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February 21, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Michael Wilbon

mike wilbon
  (1:14 PM)

hi Everybody...good to be back with you after missing last week...We'll jump right into the NBA and college hoops...and we might as well start with Pau Gasol, since I see a number of questions relating to him and his anxiety about the days and weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline...

James (London)

What is wrong with Gasol, i know he hasnt been bad, hes averaging a double double but this was the guy who was arguably the Final Mvp in 2010 and considered the best PF in Basketball for a while.

mike wilbon
  (1:18 PM)

One, he's not having what anybody would call a great season...I wouldn't measure it exclusively by statistics...The entire NBA, save for a few people like Kobe and LeBron, is down especially offensively. So is Pau. BUT, he's double-digits in rebounding. And we're only halfway through the season. I think what's bothering him more than anything--and he's said this quite clearly--is trying to work and live one's life while knowing he could be shipped out of the place where he works and, well, anywhere. I don't want to hear "he makes $12 million he should just shut up and play through it." Imagine your own life, and if your employer was calling around (or receiving calls) and thinking of sending you away from your home, your wife and children and friends and neighbors...Think of that honestly. Yes, at $12 million it's part of the business he has chosen. Charles Barkley even said last night Pay has to be tougher about this part of his life, and I wouldn't dare disagree with a Hall of Fame player about that. But I understand...and to a great degree sympathize with Pau. I think we'll see him play a whole lot better after the trade deadline has past. I hope he's still a Laker (unless than INSANE rumor about going to the Bulls is true, which it isn't.)

egoody (Sacramento)

It seems like Kobe is delusional to think that this Lakers group as it's presently constituted can win an NBA title. Aside from Kobe, Pau & Bynum, they don't have a single difference maker who could bring back what they need: a true NBA point guard. They're not trading Kobe or Bynum to get one so that leaves Pau. Though admirable, I thought Kobe spoke out unnecessarily on Pau's behalf as his game hasn't suffered. Bynum's has just improved. Thought??

mike wilbon
  (1:21 PM)

just to continue with this for a second...I don't think Kobe spoke out unnecessarily. He looked at a teammate, a co-worker, saw the guy suffering, literally walking through each day miserable, and stood up for him publicly. Shouldn't we all be so lucky. You call that unnecessary? You're trying to win games and you wouldn't find it necessary to come to the aid of a friend. Damn, you must be pretty tough! I don't think the Lakers can beat the Spurs, Mavericks, Clippers or OKC in a 7-game series as currently constructed...But Kobe/Bynum/Pau ain't exactly chopped liver...And remember, the Lakers have a $9.5 million trade exception for dealing Lamar Odom to Dallas...The Lakers are (as you state accurately) a point guard or wing man from being a much bigger threat. Now, question is can they find that player between now and March 15?

cp (reno)

Randy can still run 4.3 forty??? He's been hanging around Jamarcus and drinking too much of his juice.

mike wilbon
  (1:22 PM)

When I heard that 4.3 thrown out there my first thought was, "What? At 35 years old." Since then I've heard from several people in position to know and they say Moss can still go 40 yards in sub-4.5, which would be pretty darned impressive, right?

Gavin (New York)

Can you explain how the spurs are this good? Are they legit final contenders?

mike wilbon
  (1:27 PM)

Well, I'd still make OKC the favorite in the West at this point BUT, the Spurs look great, don't they? I would attribute most of it to the work of one Gregg Popovich, who for two years has figured out how to use his aging stars (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) while gradually blending in terrific young players like Gary Neale (sp), Dejuan Blair, and rookie K. Leonard from San Diego State and some others...he's enabled Matt Bonner to become a dependable player...It's just fascinating to watch. What an effective rotation of players.

Brian (Chicago)

Michigan alum here. You have a prediction for tonight in Evanston? Mich isn't great on the road and your Wildcats tend to give Mich problems, but the Wolverines think they can win the Big Ten if they win out and might be just as desperate as NU.

mike wilbon
  (1:29 PM)

No predictions. I'm as biased as you are, simply on the other side of this tussel. Northwestern, if we're going to take the next step as a program, has to win this kind of game more frequently...Not every year, but SOME and then. We've lost four excruciatingly close games and should have won, say, two of them. If we win tonight we're one win (say I) from getting into the tournament for the very first time EVER. We lose, it's gonna be really difficult to come up with 2 or 3 wins in the last four regular season games...No predictions. I just want to see my boys win, as I'm sure you're saying as well. But you don't NEED this game. We do.

Stephan (Davis, CA)

If you're the Warriors GM, who do you target in a deal towards the deadline and what do you give up to get it? Monta for a big?

mike wilbon
  (1:32 PM)

Good question. I think they like Monta Ellis too much to give him up. Thing is, they need to play Mychal Thompson's kid--his name is Clay, right?--more. Thompson is 6-7...You can't keep playing Monta Ellis and Steph Curry, both 6-2 or so, together...Won't work. Plenty of teams, it seems to me, would be interested in Curry. The Warriors are really close to being good. Imagine if Tyson Chandler has signed there instead of the Knicks. Wow. But the Warriors, as is, are playing close tough games. Happy for my man, Mark Jackson...

Rick (chicago)

With this stunted NBA season, how do you see teams playing out the last few games of the year? Resting their starters of trying to snag a higher playoff seed? ( i have Mavs @ Bulls tix, wanna know if i should sell high hah)

mike wilbon
  (1:36 PM)

Ha! I've been wondering the same thing as I look at the ABC/ESPN schedule for the last few days of April...Seems to me the Bulls will be playing it out if they're reasonably healthy. it's just Coach Thibs' nature. And the Bulls want home court against Miami, though clearly both those teams can win a game on the road...I don't know about Dallas. They're such a veteran team and they're defending champs. we KNOW they can win on the road...I think Rick Carlisle will be trying to keep his guys fresh, especially if they finish, say, 4th or 5th and have to play the Lakers or Clippers in the first round. Seriously, the first round of the playoffs will be a BEAST. Think about this: in the East, only the Knicks will be kinda of a neophyte playoff team. Miami, Chicago, ATL, Orlando, indy, Philly and Boston have all been in the playoffs with their core group of players and played impressively. I don't know how the quality of play will be, but the drama of it should be great.

Dan (Boston)

Think your Cutler can lead your bears to the playoffs?

mike wilbon
  (1:37 PM)

Didn't he just do it in 2010, to the conference championship game, no less? And weren't the Bears 7-3 having won 5 straight when Cutler went out for the season with that freak hand injury? Isn't the answer already, yes?

Steve (DC)

Are there any free agents that will want to play for the Wizards? Obviously not the big dogs but what about someone like OJ Mayo? Or Roy Hibbert? It would be great to see him back at Verizon and he could be there big guy for the next 5-6 years. I feel like young, McGee, and Blatch have to be gone right??

mike wilbon
  (1:41 PM)

I think Blatche has to be gone. Isn't he more or less gone now? McGee, I'd try to keep and put in a new culture without Blatche and Nick Young. That's just me. I don't know about free agents, but I will say this: Don't overrate coming home. People thought Kevin Durant would entertain coming back to D.C. and trust me, he didn't. Why would Hibbert, who has turned into a terrific old-school center, leave a rising playoff team to come join this mess? Maybe he would, if the Wizards win the lottery or are able to trade for a player like Minnesota's Derrick Williams to pair with John Wall. Maybe. I think the lottery will determine to a great extent what happens with the Wizards over the next five-seven years. Suppose Washington wins and is able to pick the Davis kid out of Kentucky? Anthony Davis...that kid is a game-changer, an absolute franchise-changer. Whoever gets him, in my opinion, is changed in the way Shaq changed orlando and David Robinson changed San Antonio...

Steve (DC)

Hey Mike,How about the way Phil is playing? Golf is better when the big horses are playing well. Can't wait for the masters!

mike wilbon
  (1:43 PM)

Agreed. most sports are better when the big guns or traditional powers are worthy of paying attention. Suppose golf gets Phil and Tiger going at once? At their ages, 40 and 36 I think, it's not like they've got forever to hang around at the top of the leader board...I'd love to see it. Just having Phil back has to be a boost for interest. Tiger is playing the next three weeks, I think, which he NEVER does...That alone will juice the ratings and the appeal of the tournaments.

James (Boston)

Awkward question for you to answer because it is deeply critical of your employer, but here it is: you have rightly pointed out that LeBron James faces a ridiculous amount scrutiny of his every word and action since "The Decision." Shouldn't ESPN be held accountable for its role in The Decision? Your network facilitated a public relations disaster for a much beloved sports figure and within days, ESPN anchors were piling on and snarkily making "taking my talents to..." jokes, capitalizing on the disaster ESPN helped create. It is really not cool.

mike wilbon
  (1:47 PM)

ESPN has been held accountable for its role in "The Decision" by TV critics and columnists from sea to shining sea. Good. ESPN received plenty of ridicule and that's the price the network had to pay for being involved, good or bad, like it or not. Hell, I was involved. I sat and questioned LeBron for 15 minutes after the Jim Gray portion of the program. If people want to slam my involvement, so be it. We're big boys. I don't believe in anybody being immune from criticism, whether we're talking LeBron or programming decisions or an offensive headline on No one entity owns a monopoly on discussion.

Matt (NY)

I'm sorry, why can't Kobe put a sorry team on his back and win some game 7's? Dirk just did it last year. All it takes is 4 wins per round. It's the PLAYOFFS, anything can happen

mike wilbon
  (1:49 PM)

You think the Lakers roster this year is as good as the one Dirk played with last year? you'd better look again. it's not close. Dirk not only had the Jasons, Kidd and Terry, but he had a ace veteran defender in Shawn Marion, a wonderful defender/dirty-work guy in Tyson Chandler, an off-the-bench blur in J.J. Barea. The bench (wasn't Peja on it, too?) was superior to the Lakers bench, which has Ron Artest. Come on.

Ryan (NJ)

I understand with technology today everybody wants instant stories and instant updates, but since so many writers are instantly writing about the same thing why don't more do in depth pieces? I would rather read an in depth article that really lets me understand a player, a sport, an organization than another article saying the same thing that was posted by 20 other guys. Any thoughts on why they're not more prevalent?

mike wilbon
  (1:51 PM)

I just went on a newsroom rant on this very same subject, with the very same viewpoint you have, last week. Yeah, my view is you must be old like me. Younger consumers of information seem to have next to zero interest in the kinds of pieces you and I want more of. That kind of reporting/writing is almost gone. I hate it. But it's not walking through that door anymore...makes me sad...

Web (Dallas)

Want to guess when the Spurs streak ends?

mike wilbon
  (1:52 PM)

The streak is far less important to me than seeing how long the Spurs can keep up playing like this. That's the real test. The Yao Ming Rockets won 22 straight or whatever it was three or four years ago and couldn't keep it up. I think it's possible the Spurs WILL keep this going.

Rick (TX)

Is D'Antoni the ultimate loser in the Linsanity saga? When the Knicks come back down off this high, won't most observers realize that his complete inability to effectively coach defense is what holds that team back? If anything, having Lin emerge will only increase the pressure for him to win.

mike wilbon
  (1:56 PM)

Ummm, your take on this is so harsh...and very possibly right on the money. Defense is going to be critical...Now keep in mind the Knicks are MUCH better defensively now than they have been. Also, do we really expect a rookie to orchestrate a team that has some healthy egos, shall we say, in Baron Davis, JR Smith, Carmelo...A rookie is supposed to bark orders at them? Really? And D'Antoni is known (accurately, I might add) as a non-confrontational guy. He didn't have to in Phoenix. People think Amare was difficult in PHX; he wasn't. Marion could be a bit of a diva at times, but the Suns were Boy Scouts...The Knicks aren't a team of knuckleheads at all, just personalities, and I don't know who orchestrates that thing every day...

Patrick (Chicago)

Should the T-Wolves shop Derrick Williams, NOTbecause he has been a disappointment but because it is clear he plays the same position as Love? They could really use a solid 3 instead of Wes Johnson.

mike wilbon
  (1:57 PM)

That's how I see it, too. But let me give some credit to David Kahn. He's got assets to do whatever he wants to push that team into contention in the next year or so. Hiring Rick Adelman to coach them was a great move...And he's got Derrick Willims, Wes Johnson, Beasley...lots of assets to deal.

John (Austin)

What would you do if you were the Texans, sign Mario knowing that it might hinder the signing of many of FA's and soon to be FA's on the roster OR let him walk knowing that the defense was plenty tough without him?

mike wilbon
  (1:59 PM)

If I could find a cheaper option, and perhaps sign two guys at that price I might let Mario walk...Pro football is so different from pro basketball in that way. One player usually makes a difference in pro basketball. In the NFL you can at times work around one guy...not a Reggie White or Lawrence Taylor or Mike Singletary or Ray Lewis...Maybe there are those who think Mario is close enough to that caliber to keep him...It's a much tougher call.

Jimmy B. (Los Angeles)

What do you make of Mike Brown changing his rotations constantly...surely this cant be good for the team....I remember he did this with Cleveland in the playoffs and it backfired heavily.

mike wilbon
  (2:00 PM)

What I make of it is that the Lakers are short on talent.

iseekthelord (Kansas City)

I know it's early, but any Final Four predictions? I'm a Jayhawk, but I'm not sure they can make a deep run. Losing the Morris twins was a big blow and Tyshawn Taylor seems like more of a liability than an asset, unless he can get those turnovers under control.

mike wilbon
  (2:02 PM)

It's hard to look past Kentucky and Syracuse, for starters, isn't it? I've got those two. Hard for me, a Midwestern kid, to ever ignore Tom Izzo and Michigan State, especially since the Big Ten is the best conference in the country this season. That's 3 for me...I don't have a fourth yet; I want to see the conference tournaments before I endorse a fourth team...How about Georgetown?

Jules Winfield (walking the earth)

Why don't we see more Jeremy Lin type stories in the NBA? Look at the NFL--in the Super Bowl alone we had two main guys in Tom Brady and Victor Cruz who were low draft picks that made it big. This sort of thing happens in baseball a lot, too. Why not in the Association?

mike wilbon
  (2:06 PM)

You have to stop comparing pro football to pro basketball. Nothing about them is similar. Pro football has 35 truly important players week after week. Pro basketball has two or three. The scouting of basketball, in general, is such that we know who can play by the time a kid is 19 or 20. put it this way, if there were Jeremy Lins all over the place, where have they been? In a normal season where a coach has time to practice his team, why haven't they emerged? Ever? They don't. Because people don't miss basketball talent, not anywhere in the world. If you can play, a scout will find you, especially now. Africa, Asia, Europe? Done. Some outpost in Turkey? No problem. You know who can play. Not so much in football where system means so much, where schemes can make or break you. Toni Kukoc, out of Croatia, was going to be a player no matter where and for whom...good to some degree. Football? Suppose Ryan Leaf had been drafted by Indy? I'm not saying he would have been 1/10th of Peyton Manning, but would he have been such a bust? Hell, we don't know. Football is the unkown, which is one of the reasons it is so irresistible. Basketball is the completely known, which is one of the reasons it is so completely irresistible...

mike wilbon
  (2:07 PM)

Okay, gotta run to prepare for PTI. Danica Patrick visiting the studio today so Tony and I have to be on our very best behavior!!! Thanks for taking the time everybody. Back on Monday next week...See you then and have a great week! MW