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In Wilbon's World

Wilbits: Playoffs vs. draft

My gradual withdrawal from the NFL draft is complete, thankfully. After three or four years of watching very little of the draft, last night I finally made the last step of my glorious transition to watching absolutely none of it, not one second. I'm determined to make an annual tradition of ignoring it, especially now that the first round in conducted in prime time, which is quite a feat given that it's televised by two networks (ESPN and the NFL Network), and given that chunks of days and weeks are devoted in advance to breathless and needless speculation on every twitch of every player who ever got into a three-point stance last fall.

Nothing is as important as the NFL and its broadcast partners want us to believe the NFL draft is.

Undoubtedly, millions disagree with me, which is why the rating for the draft coverage will probably quadruple any other counter programming from Thursday night. But you couldn't pay me, literally, to watch any more NFL drafts. (Ooops, I AM paid to watch, sort of, and won't). Thankfully, the clicker was working real good at my house. So I had no trouble finding the thriller Game 3 between the Bulls and Cavaliers, no trouble finding that thriller Game 5 between Pittsburgh and Ottawa, no trouble finding people losing their minds in Oklahoma City as the Thunder won its very first home playoff game, over the Lakers, no trouble finding the Blackhawks beating Nashville or Phoenix running up a 31-point lead en route to beating the Blazers in Portland.

When you watch the Cavaliers, it's possible to see LeBron James do something no basketball player has ever done. Same with Kobe. Same with Sidney Crosby playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. You watch world-class athletes in the post season and they'll bring your fat behind out of your seat. Derrick Rose did that Thursday night against LeBron. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook did that Thursday night against the Lakers. You watch the draft the only thing that's going to pull you out of your seat is a trip to the bathroom from drinking too much beer. You watch the draft you know the Redskins took that big lineman from Oklahoma in the first round. Hell, I know that and all I did was go to washingtonpost.com about two hours into it...(Actually, if I can say something nice about the Redskins...this is two straight drafts where they did something sensible...Orakpo last year and a highly-rated lineman this year? Boy, the Redskins are no fun anymore...although I'd love to have been with Dan Snyder when he found out Ben Roethlisberger was on the trading block).

You watch the draft; I'll watch Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City. Why do I keep seeing Westbrook, a UCLA guy, wearing a Lakers uniform in a couple of years? Westbrook and Rose, coming to the league not long after Chris Paul and Deron Williams, makes the NBA neck-deep in great point guards. Rose and Joakim Noah are as tough minded as any young tag-team in the league today. But the Bulls can't really threaten Cleveland. The Cavaliers, in fact, should have stolen Game 3 in Chicago even though the Bulls led by 21 in the third quarter. (Why has the talented/athletic J.J. Hickson just disappeared from the Cavs lineup, as well as he played in the second half of the season?) Oklahoma City, on the other hand, has a quartet of talented young players. Everybody fixates on Kevin Durant, deservedly so, because he's the youngest player ever to lead the league in scoring. But Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Hardin make the Thunder formidable now. Cleveland is going to win Game 4 in Chicago, plain and simple. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, could win Game 4 at home and put some pressure on the Lakers. It wasn't only that Durant grabbed 19 rebounds, it's that he bothered Kobe Bryant defensively. And the Lakers simply cannot guard Westbrook. Game 4 Saturday night will go a long way toward showing us whether the Lakers are going to get tangled up in a long first-round series or start to look like defending champions.

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As good as the Dallas Mavericks are, with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, when the Mavs and San Antonio Spurs take the court for Game 3, the two best players on the court will be Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. And as good a job as Rick Carlisle has done coaching Dallas this season, he's not Gregg Popovich, who has four championship rings and is probably the second-best coach in the NBA, behind Phil Jackson. So, if your team has the two best players and the best coach in the series, as San Antonio does, how is it that so many folks think Dallas has the better team?

For people who continue to make the dumb mistake that coaching doesn't matter in the NBA, just look at the adjustment the Suns' Alvin Gentry made after his team was torched by Portland in Game 1. After Portland's Andre Miller bullied his way to the basket in the series opener and made it clear Steve Nash couldn't hope to guard him, Gentry put 6-foot-8 Grant Hill on Miller and he's been a non-factor the last two games. Portland double-teamed Amare Stoudemire into frustration and trapped Nash on the pick-and-roll, so Gentry demanded his team swing the ball to wingmen Channing Frye and Jason Richardson, who had the best game of his postseason career in Game 3 when he scored 42, while Portland's defense obsessed over Stoudemire and Nash.

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Do we really think the NCAA men's basketball tournament is going to stay at this newly announced 68 teams? Why am I fearing an announcement later this summer that the tournament field is going to 96 anyway? The best news is that people will be able to see all the games without buying special packages, now that Turner Sports will be sharing the load with CBS.

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Turns out the Pittsburgh Steelers weren't really stupid enough to trade Roethlisberger. I'm one of the few people who doesn't necessarily think Roethlisberger needs to be suspended by the NFL. I'm uncomfortable with leagues trying to legislate morality. It's understandable that any workplace, particularly one that trades on image, would want to establish rules that require more responsible behavior than local or state laws. But in the absence of enough evidence for authorities in Georgia to prosecute Roethlisberger, what protects the player? The easy answer is "staying out of trouble" and I think it's fair to conclude that Roethlisberger's behavior has been somewhere between cavalier and reckless. And the Steelers, while I think they'd be goofy to trade him, have every right to decide who will represent their franchise, which is still a family-owned business. But I'll just mention two names of athletes who not only recovered from major and embarrassing accusations to not only win, but to become the primary face of their franchises: Ray Lewis and Kobe Bryant. Do we really think that Ben Roethlisberger can't be a top-flight quarterback again and learn some lessons from these recent embarrassing episodes?

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  April 23, 2010; 9:54 AM ET  |  Category:  Chicago , College Basketball , NBA , NFL , NHL , Steelers , Wilbits Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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First, I agree that Mike Brown has a hard time making in game adjustments, and it might cost them a chance at an NBA championship. Ask Coach Brooks if he'd like to have the last two Thunder possessions back (well the two before the heave that almost went in).

On the other hand, Hall of Fame Coach Lenny Wilkens used to say that a player returning from injury will often have a great first game based on adrenaline, desire, and experience, and then reality sets in. (see Tiger Woods and the Blazer's Brandon Roy). Thus, Shaq had a great first game against Chicago, and then struggled mightily in games 2 and 3. He did OK in game 4, and busted doors down in game 5.

Yes, it was annoying that J.J. Hickson was not playing, but the point of the Chicago series was to get Shaq warmed up for Boston and Oralando. And to get Cleveland's first string offense used to each other. (Jamison and Shaq had played all of 2 or 3 games together prior to Chicago).

If Mike Brown doesn't use J.J. Hickson to inflame Kevin Garnett's troubled knee, and Cleveland's depth isn't used to grind down Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and the fate of the series comes down to whether Pau Gasol puts in a last second rebound off a Kobe miss (opps, Jamison puts in a LeBron miss), then I'll complain about Mike Brown's coaching.

Posted by: RichardfromOhio | May 1, 2010 1:31 PM
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The NBA and NHL both draft only a few weeks after their Finals are decided. Baseball drafts during its season.

Why exactly does the NFL need two-and-a-half months between the Super Bowl and the draft? The 20 teams that didn't make the playoffs have three-and-a-half months to prepare.

The only reason the NFL does this is that they cannot stand the thought of any other sport having the top headlines for any period of time.

I'm all for football in the fall, but once the Super Bowl is over, the league just needs to go away for a while. I'll never watch the draft. Never listen to a radio segment with Mel Kuiper.

Do your draft in February, guys. Get over yourselves.

Posted by: micawber1218 | April 27, 2010 12:49 AM
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Oh and Mr. Wilbon - you are correct. Why the hell isn't Cleveland playing JJ Hickson more than he has up to this point. I mean, the guy came in when Shaq was 'deflated' and gave them instant defense and athleticism in the middle. Against a young and active team like Chicago, he would do much better than the plodding Shaq or geriatric Ilgauskas. I've said this many times before - Mike Brown is a MEDIOCRE coach and I don't care that he won the COY award before. The mark of a good coach (he would never be a great coach, much like Eddie Jordan) - is a coach that can dynamically make adjustments. Mike Brown and his assistant's 'complex Cleveland offense' is nothing more than letting Lebron James isolate and kick the ball out if he is unable to get to the basket or receive a foul. Mark my word, his inability to even casually make adjustments is going to cost Cleveland a championship. You need to look no further than Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson - two of the league's most successful coaches.

Posted by: Thunderclap | April 23, 2010 5:23 PM
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Man, I agree with Wilbon on this one. The NFL draft wouldn't be all that bad if not for ALL of the 2 MONTH hype that is is given. I mean, geez - how much freakin' over-the-top, flawed analysis does any of us need???? For the most part, there weren't many surprises in the first 10-15 players selected. Hell, after your local team and a few of its rivals select their players, how much longer will any us watch? Its hyped up wayyyy too much for me. Enough already.

Posted by: Thunderclap | April 23, 2010 5:12 PM
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The NFL draft on ESPN was a poor production last night, but it still beats NBA basketball. Just about anything beats NBA basketball these days, its a yaaaawner.

Posted by: shrshot | April 23, 2010 4:28 PM
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Wilbon, you know what is more boring than the NFL draft?

THE NBA DRAFT - which YOU cover.

Why don't you nag about how boring the NBA draft is? Plus its the summer. I'd rather be out doing stuff or travelling rather than watch through 2 rounds of excuciating commentary by you on players who 2 years from now, 80% will be busts.

Posted by: vmrg1974 | April 23, 2010 3:36 PM
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I'd be more interested in the draft if I weren't beaten about the head with draft info for months beforehand.

Posted by: acebojangles | April 23, 2010 3:30 PM
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Not only has the NFL draft been blown waaaay out of all proportion, the non-stop pre-draft specials that rehash (ad nausem) all of the player analysis have gotten out of hand. The NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing. If you were looking for any playoff news on ESPN yesterday, it was shoe horned into little gaps inbetween the pre-draft yakathon. Enough already. I would just as well be served if the draft, in its entirety, were run on the bottom screen crawl.

Posted by: prestoj | April 23, 2010 2:10 PM
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I'd rather watch the draft because Washington is in it and not in the NBA playoffs. I'd rather watch because I'm a fan of the home team, not of Chicago.

Wilbon, go back to your town. You may have a house here, but you don't live here.

Posted by: bentoenail | April 23, 2010 1:35 PM
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I usually don't read Wilbon as he's so out of touch with Washington sports and I only had to read a small portion of this garbage before coming to this...ok Wilbon you are so in touch with your NBA well i'd rather watch the draft at least there you in a sense don't know what will happen and who will do what...where as in the NBA we already know the finals will be just as they've scripted it the Lebron Cavaliers vs the Kobe Lakers with finally the Lebron Cavaliers winning an NBA championship, if any sport is rigged it's the NBA where most superstars get bogust calls and non calls. I'm just a bit older than Wilbon but I know this much this NBA is nothing like the game I grew up watching and appreciating oh what we will do to make a dollar...

Posted by: papaskynz | April 23, 2010 1:27 PM
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In my view the NBA just doesn't have the appeal it once had. The hype is way more than the end result. The same may be said about the NFL but for some reason it keeps motoring on like a beast that it is.

In the NFL there's nothing like a player busting loose for a score. In the NBA, it happens almost every time down the court. Great shots and performances have become commonplace. Maybe it's become to slick for it's own good?

Furthermore, teams in the NBA cannot change overnight like they can in the NFL and MLB. There is no "surprise" element that can create a sensation. Just the same stars doing the same things over and over again.

If the Thunder upset the Lakers, I'll start watching again.

Posted by: richs91 | April 23, 2010 1:17 PM
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The NBA is a joke.

Posted by: wkrdove | April 23, 2010 12:49 PM
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OLDNOVA - you can't actually be saying you'd rather watch every second of the draft than actual games. The draft is perfect for the DVR age. I let it record and check in every hour or so. I fast forward to each pick, see who the pick is, decide if I want to listen to any of the commentary, and then fast forward some more.

Posted by: gkronenberg | April 23, 2010 12:41 PM
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You are so right Wilbon!

Watching the NBA playoffs is so much better; especially as you can name the two teams that will be in the finals about 20% of the way into the season.

Who cares if your audience cares about the NFL draft - you would be making millions without them anyways!


.

Posted by: oldnova | April 23, 2010 12:00 PM
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The NFL Draft would be much more viewable if it did not take so long. Last night for all the hype, produced very few suprises and even fewer relevant trades. Cut the time down between picks and watch interest increase.

Posted by: SkewBaby | April 23, 2010 11:10 AM
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