Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 10, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter were online Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 2 p.m. ET to field your questions and comments about the Wizards and all the latest NBA news.

From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

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Ivan Carter: Ivan here. Should be a very good game tonight between the Wizards and Bulls. Let's get to it.

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Fairfax, Va.: Do you believe the Wizards can advance far into the playoffs by allowing almost 107 points per game? I have always been under the impression that defense wins championships, no matter the sport.

Ivan Carter: Historically, teams like the Wizards -- those that score a ton but also give up a ton -- tend to go out in the first or second round. Consider the 2003-2004 Mavericks. That team had Steve Nash, Dirty Dirk, Finley, Jamison, Antoine Walker and Josh Howard, averaged 105.2 points per game and finished 52-30 but got trounced in the first round by the Kings mainly because the Kings were a better defensive team. The good thing for the Wizards is that the East is weak, so, depending on the first and second-round matchups, they can beat just about anyone. Still, the defense has to improve.

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Washington, D.C.: Ivan - Thanks for the chats and the excellent Wizards coverage.

Will they extend Stevenson? He was a great pick-up and turned out to be a bargain.

I know Caron is way behind in the fan voting (step it up Wiz fans!), but with the team sporting a good record in the weak East he has to make the All-Star game, right? He is putting up the numbers every night.

Ivan Carter: DeShawn has played excellent ball and I could see Ernie extending him, but much of that will depend on what DeShawn wants. He turned down three years, $10 million from the Magic and that decision backfired badly when he had to take $932,000 from the Wizards. I don't see Ernie offering that much nor do I see him getting that elsewhere, but you know how the NBA can be: it only takes one panicky GM to throw out huge dollars at a player. Caron is playing like an All Star and if this team can get 7 or 8 games above .500 in the next three weeks, he'll get added on. Also, there's a chance that Eddie Jordan could be the East's All Star coach. If the Wizards have the second-best record behind Detroit, Flip Saunders won't be eligible to coach because he did it last year. If Eddie gets the call, I guarantee that you'll see Caron in an All-Star uniform. He deserves it.

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McPherson Square, D.C.: Is there any truth to this rumor:

A three-team deal may be in the works involving the Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trailblazers and Washington Wizards. The Blazers would send Jamaal Magloire to Washington, while the Wizards would send Brendan Haywood and Jarvis Hayes to the Hawks, and the Hawks would send Salim Stoudamire, Esteban Batista, and Lorenzen Wright to the Blazers.

Seems, to me, to be good for the Wizards if Magloire is the "banger" they want. Not sure how Haywood would do in ATL as he may be No. 2 there. Jarvis would be kinda going home so that would be a good thing.

Your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: File that one away under bogus trade rumors. Now, there is no question that other teams have interest in Brendan. He's 26, he has a very agreeable contract and he's been playing good ball this season. Magloire makes no sense because A) he's not better than Brendan B) he's in the last year of his contract and C) Magloire is not a good fit for what Eddie likes to do. He's a plodder who doesn't get up-and-down the court. That rumor had to be floated out of either Atlanta or Portland because the deal would help those teams, not the Wizards. Trust me. Nothing to this one.

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Cairo, Egypt: Thanks fellas for the great coverage on Le Wiz!

For the first time, I really see that this team is not playing uphill. They seem to be confident in their game, and that is so important in this league. Watching them you really feel like they know, finally, that they're capable of beating any team. They have turned the corner.

That being said, do you know if the players look at tonight's game as important as I do? I see tonight's game as big because they may not score 100 points. The question is whether the Wiz can play enough D to keep the Bulls in check if they start to get hot.

Thoughts?

Ivan Carter: My keys to the game tonight: The Bulls play exactly the kind of offense that gives the Wizards fits because they have guards (Gordon, Hinrich, Duhon) who penetrate, suck in the D and then kick out to accurate shooters. That's how the Wiz got drilled in Chicago on Dec. 2. Also, Ben Wallace has been controlling the paint better since Scott Skiles stopped demanding that he front the post. Wallace likes to float on D, provide help and go after shots. The Wizards have to get this team into an up-and-down game and ride Gilbert. Hinrich has zero chance of staying in front of him. None. Gordon always kills the Wizards off the bench so it would help if Jarvis Hayes can knock down a few shots to counter his production. I see the Wizards winning tonight, especially if the game gets into the 105-115 point range.

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Rockville, Md.: Eddie Jordan for the past few years has been quoted numerous times in articles, TV interviews, etc., saying how the team needs to pick up its defense. Yet it never does. How much of this blame should be placed on him? How much on Jordan and Grunfeld for not bringing in defense-minded players? How much on the players themselves? This broken record of "fixing the defense" is getting pretty old.

Ivan Carter: To me it's this simple: when your two best players -- Gilbert and Antawn -- are not good defenders or even close to being good defenders, you are not going to be a good defensive team. I'm not sure what Eddie can do about that. Gilbert can get better and has been effective at getting steals, deflections, etc., but Antawn is Antawn and Caron is a only 6-5. With its present personnel this team is always going to have to play around its weak defense.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: What are your thoughts on the proposed three-way deal between the Hawks, Blazers and 'Zards? If I were Ernie, I wouldn't want to mess with the team right now unless the offer is just too good to refuse.

Ivan Carter: Not going to happen.

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Bowie, Md.: Wouldn't it be funny that Arenas celebrated his birthday and themed it a "coming out party" and then doesn't get voted as a starter on the All-Star team? Right now, Wade and VC have more votes.

In any regard, I always thought Arenas was an insecure fraud, not as a player, but as a "me against the world" front. He was asked about his party before it happened, and had a ridiculous answer that he didn't know anything about it, even though he paid for it.

Ivan Carter: Gilbert is Gilbert. That's about the only way I can put it.

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Rockville, Md.: Guys, you continue to do a terrific job of coverage. The "Insider" is great. Now that Etan is healthy, does he eventually regain his starting position, because it would be "unfair" to Etan to lose his starting position due to injury, or does Eddie stay with Brendan, who is finally playing with passion and energy, because it would be unfair to Brendan to "demote" him after how well he has played in Etan's absence?

Ivan Carter: This will be an interesting thing to watch because Brendan has played well and the team is winning with him in the lineup. However, it's no secret that Eddie prefers having Etan start and I could see him going back to Etan at some point. Either way, the comp is good because this team needs both of them playing at a high level if it is going to get one of the top four seeds in the East.

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Herndon, Va.: Does Gilbert have anyone around him that keeps him grounded, or does he not even need that person?

Ivan Carter: When it comes to Gilbert, I'm not even sure what "grounded" is. I know his dad is around quite a bit and Gil Sr. is a pretty grounded guy from what I can tell. Also, DeShawn and Gilbert have become pretty tight and DeShawn has his stuff together.

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D.C.: Blatche is leaps and bounds better from what he was earlier in the season. What happened? Did something finally click?

Ivan Carter: During the preseason, Andray struggled badly with his defensive footwork and body positioning and with his shooting. The problem was that he was floating around the three-point line looking to catch and shoot. Now, he's coming in and flying to the rim looking for offensive rebounds and putbacks. Defensively, he's using his length to deflect shots and he's improved on staying down and closing out on his man without leaving his feet, which is the surest way of getting a foul called on you in the NBA. During the preseason we joked that Andray didn't even fall for pump fakes, he fell for eyebrow fakes. He's young but improving and his confidence is rising because he's done some good things.

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Chinatown, D.C.: Ivan and Michael - Keep up the always stellar work.

My question: Are the Wizards in danger of believing the hype (SI's power ranking has them at No. 3)? Seems to me the best thing this team can do is stay under the radar if that's at all still possible now that Diddy plays point. Go Wizzah!

Michael Lee: Sorry I'm so late guys. You ever try to pay for parking with those new machines? It takes a minute. The machine has to read your credit card and it takes forever to print it. Okay, enough with the excuses, I was running later but I'm in here, finally. Anyway, to answer your question, the Wizards can't stay under the radar anymore. You get hot, people come after you. The Wizards cannot sneak up on anybody because they are now the target. That's what happens when you get to first place. That's why Toronto was so amped to play them on Sunday and why you can expect the Bulls to bring it tonight. Since you called Gil Diddy, he's got to play like a star every night, take on that motto that "can't nobody hold him down," ya know?

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Washington, D.C.: No more questions about Wizards trades. I've been a Bullets fan for twenty years, and I have never seen this much energy and joy coming from the team. I don't care if next year sucks because we didn't make certain trades, or we can't make it all the way to the finals: I'm beginning to schedule my life around games because they are so much fun to watch.

This is probably idiotic on my part, but, as great as it would be to have the Wizards win the title, isn't the next best thing to be able to enjoy and want to tune in to every Wizards game? Why mess with an already almost-perfect situation?

Ivan Carter: In the immortal words of Charles Oakley: "If it ain't broke, don't break it." Short of getting Kevin McHale to screw up and give him Kevin Garnett for Haywood, Hayes, Blatche and a first-round pick, there is no move out there that is going to drastically improve this team without potentially screwing up the chemistry that has developed over the last 20 games (15-5 with wins over Dallas, Phoenix and the Lakers). Also, Darius Songaila is expected to return sometime after the All Star break and I think he'll help.

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Fort Washington: Songaila Update? And whats wrong with Jarvis, is his knee bothering him again?

Ivan Carter: Songaila has steadily been increasing his activity since undergoing surgery on Nov. 2. Lately, he's been going through shooting drills and working on his post moves after practice and before games. The plan is to keep adding things to the routine as long as his back doesn't give him problems. So far, so good. I wouldn't plan on seeing him until late February at the earliest.

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Warrenton, Va.: Haywood seems to becoming more vocal about his play of late...especially since the Wiz are playing great with him starting. He was a postgame guest on CSN Post Game Live, and was also on the Junkies radio show this week. He mentioned in both interviews that now that he's getting the minutes (30 plus)...he's producing. Does Eddie know/care about this at all?

Also, I found it interesting that Haywood said he and Etan do not speak to one another...at all! Will this become a problem? I can see on a football team it not being a big deal, with 53 other players, it's easy to avoid one another. But on a b-ball team...how does this work?

Ivan Carter: Haywood isn't saying anything he hasn't always said: "If I get 30 minutes, I give you production. If I don't, I don't." That's basically his consistent message and I don't think Eddie cares one way or the other. Eddie just wants to see Brendan protect the rim and play with a little bit of physicality. As for Etan and Brendan's relationship, I don't think it matters. It's not as though the locker room is divided into Brendan and Etan camps. They are two very different people.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Is Chris Webber really being bought out of his deal? If so, do you think the Wizards might pick him up for some defensive rebounding and spot duty until Songalia gets back?

Michael Lee: It seems so. The Philadelphia Daily News reported today that Webber is about to get bought out of his deal. I was in Philadelphia last night and Billy King and Larry Brown were glued to their seats in King's luxury suite, so I didn't get a chance to talk to them personally, but Webber already told the Associated Press that something has been in the works. It's only a matter of time before Webber is out of there. He never was a good fit. He wanted out before Iverson did. Now that he's gone, the rumor is that he wants to go to New York to finally play for Isiah Thomas, who he is good friends with. If Webber really wants to win a title, I think that's a bad move. At the same time, I don't see how he'd fit in here in Washington. This squad likes to get out and run, Webber has one good leg -- and he's old. Trust me, Webber isn't the answer. And, even if he was, don't expect Abe Pollin to take another chance with him. If you remember, things didn't end so sweet here in Washington.

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Bennett Point, Md.: Although the Wizards are a high-flying team of scorers destined to perennially make the playoffs, they lack a top-flight center. Are either of the two Russians drafted last year anything but potential second string centers? The Wizards already have two decent second string centers. Can the Wizards win a championship by having a committee of centers like the Bulls (Cartwright, Wennington, Longley, Perdue)? Or will the Wizards draft someone like Aaron Gray, if available, next draft? Or will they trade for someone like Mihm of the Lakers? Without a bigger presence in the middle, the Wizards may be destined to resemble the Bucks of the '80s, always a bridesmaid in the NBA playoffs.

Ivan Carter: I like the comparison to those Bucks teams of the '80s. Growing up as I did in Minnesota, I didn't have a hometown team so I followed the Bucks. I loved those teams. Sidney Moncrief was my guy but you're right, they could never get past the 76ers, Hawks and Celtics. The problem for the Wiz is finding a dominant center. The big man in the sky only makes so many of them and right now, I can count two: Yao Ming and Shaq (who may not be Shaq anymore as Mike Lee pointed out in a blog last week). Ernie's vision in drafting Oleksiy Pecherov last year was building a team around the 7-foot-0 Pecherov and the 6-11 Andray Blatche with a in-his-prime Gilbert and Caron as the scoring options. Pecherov is in the mold of a Dirk Nowitzki or Andrea Bargnani -- not a traditional big man -- but that is where basketball is going. If he and Blatche develop, the Wizards will be on the cutting edge two or three years from now.

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D.C.: Have you ever asked Arenas about going back to school and finishing his degree? I know he's got a chip on his shoulder about basketball, but I'm sure education is an itch that he wants to scratch especially since he's self conscious and wants to be the ultimate role model.

Ivan Carter: When Arizona offers a degree in "Gilbertology" I see him going back. Other than, I don't see it.

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Fun Street: Hi Ivan and Michael,

Do you know what Gilbert's contract status is?

I believe he is the fourth year of a six-year deal.

Has there been any talk of signing Arenas to an extension, perhaps at the end of this season, to ensure he stays with Wizards?

What do you both think the Wizards should do?

Thanks!

Ivan Carter: He is in the fourth year of a six-year deal. Trust me: Ernie and Abe will roll out the cash box and give him the max to keep Gilbert.

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Fairfax, Va.: As a huge Baltimore/Capitol/Washington Bullets fan circa late '60s through the '70s, can you tell me what Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Bob Dandridge, and Wes Unseld are doing now? The '77-'78 championship team coached by Dick Motta was a real joy to watch.

Ivan Carter: You know what? I'm not sure what's going on with those guys. I'll ask Phi Chenier when I see him before the game tonight for an update and put it on my blog.

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Arlington, Va.: What place would the Wizards have to finish in the East for Gilbert to win the MVP?

Michael Lee: He'd have to do a serious Iverson 2001 impersonation and the Wizards would have to win the Eastern Conference -- and they'd have to win more than 50 games. You have to win something to get the crown, and winning the Southeast Division, with, say, just 50 wins won't do. Fifty wins helped LeBron James finish second last year, so expect the bar to be that much higher for Gilbert. But with the way Nash, Nowitzki and Kobe are playing, you have to expect the MVP is coming out the West. The East is garbage right now.

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Gilbert: So, did you guys get invites to the party?

In one of the chats earlier in the week, someone wondered if Gilbert gave any money to charity instead of dropping all that money on a party. I guess that person didn't hear about the School program.

According to NBA.com, Gilbert has scored 1,008 points so far this year. At $100 per point, he and Mr. Pollin have now given $100,800 away to local schools. And the year isn't even half over.

Can you remember any other athlete in any sport doing something like this?

Ivan Carter: I did get an invite but didn't go. Had to hop an early flight to Toronto on Saturday and wasn't in the stay up all night mood. Besides, I'm more of a grab a stool in the local watering hole type, you know? Clubs aren't my thing. Heard it was a party good though and I was relieved that no craziness went down. Security was tight. No, I haven't heard of a player doing what Gilbert's doing. It's pretty cool and yes, he's raising a lot of loot this season. I think the Redskins should do something similar: for every first down they get, Dan Snyder should donate money to charity and I'm not talking about the Dan Snyder memorial fund either. What a joke that team is.

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F'burg, Va.: How do we get Elton Brand from the Clippers? Bear in mind, we can't lose Arenas, Butler OR Jamison (he's a lot more important than some people seem to think -- he scores AND he rebounds AND he's a calming presence).

Ivan Carter: Here's how you get Brand without giving up Gilbert or Caron: kidnap Donald Sterling, drug Elgin Baylor into believing he's in a Jack Bauer on "24" type hostage situation (first season) and convince Mike Dunleavy that as a part of the deal, he can get his kid from Golden State. That might do it.

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D.C.: Any chance that the Wiz might go after Webber or Francis?

Michael Lee: I already address Webber. But Francis? C'mon. Don't even think about it. First, he has to be bought out by the Knicks, which his agent and Isiah have said isn't happening. Secondly, even if Francis got his Escape From New York, why would the Wizards want him? Whose minutes do you want him to take? Gilbert's?! If and when those guys leave, they will have to seek employment outside of the Beltway.

Hey, y'all. Can we get some questions about Dallas or something?

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Ashburn, Va.: Speaking of Phil Chenier, he seems like the coolest, nicest, most down-to-earth cat in the world. Is his on-air persona the same in real life? He does a GREAT job as an analyst.

Michael Lee: What you see is really what you get with Phil. He really is a nice guy.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Why doesn't Etan ever play power forward?

Ivan Carter: He can't shoot. He can't move his feet to defend power forwards either in the post or on the wing, he can't handle the ball and he's not an especially good passer. Other than that, Etan would make a great power forward. No, Etan is a center and will always be a center. He can dunk on a fool's head, he can block shots and he can put a big body on his man. That's what he does. That, and bash George Bush with his poetry (which I'm in total agreement with).

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20010: Hold up, hold up.

In three years:

Pecherov (did I spell that wrong) will most likely end up as a PF, with Caron as the SF, and Gil and hopefully DS (or someone better) at the other guard spot. Blatche as an off-the-bench PF/oversized SF...We still don't have the center question answered.

Ivan Carter: Why use a traditional center for anything other than spot duty? Who says you'll need one? Remember when every football team had a fullback, two tight ends and two wide receivers in football? Who says the center position will even exist outside of Yao Ming and Greg Oden in five years?

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Bowling Green, Ohio: With a Chris Webber buyout pending, do you think the Wizards are possible suitors for him? Assuming his ego would allow him to accept a role on the bench, I feel he could add some much needed depth to this club and truly solidify the team as a Top 3 Eastern Conference power.

Ivan Carter: If the price were right and he's accepting a role of coming off the bench (I see neither happening) I could sign Webber and use him. He's a heady ballplayer who can pass, shoot and dribble. That fits this offense perfectly and he'd give this team a nice weapon against those smaller lineups we're seeing night in, night out. Again, I don't see C Webb taking low cash and a backup role.

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Reston, Va.: What is your take on the Kobe/Gilbert tiff? I've never heard one big-name player call out another after he was the one that got abused like that. When Kobe hits 50, 60, 80 on a given night he expects props and gets it. That cat has taken more bad shots and dribbled more balls off his foot trying to force things than anyone in the league the last five years.

Ivan Carter: Kobe is a very talented player and a very selfish human being. It killed him seeing Gilbert light it up like that in his building and his comments afterward revealed everything I've always known about the guy. It's all about him, all of the time. Thing is, I think Phil Jackson and his staff kind of liked seeing it happen.

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Washington, D.C.: Is Jordan slowing preparing them for a stronger defensive push in the second half of the season? NBA basketball kicks it up a notch for the second half, not to mention the playoffs. My criticism is out of love and expectations. I just notice that they even struggle when it's time for key defensive stops.

Michael Lee: Eddie is trying to prepare them for a defensive push right now, forget the second half of the season. Unfortunately, you are seeing the results. Since the Wizards' style of play allows for a lot of possessions, they will have some high-scoring games. But as Ivan pointed out earlier this week, they are playing defense comparable to one of the lousiest teams in NBA history -- the 62-loss Nuggets in 1990-91. The Wizards like to outscore you. I don't know when they are going to make stops. I think they will struggle until Gilbert and Antawn get serious about trying to stop somebody. Eddie is trying, though.

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Bowie, Md.: Nobody on this chat session should ever mention Steve Francis. I'm a Terp, and I can't stand him. He did nothing for us, but still got his jersey retired, even after losing to Duke three times. He's burned bridges everywhere he goes. He's another guy that will never win anything in this league.

Ivan Carter: On the other hand, he's making a ton of money and is one hell of a pickup player. He'll always have that.

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Vienna, Va.: As much hype as Arenas gets, I don't think they'd be any good without Caron. He's the glue that holds this team together, and realistically, their only banger.

Ivan Carter: In many ways, Caron is the heart and soul of this team. I guarantee this: he and Etan are the only two players on this roster who command physical respect from opponents and by that I mean, they are the only two guys who put a little hint of fear into a guy's head. Remember that incident with KG last year? KG rolled up into Caron acting tough (and I love KG by the way). Caron looked up at KG with a calm but serious expression and said something to the effect of: "Bring it." KG backed down.

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Washington, D.C.: Okay, Mike -- a Dallas question. In retrospect, analyze/assess the Stackhouse, Jamison, Devin Harris deal.

Michael Lee: Ask Ernie Grunfeld and he will tell you that the Jamison deal was his best as general manager of the Wizards. That one move completely changed the culture of this organization. The playoff appearances that have followed support that.

But based on how well the Mavericks have done -- advancing to the NBA Finals last season -- I think you can really call this deal a draw. Both teams got what they wanted and needed. The Mavericks have a point guard and a valued sixth man, the Wizards got a leader who could take them into the postseason. Sometimes you have trades where nobody loses. This is one of those instances.

But does anybody here care about the Lakers or the Suns or the Spurs?

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speaking of Phil Chenier...: No disrespect to Phil Chenier, but did you ever hear about his encounter with Walt Frazier? Phil got frustrated and popped Frazier in the mouth, and Frazier took him to school -- basketball school.

As a big Knicks fan back then, I have fond memories of that game -- even if it might be a recovered memory.

Ivan Carter: I'll ask him about it. I'm sure Frazier gave it to a few folks back in the day. Phil could fill it up as well.

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Stop mentioning Webber too!: No need for him here!!!

Michael Lee: Thanks random dude.

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Laurel, Md.: Were you surprised by the Awvee Storey situation where he knocked a guy out who ended up getting a concussion and head fracture? I heard it was a sucker punch. Now he got banned from the D-league. He and Arenas were tight.

Ivan Carter: I was surprised. I like Awvee a lot -- he's a really soft-spoken, classy dude and you're right, he and Gilbert are tight. Awvee was in town for the big party last week but I didn't get chance to catch him and ask about the incident. I'm glad the kid he hit is going be okay. Awvee should be able to land a nice contract overseas so he'll be fine.

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20010: RE: center questions.

I am a product of the '80s NBA and Georgetown hoops, where big, productive, traditional centers were always a key to the success of the team. Seems like the league is going in a direction away from that, and I just need to catch up.

Feels like watching Texas Tech play football. Just have to adjust.

Michael Lee: I must say that I have absolutely no idea what it is like watching Texas Tech play football. But you are right about this cycle in the NBA, where low-post play from the center position is no longer valued. That could be changing though, with Dwight Howard ready to be a monster in Orlando and Greg Oden about to enter the league either this summer or next. The game constantly evolves. It might go back soon.

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Michael Lee: I wish I could've spent more time with you guys. But Ivan's got to get ready for the game tonight and I've got a meeting. We are out, like Webber in Philly.

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