Thursday, Jan. 25, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Ernie Grunfeld
Wizards President of Basketball Operations
Thursday, January 25, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld will take your questions about this season and his plans for the team.

Grunfeld was online Thursday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. to discuss the Wizards.

A transcript follows

Grunfeld took over the team in June of 2003, and added Gilbert Arenas that August, then traded for Antawn Jamison the following summer. Both players developed into All Stars for the Wizards. In 2005, the team won its first playoff series since 1982. Grunfeld has added to the roster since then by trading for Caron Butler and signing Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson.

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NBA Age Minimum: First, on behalf of all the Wizards fans, congratulations on the turn-around you have helped spark. What are your views on high school players and the new NBA rule requiring HS seniors to wait one year before entering the draft? I am curious since you traded the first high schooler ever drafted No. 1, drafted possibly the second-to-last high schooler in Blatche and I hear some guys named Oden and Durant had to wait until this year to come out.

Ernie Grunfeld: I really like the new rule. I would not mind having the current high school players staying in college for two years instead of the current rule, which has them in school for one year. It's a major adjustment for a young player to be able to contribute on an NBA level, not only from a physical standpoint but also on emotionally level.

I think that attending college, playing a 40-game schedule instead of an 80-game schedule and using it as a transition can be very beneficial for both the players and the NBA teams.

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Washington, D.C.: Ernie,

Thanks for the chat. What is wrong with Jarvis Hayes? He came into the league as a "sharpshooter" but he has really struggled with his shot. Is it a confidence thing? Have you talked to him about changing his game a bit to utilize some of his athleticism and slashing ability?

Ernie Grunfeld: Jarvis is trying to get his rhythm and timing back. He has missed nearly two years because of his injuries. Jarvis has good physical tools, and you make a good point, he can be more than just a shooter and he should take more advantage of rebounding, driving to the basket and running the floor. Jarvis has had some very good games for us and he is working on producing on a more consistent basis.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello,

Do you pay any heed to any outside information? Do you ever read a column by one of the NBA writers and think "That trade does sound good?" or do you primarily rely on your own staff for information and rumors?

Thanks.

Ernie Grunfeld: The more information that you have and the more ideas that you talk about, than the better off you are as an organization.

It is always good to get as many viewpoints as possible whether it is provided internally or externally. You never know when a certain idea can possibly spark something else. One good idea could possibly lead to another one.

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Burke, Va.: Ernie, we are so glad to have you running the show here in D.C.!

With the up-tempo style of play and winning more games, do you find more free agents listen when the Wizards call now?

Ernie Grunfeld: Thank you for the kind words. I have really enjoyed my time here in Washington D.C.

I think it does make it easier that we play an exciting brand and up tempo game because most players enjoy playing in that type of system.

Just as an important as the style of play is that the style produces wins, because most players want to be a part of a winning environment.

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Waldorf, Md.: Will Oleksiy Percherov be on the roster at the start of next season?

Ernie Grunfeld: Oleksiy Percherov is playing in the Ukraine in Kiev. He is playing very well and making good progress.

He is only 20 years old and is a 7-footer with a very good outside shot.

He also is a good rebounder with good basketball instincts.

We expect to have him on the roster next year.

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Washington, D.C.: Ernie -

I seems like one of the big hindrances for the Wizards going deep into the playoffs is a lack of depth. Are there any plans to beef up the bench before the end of the season?

Ernie Grunfeld: I think we have very solid depth coming off our bench with Antonio Daniels, Jarvis Hayes and Etan Thomas.

You can't forget that we have the highest scoring trio in the league with Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

We are also going to get another boost to our bench in the next few weeks because Darius Songaila will be back.

Darius is now practicing with us and will provide more depth in the front court at the center and power forward positions.

He is a good outside shooter who can stretch the defense and is an outstanding passer.

We also expect to have Michael Ruffin back in the next two weeks.

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Washington, D.C.: What does Andray Blatche have to do to become a regular part of the rotation? He has obvious physical gifts, what about his weaknesses at this point?

Ernie Grunfeld: Andray Blatche has shown very good promise, but he needs to get stronger like most younger players do, and he needs real game type of experience.

He has seen some more time recently and we have seen some flashes of the things that he can do.

He is a good ball-handler, good rebounder, has good hands and also has a good feel for the game.

The most important thing he needs is experience and that comes with time.

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Fairfax, Va.: Growing up in the NY/NJ area, I wonder if you ever hear from the other half of that terrific tandem -- the Ernie and Bernie Show?

Ernie Grunfeld: From time to time, I do speak with Bernard King. He and his family are now living in the Atlanta area.

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Fairfax, Va.: You have brought in players who add physical and mental toughness to this team: Caron, Antonio, DeShawn. Was toughness something you specifically looked for, or was this simply a coincidence?

Ernie Grunfeld: Toughness is something that we looked for and that is an important quality for your team to have -- not just physical toughness but mental toughness as well.

Those players that you have mentioned have helped add that element to our team.

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Alexandria, Va.: Ernie,

You have done a great job with this team since being hired. We long suffering Washingtonians really appreciate your work. I have a question about DeShawn Stevenson. He seems to play his role very well and is very efficient. He also seems to get along with Gilbert very well. Can we expect him in D.C. beyond this year or is that at least in the plans?

Ernie Grunfeld: We are very pleased with DeShawn's contributions. He understands and accepts his role.

He is our primary backcourt defender and he has shown that he can make perimeter shots as well as make plays off the dribble.

Last week against the New York Knicks, DeShawn made the play and the pass that led to Caron Butler's game-winning dunk.

And he is definitely part of our future plans.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think we'll ever see Navarro? I've never seen this guy play, but I hear he's a great player in Europe. Could you share with us the chances of him wearing a Wizards uniform, and what skills he could bring to the team.

Ernie Grunfeld: We have followed Navarro's progress very closely. I saw him play earlier this year in Europe and he is regarded as one of the top players in Europe.

He is an outstanding scorer with good shooting range.

He handles the ball very well and can make plays off the dribble.

He does have a large buyout to his current contract, but he is a good asset and we will continue to monitor his progress.

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Boulder, Colo.: Why do the Wizards have so much trouble playing defense? What two areas of defense can the team improve upon?

Ernie Grunfeld: Defense is something that we are constantly talking about and we all realize myself, our coaches and players that this an area that we want to improve in.

It is a process and we continue to work at it on a daily basis.

Two of the main points we are trying to work on are ball containment and not allowing easy baskets in the paint.

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Rockville, Md.: I think the number one reason the Wizards have reached the success they have is due to your great work. I hope you are here for the long haul.

Ernie Grunfeld: Thank you ...

The only way that you can experience success is through team work.

We are very fortunate that our management, coaches and players work very well with each other.

There is a great buzz and excitement surrounding the city about this team.

We have very knowledgeable and passionate fans.

We want to thank our fans for all of your support and enthusiasm.

I really enjoyed participating in this online chat and thank you for your questions and comments.

I hope to see you at the Verizon Center real soon!

Thanks

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