Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2:30 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; 2:30 PM

Washington Post staff writer Ivan Carter was online Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. ET to field your questions and comments about the Wizards.

From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

Wizards Insider blog

The transcript follows.

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D.C.: I discussion or so back I asked who could step up off the bench to help out the back court. Apparently Donell Taylor has gotten more time. How do you assess his game overall and his play thus far?

Ivan Carter: Donell has flashed some nice skills recently and that is earning him a larger role in Eddie's rotation. It seems that he's sort of slid into the role that Roger Mason Jr. was getting earlier in the season. Donell can bring defensive pressure on the ball, he's good in transition and that knuckleball jumper of his (it kind of comes off his shoulder and has a funky rotation) is going in. The man thing with him from my seat is staying confident and not getting down when he makes a mistake. Now, that's a Catch 22 because Eddie has a tendency to not allow those guys at the end of the bench to "play through" mistakes. Against certain teams, like the Knicks and their point guard heavy lineup for instance, Donell can be a nice player for this team. As always, the best way to get in the court is to defend somebody.

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Chinatown: Hey Ivan, love your blog.

The center duties seemed to have been divided equally, with Etan starting, and Brendan finishing no matter what is actually happening during games. Why is this so?

Ivan Carter: Thanks for reading the blog. I'm having fun with it. Eddie has kind of used those two as a two-headed monster and for the most part, they've been effective. The last game against Dallas was a nice example. You'll take 21 boards and three blocks plus any offense they can give you any night, no? My guess on why Eddie tends to stick with Brendan in the fourth quarter is that Etan either A) tends to come out with a burst of energy early and then tail off as the game goes on or B) gets in some foul trouble and loose his flow a little bit. As I said during camp when the whole competition thing was going on: This team is going to need both big men anyway.

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Washington, D.C. : Hi Ivan -- how do you think Stevenson's doing? They're different kinds of players, but isn't he a step up from Jeffries?

Ivan Carter: At the very least, DeShawn has canceled Jeffries out, especially when you factor in the difference in financial commitment. What I like about DeShawn lately is that he's being a little more aggressive offensively. In the last five games, he's made 61 percent of his shots (22 of 36) and many of them have been those wide-open baseline or off-the-elbow jumpers that defenses are giving him because they are cheating on Gilbert and Caron. If he can keep knocking those shots down, avoid turnovers (which he does), play decent defense and get out on the break for the occasional layup, he'll be doing exactly what they want. Jared was a different kind of player: longer limbed for defense, good at half court trapping and full court pressing and could be used to defend a big man from time to time. I'll take DeShawn given the difference in salary.

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Washington, D.C.: Ivan, what's up? James Lang is my new favorite Wizard, the only good thing about that Chicago game was seeing him finally get some decent run. Is there any chance he could be a 10-12 minute player who goes in there and bangs some people around, grabs some boards and just causes some havoc? I'm thinking something along the lines of Danny Fortson, but less of a thug. Seems like the Wiz could use a bit of that, y'know?

Ivan Carter: Eddie Jordan has made no effort to hide his love for James Lang. I get the feeling that Eddie will give Lang a shot to play serious minutes (perhaps in the 10-12 minute range) at some point this season, especially if Darius Songaila's return is prolonged. He has great hands, solid post moves and he can run the floor well for a guy his size. The Fortson comparison works in terms of his body type, but I don't see the Fortson nasty streak in Lang. He's a pretty soft-spoken, humble kid with that Alabama drawl of his. I like him.

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London, England: Mr. Carter,

Thank you for taking our questions (and posting regularly on the insider blog). What is your take on the current relationship between Eddie Jordan and Brendan Haywood? Marty Burns of si.com suggested that BH might end up in New Jersey (presumably for Jason Collins, although such a deal would not generate much salary relief for the Wizards). Do you think the Wizards are actively shopping Haywood, and if so, what teams do you think would offer the best package for him?

Ivan Carter: First of all, thanks for checking in from London. I'm a big Chelsea fan of the EPL and watch the league from time to time on my cable system. Here's thing thing about Haywood and this team. My take is that Eddie would welcome a Haywood move as would Haywood. Their relationship is functional but that's about it. The key, however, I Ernie Grunfeld. I just don't see Ernie dumping a 26-year-old 7-footer who carries a very reasonable contract. I don't know this but my guess is that Ernie either has or will tell Eddie and Brendan to work out whatever they need to work out and simply deal with it. One factor when it comes to Collins, Eddie coached him in Jersey and the guy would have no problem stepping into his system. That's an intriguing prospect.

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Great Falls, Va.: Ivan,

Why don't the Wizards send Andray Blatche and James Lang to the D-League to get them some playing time? Andray had good stats in the summer league with lesser competition, but he either has regressed or can't handle the higher level of competition.

Ivan Carter: James Lang isn't eligible for the D-League because he's technically in his third season even though he never played in a regular season game before this year. That's a strange rule if you ask me. As for Blatche, I myself am wondering what they'll do, especially once Songaila gets back and Ruffin returns to health. I don't see the kid getting into this rotation anytime soon but I also don't see him being thrilled by the prospect of going to Bismarck, North Dakota. Not that his preference should matter, but it could be an issue.

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D.C.: After three years with this team, and a road losing streak, why does Eddie keep harping about being relieved to come home? This team has been together for awhile, and has playoff expectations, so if they can't win on the road, do they even deserve to be in the playoffs? Beating Dallas, a tired team, at home is good, but having been blown out by teams like the Knicks and the Grizzlies doesn't heal the pain.

Ivan Carter: One of the baffling things about this team's road woes is that it is, for the most part, a veteran team. It shouldn't be a problem. The key players: Gilbert, Antawn, Caron, Antonio and the two centers, have each played in big playoff games - Antonio has a championship ring - and yet, they sometimes look like a disjointed collection of rookies and second year players when they get on the road. I see the "deer in the headlights" look a lot, especially in Arenas who, of course, sets the tone for the whole squad. The last Knicks game, the Memphis game and the Chicago game were particularly disturbing because they simply rolled over as soon as things started going south.

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Springfield, Va.: Hello Ivan. Can you describe the atmosphere in the Wizards locker room? Does it compare to that of teams that are consistent winners such as Dallas and San Antonio?

Ivan Carter: The overall atmosphere is pretty chill. Guys seem to generally enjoy being around one another -- they're always killing each other for suspect fashion choices etc. -- and I don't sense a particularly different vibe from other, traditionally successful teams. I would describe the San Antonio locker room as particularly business-like but that's what you would expect when your big dogs are Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen. Gilbert's a total goofball but I don't see that being a problem because he tends to keep it loose and involves the team's fringe players in his antics (he's always messing with James Lang and Andray Blatche). Caron is pretty much all business and Antawn is very much the same. Etan sort of does his own thing. Brendan is a jokester. Antonio and Gilbert share an empty locker between them and keep it light. DeShawn is kind of quiet but will chime in with commentary from time to time. Ruffin doesn't say much until he's spoken too. That's about it.

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Cambridge, Mass.: Any word on how things are going with Pecherov? Also, is there any chance that Juan Carlos Navarro will ever play for the Wizards? He seems to be the type of player that would fit well in Jordan's system.

Ivan Carter: I haven't heard a lot on Pecherov but I'm due for a check up. I know he missed the first chunk of his team's season in Ukraine with a thigh bruise. As for Navarro, his NBA prospects are hindered by the $10 million buyout Barcelona holds on his contract, which runs through 2009. I keep hearing that he wants to test himself in the NBA, but, if that's the case, why did he sign a three-year extension two summers ago? It could be that he's always using the threat of bolting as leverage with his team. The Wiz hold his rights and will have the first option of keeping him if he ever does get serious about coming over. By the way, he would be on the hook for the vast majority of that buyout as NBA rules would allow the Wiz to only cough up $500,000 of it.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you see a problem with team chemistry?

My take is Caron gets tunnel vision when he gets the ball (almost always shoots), possibly due to a lack of trust of Gilbert. I think they are both very good players; Gilbert is great but could be even better taking fewer low-percentage shots himself; and it might be contagious if that made Caron less anxious to maximize his (limited) touches.

I also have a quibble with the ball-handling on this team; I feel that AD and Gilbert need to assert that they should be taking the ball up court every time; I was at the Dallas game and remember several times in the fourth quarter where the Wiz squandered momentum by either having the ball stolen or losing it out of bounds under pressure when one of their wing players was trying to dribble up-court. We gripe about GA not being a "true point," but then we have other guys bring the ball up court and not letting him be the point... it's not necessarily all on him.

Ivan Carter: I also see a trickle down effect when Gil starts taking, and missing, a ton of shots. He'll miss a couple and then Antawn will get impatient and start launching and then Caron, when he finally gets the rock, will feel compelled to get his. Anyone who has played basketball at any level can relate to how that can happen when offensive-minded players start jacking up jump shots. The good thing is that Caron will typically play the good soldier and go hard to the boards and work to get his off the break when Gilbert and Antawn are dominating the ball. The only knock I have for Caron's overall offensive game is his tendency to start dribbling in place for a few seconds and that almost always precludes a pull-up jumper rather than him taking it hard to the rack.

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Tampa, Fla.: The Wizards look to be in need of a feisty post presence that can score and defend. Maybe when Songaila gets better, things will improve. The more I watch this team, the more I see that Jamison's defense is a liability and often, his preference to play on the perimeter on offense and shoot 3's rather than bang inside is also a hindrance. What do you think about a Jamison/Haywood deal for Kevin Garnett? What about Ron Artest?

Ivan Carter: Kevin McHale is no genius as a GM but there is no way I see him dealing Garnett for Jamison and Haywood, or Jamison, Haywood and Blatche, or even Jamison, Haywood, Blatche, a first-round pick, Pecherov and the White House. Not going to happen. And yes, I'm aware that McHale is the same guy who ruined that franchise by cheating to get Joe Smith, the guy who way overpaid Wally Szczerbiak, the guy who drafted Ndudi Ebi, the guy who traded Sam Cassell for Marko "wrong way jersey" Jaric and then inexplicably signed Mike James to a huge contract last summer. (Which, along with the presence of Troy Hudson, has only served to delay the Randy Foye era.) The guy is more disastrous than a Minnesota blizzard. He makes Mike Tice look like Bill Belichick. He makes Dan Monson look like John Wooden. Okay, I'm done with this subject.

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Oakton, Va.: Do you think what we see is what we're going to get from Jarvis Hayes this season, or is he still adjusting and will likely get better? Any chance he could become a consistent 10-plus point scorer and fit into the rhythm of the offense a little smoother?

Also, do you think you could do a story on the defensive minded coach that was hired this offseason? So far the defense still doesn't look very good. I'd be curious if he has a comment on the team's poor ranking in opponent FG percentage.

Ivan Carter: The key to Jarvis will be getting that shooting percentage up into at least the 40 percent range. You can't have a gunner, which is what Jarvis is because he doesn't attack the basket and takes a high volume of first-side jump shots, shoot 37 percent overall and 36.7 percent from three-point range. Not when you have three guys in your starting lineup (Arenas, Butler and Jamison) who take a high number of jumpers themselves. Thing is, I don't see Jarvis taking the ball to the cup more than he has on that knee. He's just not comfortable enough yet.

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Best Newspaper Web site!: By the way, and do share this with your colleagues, the Washington Post has the best online newspaper in the world! The chats, the blogs, the information is outstanding. I subscribe as well, but its hands down the best when I surf the Net. There is a reason you all get discussion question from all over the world!

Ivan Carter: Thanks for the love. We always love love. I know I like love. Love is good. Long live love! (Besides, I needed the ego boost after sitting in the stands at Soldier Field last Sunday in a Vikings hat. The Grabowskis were very unfriendly. All I did was remind them that Rex Grossman wears the same number as legendary Bears QBs of the past Vince Evans and Cade McNown.)

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Verizon Center: Upcoming game with the Knicks. What's really going on up there? I thought Marbury and Francis alone could win them a few games, but those two have been probably their worse producers. Coincidently, this also proves Larry Brown correct in not playing them together? They have enough talent to win more than 20 games, but 40 would be a stretch. Looks like Isaiah will be out of a job, by May.

Ivan Carter: Marbury/Francis is the NBA version of Clinton/Obama. Sure, it looks good on paper and might even sell some tickets but in the end, there is no way you can win like that.

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Boston: With all the rule changes and ball changes and technicals for complaining over the last couple seasons do you feel David Sterns has overstepped his bounds? I find all the technicals soured me on the game the first couple weeks, it's like the oppression of David Stern is hanging over every game. I've thought for a long time the refs have been too visible and have too much impact on the game. When will the players finally push back? This issue with the ball seems to have riled them up a bit.

Ivan Carter: I don't have a big problem with the crackdown on complaining. It was getting way out of hand in recent years. You can't watch a five-second segment of the game without seeing some player acting like the ref just walked into his house, kicked his dog, slapped his momma and stole one of his SUVs. It was getting out of hand. As for the change of balls, I feel that the NBA should have at least consulted the players. I mean, they are the ones who have to use them, right? Is that too much to ask? If the Post decided to go back to typewriters, shouldn't I at least be asked about it? That was a case where the league went a little too Big Brother on the players.

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20010: Maybe Brendan gets a bad rap, cause I would NEVER pick him out as a jokester on the team.

Songaila question:

Now that you have seen the Wizards play some games, how will he fit in the rotation? How do his strengths/weaknesses match up with the people he will be playing with? Who will get less PT cause of a healthy Songaila?

Ivan Carter: My theory, based on what I've observed of Eddie, is that you'll see Songaila - if he's healthy - split minutes between power forward and center. I still see Eddie going back to small ball in stretches with Songaila and I can see it working because Songaila can defend certain centers and he can knock down that mid-range jumper that becomes available off of the pick-and-roll. He can also play at the four in combo with Brendan or Etan and post up against some of the smaller fours in the league. The big question is: when will he e back practicing (I'm hearing late January at the earliest) and, how long will it take for him to get into basketball shape (the guy hasn't played since the world championships).

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Sports Guy: So Bill Simmons recently wrote a column (scroll down to Atlanta) on ESPN.com, where he mentioned you and your partner as one of his favorite basketball writers in the country. That's gotta feel good right? Kinda like hearing a rumor about the hot girl everyone sweats having a crush on you. But in a totally different way.

Ivan Carter: I would compare it to my days as a bartender back at St. Olaf college. Someone who attends a bunch of bars and knows the biz themselves says you are one of his/her favorite bartenders. Now, you have a ton of customers and the kind words themselves carry no real meaning (unless she's hot but that's another story) but don't you just feel better while pouring that next Jack and Coke or pouring that next beer? Yes, you do.

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Alexandria, Va.: I went to the Wizards game against the Mavericks and, since I'm a life-long fan, I was happy about the win. But watching that offense is like watching the Indianapolis Colts. Score fast and score often. Forget the impact on the defense It seems whoever has the first open shot, shoots. If that's five seconds with a 20 point lead and 5 minutes to play, who cares. Doesn't Eddie Jordan need to work on what I would call a 15-20 second offense, where they basically run a set that takes that long before a shot gets jacked up. If I'm a defense that only has to play defense for five seconds, then come the fourth quarter, I should have lots of energy to clamp down and make a final run.

Ivan Carter: The comparison to the Colts is so good, I'm jealous of you. In fact, I'm now bashing my head into the window of this Amtrak train because I didn't think of it first. The best comparison however, would be to the Chiefs teams I covered as beat guy during the Dick Vermeil era. Those cats would score so fast - sometimes it wasn't even Priest "fantasy football god" Holmes or Tony Gonzales, it was Dante Hall on a return - the defensive guys would just trudge back onto the field knowing full well that they were just going to give it right back. The Wizards are almost exactly like those Chiefs with Gilbert in the role of Priest Holmes, who is the only other athlete I've ever been around who even remotely reminds me of Gilbert. Remember, Ricky Williams was asked about Priest once and he said called Priest "a different type of cat." Wow.

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Washington, D.C.: When are we finally going to remove the label "gunner" or "sharpshooter" from Jarvis Hayes? He's been in the league long enough to prove he simply can not shoot. Yeah, I know, things were different in college, but this is the NBA and Jarvis has been nothing but a bricklayer since he entered the league.

Ivan Carter: The real stunning thing about his shooting percentage is that his jumper looks so pure. I mean, it could be in the Smithsonian right next to a picture of a Jeff George spiral. He does everything you are taught to do when releasing a jump shot (and I have a damn good one by the way): he gets his legs underneath him, he gets terrific elevation, his shooting arm is always framed in a perfect gooseneck and he releases the ball above his head before following through. The rotation on the ball is perfect. I mean, that kind of shot should go in 50 percent of the time, especially when you consider that so many great shooters (Larry Bird, Del Curry, Reggie Miller etc.) had jacked-up shooting motions. Forget stem cell research, lets get someone on this.

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SE, D.C.: Your comments about the Wizards road play are blunt and true. I am glad to see that in the media. Who calls these guys out in the clubhouse or locker room? I love Eddie the SE homeboy, but he makes a lot of excuses for them. Is there a player or assistant coach that has that type fire?

Ivan Carter: From my vantage point, Mike O'Koren is the coach who will really get into the fellas from time to time. He's a tough dude. He's damn sure no big fan of the media types. Kind of reminds of an assistant coach in football. Other than that, I don't see many cases of the coaches chewing booty, certainly not like a Scott Skiles. An example for that game in Chicago the other night: the Bulls were way ahead in the fourth quarter when Butler drove around Andres Nocioni and made a layup. Skiles called timeout and started screaming at Nocioni as Nocioni walked to the bench. I saw a few F-bombs from Skiles, who then turned, dropped another to no one in particular and started drawing on his dry-erase board. That is one intense dude.

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Rockville, Md.: Ivan, do you think the players realize how much more effective they are when they make the extra pass instead of going one on one or tossing up a jump shot early in the shot clock? It seems so obvious, yet over and over again, they revert to their "bad habits" on offense.

Ivan Carter: Great point. The thing about basketball, and this is what makes it so fun to examine and why I'll never be a huge stats geek like folks who love baseball, is that more than any other sport, it's a game of flow. It's like good jazz. When the ball moves and guys create good shots for one another, everything just flows, momentum picks up and a team gets on a run. Now, and this is key for a team like the Wizards, guys have to hit "those" shots, the kind of shots that start runs, end runs or extend runs. Off the top of my head, I can think of several examples this season when Arenas, Butler or Jamison (especially Jamison) pulled a shot, a good shot, and I thought: "If this sucker goes down, they'll be off and running" and that shot missed. I don't really have an explanation for that but two seasons ago and late last season when this team got rolling "those" shots fell.

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Rumors: Back to the poster who made a suggestion about trading for KG. That might seem out of the question and it probably is. But he also threw in Ron Artest. Attitude (and lack of sanity) aside, swapping Jamison for Artest might be just what we need. Artest is a nasty defender who can give you points too. Thoughts?

Ivan Carter:

I wouldn't touch Ron Artest in a million years. Nothing personal, he's tough and all, but there's just something off about that cat. You already have Gilbert on your team and while he's not like Artest per se, he is a little too emotional, gets a little too caught up in the refs and he's a little too up and down. I'd think long and hard about that one.

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Ivan Carter: About to get off the train in New York and head to the Garden folks. Thanks for coming in and sorry for not getting to every question.

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