. Last summer was such a bad summer for baseball in Chicago--the worst in my lifetime, I think, which is saying something--that I have zero expectations. I do want to see the kids in the Cubs farm system progress...That's all I really care about this summer. How are Castro (still young) and Bonifacio and Rizzo and Mike Olt and Junior Lake and all the others who aren't with the big club right now going to progress between now and Sept.? Can they look like a big league club by then? Again, NO expectations, but I'll develop a real interest and follow them closely...
Jon (Seattle, WA)
I get the question about McDermott, but take a unique player like Kyle Anderson a 6' 9" point forward player from UCLA. Even though I can't see color, he is black and can do everything but is knocked for not being athletic or quick. Maybe we're not fully there yet, but I think talent evaluators can look beyond race. A. Morrison being white didn't stop him from being a top 3 pick.
Mike Wilbon (2:12 PM)
I think MOST do...And I'm not accusing anybody of doing it purposely. We're human beings. And you're lying, you DO see color. Stop with that. It's infuriating. Maybe you were trying to be funny...But we all see color. We may try and ignore it, and some do a better job than others, but stop saying you don't see it. That's garbage...and we need to start there...with candor and accuracy. I see it. McDermott is white. Jabari Parker is black. I see it. You see it. Now, can we try to reach the point where we're damn good at looking past it? That's my goal...
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
If your the sixers, why not lose the 27th and have the record all to yourself or did Detroit feel sorry for them and give them the win.
Mike Wilbon (2:12 PM)
Brendan (Cheasnut Hill, MA) [via mobile]
Do you think the Boston Bruins are peaking too early?
Mike Wilbon (2:13 PM)
Goodness, the Bruins look invincible right now...Conversely, my Blackhawks are crawling to the finish line; the champs look awful...BUT, the playoffs, especially in the NHL where there are often surprises, have a way of humbling you...Goaltending so skews the NHL postseason I'm reluctant to make big declarations...But the Bruins look beastly...
What would Miami prefer: landing the 2-seed and face the Raptors in the 2nd Round, or get the 1-seed and face the Bulls in the 2nd Round?
Mike Wilbon (2:16 PM)
There's great conspiracy talk out there, that Miami would rather finish 2nd, get playoff neophyte Charlotte in the first round while the Bulls and Nets (both tough outs for Miami) would bludgeon each other, eliminating one...THEN, the survivor gets the Pacers, eliminating another...So, Miami, from the 2 seed would only have to face one team from the Pacers/Bulls/Nets trio instead of two of the three...Like the Heat will sit and plot that...Interesting reading though...
Re-Calapari, what makes you think he would be a great NBA coach? Yes, he has had great success, though a lot of that is due to recruiting. I do not have him on the same level as Coach K, Izzo, etc in terms of ability to translate to NBA. Take the Michigan game. Kentucky ran very few sets in the second half (mostly just drove ball and either shot or kicked out). Additionally, that last possesion was terrible. That was such a low percentage shot that Harrison hit. Thibs or Pops would have drawn up a play instead of relied upon a 40 foot three pointer. Thoughts?
Mike Wilbon (2:17 PM)
I didn't say he'd be a great NBA coach; I said he will be an NBA coach, probably again next season...I think he can be successful in the NBA but that depends on the players he has...and how much he learned from his first stint in the league...
Bryan (Springdale, AR)
What do you think about the talk of having the 16 best teams in the NBA playoffs, regardless of Conference? Surely teams 5-8 in the East know that they truly don't deserve to be in the playoffs with such putrid records, right?
Mike Wilbon (2:17 PM)
I think I'd be fine with that. I don't want to see Atlanta instead of Phoenix in the playoffs.
Bryan (Springdale, AR)
Do you think anyone is the West gets upset in the 1st round of the playoffs? Surely either the Warriors, Blazers, Mavs, or Grizzlies could take a series 7 games, right?
Mike Wilbon (2:18 PM)
Oh yes...I do think the Spurs, Clippers, OKC and Houston will win their first-round series, but the Grizzlies could beat any one of them, even San Antonio.
Mike P (greater Kc Metro)
Turn Ryan in Whitewaters question around If Andrew Wiggins was white, would he be the number 1 pick?
Mike Wilbon (2:20 PM)
Are you sure Andrew Wiggins will be the No. 1 pick overall? Probably...It's not like the NFL where people workout in shorts and go from unheard of to No. 1 ...Basketball players do jump in the middle of the round or from 25th projected to 13th...But at the top? Wiggins has a whole lot of talent, but all those freshmen, to me, have holes...
Do you think Kevin Ollie will get NBA offers? He is well regarded in the NBA.
Mike Wilbon (2:21 PM)
yeah he is...I don't know what Kevin's goals are, in that regard...I know he loves UCONN...but he did play in the NBA, and for a former player the money and lifestyle can really pull a guy...I'm reminded, off the topic a bit, of who convinced Jim Calhoun was about Ollie...just rock-solid certain Ollie would be a great college coach...Looks like the mentor knew a thing or two...
Most of the projected high lottery picks had underwhelming performances in the NCAA tournament. But Julius Randle has looked really good. I think he may be among the safer picks in the draft (comparisons to the 30 year old version of Zach Randolph seem appropriate). What do you think?
Mike Wilbon (2:23 PM)
He reminded me of Randolph from the very beginning...But he's kinda undersized (or thought to be)...But it seems they're all coming out, doesn't it?
Mike Wilbon (2:25 PM)
Okay, no PTI today because the network is going, understandably, with all-day Opening Day...I'm going to watch more of my Cubbies...(nore sure about the new uniforms; I like "CHICAGO" on the front of road jerseys...But it was fun chatting with you today...We'll do it next Tuesday morning after the NCAA championship game...Can't wait for that, and we'll be within 10 days and a handful of games from the end of the NBA's regular season AND about 48 hours from the start of The Masters...Have a great week everybody and thanks for chatting...MW