Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter were online Wednesday, Feb. 7, 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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Michael Lee: Hey, people. I nearly backed out of the chat today, but I decided that I couldn't stay away. So much is going on in the league. The East is getting bumpier. We have All-Star snubs to discuss. We haven't had a chance to break down the Gil-Kobe rematch. Ivan will be checking in shortly, but I'm ready. So, let's go. . .

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Laurel, Md.: Shaq is back and it seems like the Heat has been a more cohesive team as of late? Do you think the Heat is still a monkey on our back, because we narrowly beat them without Shaq and Wade?

Michael Lee: I think the Wizards' worst nightmare is winning the Southeast Division, finishing second in the East behind Detroit, then looking down and seeing the Miami Heat at No. 7. All of that hard work, potentially washed away with some fluky seeding.

The Heat is starting to get it together. It has slowly crept its way into the playoff picture and teams should look out. Wade has been phenomenal of late, and he is the Wizards' killer. It's pretty sad that on the night when both Shaq and Wade sat, the Wizards struggled to beat Miami, because history has proven that the Wizards can't beat Miami when both or just one is on the floor. Shaq has led the Heat to victories without Wade and Wade beat Washington in a playoff series without Shaq.

That being said, I think the Wizards will be able to get a victory over Miami with Shaq and Wade in the lineup -- Antawn Jamison is going to have to be on the floor, though. He'll probably miss the game on Jan. 28, but he should be around for the games in March and April.

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Rockville, Md.: A lot of folks are worried about how well the Wizards will do while Jamison is hurt and how it might affect their ultimate playoff seeding. Mr. Wilbon, himself, stated that he was worried the Wizards would fall to 5th or 6th before Jamison returns and it might be too late to get a good seeding by then.

But assuming that the Atlantic Division winner has the worst record of any Division winner (a fair assumption, in my opinion), doesn't that mean that the worst the Wizards could do in terms of playoff seeding is second, as long as they win their division? In other words, don't all they have to do is have a better record than Orlando to guarantee a No. 2 seeding?

Ivan Carter: I see the Wiz cruising along at a .500 clip without Antawn. If they do that, I see them maintaining one of the top one or two records in the East regardless of the conference seedings. I don't see anyone in the East pulling away, not Miami with Shaq and D-Wade, not Chicago with their flaws and constant trade speculation, not Detroit with that weak bench and their overall laid-back approach to the regular season and not Cleveland with that misshaped roster.

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Germantown, Md.: Ivan,

Why is it that after beating Detroit twice in a week, that the Pistons are still considered a better team?

Ivan Carter: All of those guys have rings from a couple of years back and they go deep every year, so the perception is that they are better. The Wiz did win the last two but the Pistons won the first two. My key is that Detroit's bench is not good. Everyone seems to forget how good Mehmet Okur, Corliss Williamson and even Elden Campbell were off the bench the year they beat the Lakers in the Finals.

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Cleveland: With both LeBron and Larry Hughes being outspoken on how unhappy they are with the Cavs offense do you see Mike Brown surviving past this season?

Michael Lee: You know, I was wondering about that a few weeks ago, because that Cleveland locker room isn't a happy one because that offense is not innovative at all. Mike Brown is a great dude, I like him a lot and I think he is a great defensive coach, but he might be the right man for LeBron James. LeBron might need a hard-nosed, Jerry Sloan-type who will push him beyond his physical gifts. Plus, Brown comes from San Antonio and Indiana, defensive teams with the offense centered around a post player (Duncan in San Antonio, O'Neal in Indiana). Cleveland has the horses to run, and players who look lost in the half court, standing around just watching LeBron dribble until he decides to shoot or pass. The Cavs need a point guard, but they have enough talent to get wins without a consistent one -- if they decide to run. Larry likes to run, LeBron has the athleticism to run and they don't use Zydrunas Ilgauskas enough, as it is.

The expectations for LeBron and the Cavs skyrocketed after they pushed Detroit to seven games, but they have been a disappointment. If Cleveland does poorly in the playoffs, I'm thinking, unfortunately, the Mike might be in trouble. LeBron is the franchise. If he isn't happy, nobody is.

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Laurel, Md.: With a sprained knee, why is Jamison participating in free throw contests with Antonio Daniels? Isn't it too soon for him to be putting that much pressure on it?

Ivan Carter: Relax. They were just shooting free throws. No jumping up and down and no quick movement. He was also wearing a nice-sized brace on that knee. Everything I hear suggests that he's on schedule but no one has indicated whether he's closer to the three week return or the six week return. My guess is that we'll know more after the All Star break.

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Falls Church, Va.: Who has had the nicest jump shot ever in the league? I'm going with Glenn Rice ... shot was just pretty.

Ivan Carter: Ray Allen. That J should be in the Smithsonian.

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Office Cubicle, Northwest Washington: What's happening with Gilbert's shot? I noticed the article today about fatigue for those who trained/played on team USA. Do you think that may be a factor? Has Gilbert mentioned anything? A lot of his jumpers, especially inside the arc, have looked very un-Gilbert-like. Please tell me this will be cured soon.

washingtonpost.com: U.S. Basketball's Blessing and Curse (Post, Feb. 7)

Michael Lee: I just think guys go through slumps during the course of the season. He had that shoulder injury at the end of the calendar year and that could be a factor, although Gilbert isn't one to use that as an excuse. But if you ask coaches around the league, they will generally tell you that the weeks leading up to the All-Star Game are the worst because players start looking ahead to the break. I think Gilbert will break out. He hasn't had much of a break and he plays heavy minutes. You can't expect him to drop 40 or 50 every night. He'll snap out.

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Philadelphia: Wizards Wire lists Jarvis Hayes as the likely starting PG for tonight's game. What's the over/under on how long before the fans start booing him?

Ivan Carter: This will answer a couple of questions. I see Calvin Booth starting tonight because the Spurs have that big front line with Tim Duncan and Oberto. Also, Hayes has struggled with that shot. As you point out, the folks have been getting on Jarvis pretty hard but I don't see Eddie replacing him in the rotation.

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Shepherdstown, W.V.: What is M. Ruffin's status, and when will he return to play?

Ivan Carter: Ruffin tried to participate in shootaround prior the Lakers game but that foot pain flared up again and he has been back to limited duty on the bike, etc. They haven't set a timetable for his return because the nature of the injury has been so strange. It's very similar to the foot sprain suffered by Boston's Paul Pierce. At first they thought it would be a few weeks but it hasn't been getting better and I hear that surgery is not a real good option. He simply needs to stay off it and hope it gets better.

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Washington, D.C.: What's the story on James Lang? Is he viewed as someone with a realistic chance of getting playing time in the NBA one day? Or do the Wizards just see him as an inexpensive wide body to fill the end of the bench?

Ivan Carter: Right now, I think the Wiz see him as being a little bit of both. He's not ready to play over Brendan, Etan or Calvin right now but they like his potential, particularly his soft hands and nice touch around the hoop, and felt it was better to keep him around than say, P.J. Ramos. At some point however, a guy like that is going to have to be asked to play and either sink or swim. Then again, in this day and age, a halfway decent big man who is not a knucklehead can stick around forever and make some pretty nice cheese.

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GM town: Two quick ones: What is Ernie's contract situation? He is the best thing in 20 years to happen to this team. Also, how much upside does Blatche have? Is the plan to make him an underneath guy full-time, or do they want him to be more of a Dirk outside shooter (now he does everything) big man with big hands in people's faces on defense? Thanks man, love the chats.

Michael Lee: Ernie just signed a contract extension last offseason, so he should be around for another three, four years.

As for Blatche, it's really hard to say what he has the potential to be because he really is just beginning to learn the game. He has only been playing organized basketball for about six years, so you really have to see how his body fills out and whether his confidence grows here in Washington.

The first time I saw Blatche play was in the Michael Jordan Classic in New York and he struck me as a guy who could be an incredible rebounder. He has long arms, big hands and can get to the ball. Unfortunately, he is interested in trying to score, and his confidence is predicated on offense. I think once he figures out that rebounding will give him a long, productive career, you will see a kid who can be pretty well rounded. He just has to keep working hard and forget about the hype, he should be alright. I won't go so far as Dirk. But a pretty good player.

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Washington, D.C.: Wizards question: At first it seemed like good fun, but what's the effect of the betting, shooting contests, and general "swag" competitions on the team balance and locker room feel?

Ivan Carter: Because we have been one of the few papers to write about such contests extensively, I think some folks are getting the idea that such contests are unique to the Wizards. In reality, it happens all over the league. Larry Bird and MJ were notorious competitors and I hear that Chris Mullin would take on all comers in games of HORSE. Thing is, there is a lot of down time in the NBA and between the grind of practice and games, the fellas like to spice things up. Plus, most of these guys are insane competitors. A guy like Gilbert likes to compete at everything and combined with his, uh, outgoing nature, it makes for funny and compelling tales.

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Falls Church, Va.: Yo Ivan! Where do you ball it up when you have free time?

Ivan Carter: I was getting good runs at Sports Club/LA on 22nd and M but they shut down the courts for reconstruction. When it gets done, whenever that is, they'll have only one court so I'm outta there like a free agent. I currently looking for new venues and am open to ideas/suggestions/invites. I'm turning into Shawn Kemp over here.

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BW parkway: As one super critical of the Wizards defensive play, I just want to say they are playing good ball all around. Folks are wondering where Gilbert's 40 points are, but I think he is playing a better all-around game now. Driving and dishing, defense, rebounds, etc. and making his teammates better. The win against Detroit and the second half against Seattle were good. Comments?

Ivan Carter: I watched the Seattle game again yesterday and what stood out to me was the fact that Gilbert played one heck of a game considering that he finished with a rather quiet 16 and 9. He moved the ball as you pointed out and made several key plays. Remember the one where he went up and tipped the rebound in the direction of Booth, who laid it in? The defense was porous against the Raptors and Lakers but overall, I think they've improved. The key with this team will always be getting turnovers and deflections and turning them into good shots at the other end.

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College Park, Md.: Chris Wilcox really slogged in the first few years in the league, but managed to cash in, and is finally paying dividends with the Sonics. He still seems to have a lot of upside. Is he future All-Star material, or, much like Joe Smith, a long-time solid NBA journeyman?

Michael Lee: Wilcox? Future All-Star? That may have been the first time I've ever read those words put together. Before I mention the obvious, let me just say that the Clippers gave up on him because they didn't consider him to be a hard worker and that he is currently getting an opportunity on a lousy team in Seattle, but has failed to be consistent. He has a big game every few weeks then disappears. That's quite frustrating.

Now to the obvious: Do you happen to realize that Carmelo Anthony is the NBA's leading scorer and he has failed to make an all-star team. Josh Howard is on the league's second-best team and he couldn't be in. Then you can throw in Zach Randolph, Elton Brand, Pau Gasol. I know you're talking about potential with Wilcox, but I'm just saying that the forward position in the West is so strong that I can't imagine that Wilcox will even be mentioned.

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A. Blatche (D.C.): Am I a restricted or unrestricted free agent this year?

Ivan Carter: Blatche signed a two-year contract but the Wizards hold an option for a third.

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Washington, D.C.: Will we EVER see a day when a Bullet's draft pick pans out to meet or exceed expectations? We seem to be really good at acquiring players through free agency and through trades, but not a single player that has been picked by Washington has reached expectation with the team, and Richard Hamilton is probably to ONLY top tier NBA player the Bullets have drafted in over 20 years.

Ivan Carter: That will depend on how well Andray Blatche and Oleksiy Pecherov pan out in coming seasons. I hear that Pecherov is playing well over the Ukraine but will get an update and get something in the paper on him soon.

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J (D.C.): Hey Michael, A Raptors question: While they have a very deep roster, do they have too many interchangeable players (Calderon and Ford; Peterson and Parker; Sow and Tucker, etc.)? Also, has Eddie Jones accepting a buy out and signing with the Heat dropped the Peterson's trade value?

Michael Lee: I don't see that as interchangeable, I see it as depth. I know a bunch of teams in the league would love to look to the bench and pluck a Calderon and a Peterson. Plus, those guys get along great up there, so there haven't been any issues with egos or playing time. The Raptors look pretty good right now.

As for Eddie Jones, I don't know what that has to do with Peterson. I cannot imagine that the same teams are interested in those players.

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Annapolis, Md.: Great coverage as always guys, I don't think that any other beat gets the number of comments you guys get on any given column of yours.

Anyway, at the game on Monday Haywood and Blatche were clicking on defense, particularly when it came to rebounding. What are your thoughts on this sizable duo and what they can do for the team for the remainder of the season?

Ivan Carter: I would temper my enthusiasm over what I saw Monday night because Seattle is horrible and their starting center was 6-8 Nick Collison, who didn't even carry the reputation of a tough guy at Kansas. The only other solid Seattle big man was Chris Wilcox. That said, Haywood, Blatche and Calvin Booth changed that game around. The key was Booth coming into the game in the third and sparking that nice run.

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Jeff: Any updates to how Antawn's rehab is going? Do you think he will be gone for the full six weeks? Is he in good spirits?

Ivan Carter: I'll talk to Antawn before tonight's game and get something in my notebook for tomorrow. I hear he's right on schedule and it was a positive sign seeing him on the court shooting free throws after practice yesterday. He was also talking plenty of smack to Daniels so I assume that he's hanging in there mentally. He's a vet and he's pure class so I'm sure he'll be fine.

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D.C.: Clearly, Haywood shows nice flashes whenever he gets some serious PT. Given that, why won't Eddie put his ego aside and let the man start and play serious minutes?

Ivan Carter: Haywood had a nice game against Seattle, finishing with 20 and 11 but against Nick Collison and Johan Petro, isn't that what he's supposed to do? That said, BH has been playing solid ball all season. However, I think part of that is because he's carrying a good amount of minutes. He played 35 the other night. How many more do you want the big man to carry?

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College Park, Md.: Hey! Don't dis my man Wilcox. As the Wizards showed, if you give him the ball under the basket and no one within about 12 feet, he can slam it down really hard. Give the man his props.

Michael Lee: I'm not trying to dis Wilcox. I'm just saying 13 points and 8 rebounds on a bad team that scores a lot is not going get you to the All-Star Game. He's had some great games, where he has posted 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he often follows it with a 6-point, 5-rebound game. Check the stats. That's not a dis. It's the truth.

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Burke, Va.: With the NBA All-Star Game happening in Vegas this year, how much longer will it be until a franchise moves to the fastest growing city in the country??

Ivan Carter: I'll get a feel for that when I'm in Vegas for the All-Star Game. Trust me, I plan on being ALL about basketball business. Won't even notice that I'm in Vegas. Won't have time. May as well be in Colby, Kansas......

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Sterling, Va.: ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons (and others) have remarked that sometimes it appears that LeBron may not try as hard as he could on any given night. How true is this, and if so, what does that say about the Cavs' title hopes?

Ivan Carter: Isn't that what has always been said about players for whom the game comes so easy? LeBron's problem is a disjointed roster. Considering that Larry Hughes has been hurt, is a bad fit for the offense they run and is said to be miserable in Cleveland and, considering that the team has no other legit All Star candidate at any other position (Z is not what he was) isn't that team about where it should be?

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Washington, D.C.: I've been thinking about the downfall of the relationship between Kobe and Shaq. Why is it that Kobe is always to blame for the feuding when Shaq always started the media wars and why is it that nobody ever mentions that this wasn't the first time Shaq didn't get along with another superstar? The same thing happened with Penny. I'm not saying Kobe is the ultimate team player, although he is heading that direction this year, but Kobe doesn't deserve all the blame in what happened.

Michael Lee: You're right. Anytime a situation is that ugly, one person cannot be to blame. One thing that often gets overlooked is that Shaq was the older player, but he never hesitated to dig Bryant, as opposed to being the bigger man. Kobe was a young guy, working hard to gain a rep; he just wanted to make his place in the league. Granted, he was selfish in his approach, which surely upset O'Neal, and after ratting out Shaq to the cops then nudging the Lakers to deal him to Miami, Kobe kind of lost his pass with the public.

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George Templeton: What do you think the chances are of the Wizards finishing as the top seed in the East and the Miami Heat finishing 5th or 6th?

Ivan Carter: Assuming that Antawn gets back on schedule and neither Caron Butler nor Gilbert go down, I see the Wiz scrapping for the best record all season. Miami's spot will depend entirely upon the big fella. If he rounds into shape (and he is round lately), I see them finishing somewhere around 6, 7 or 8.

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Virginia: Hey guys,

How do the Lakers feel about the Butler-Kwame trade now, and whatever happened to Jahidi White?

Ivan Carter: Phil Jackson was asked about this the other night before Lakers/Wiz and said that while he liked Caron and felt that he'd be a good player, the team had a logjam at forward (Odom, Caron, Walton and at the time, D. George) and needed size. Kwame does give you that when he's not hurt. Overall, I think everyone knows that the Wiz got the better of the deal, hands down.

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D.C.: Ivan and Mike, Thanks for the blogging and the chats, they are always fun.

Could you please preach a bit of wisdom to all the Jarvis haters out there? Are all cities this bad trying to run players out of town?

They should all find a Redskins QB to pick on instead.

Ivan Carter: Defending Jarvis. Nice.

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Washington, D.C.: Do the Eastern Conference Playoffs even matter other than to determine the team that will get swept in the NBA Finals?

Ivan Carter: Depends on what team you are talking about. If the Pistons or Heat get swept in the finals, their fans call it a lousy season and demand that changes be made. If the Wizards or Cavaliers get to the Finals and get swept, their fans are happy because they've seen genuine progress made and know that the future promises more.

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Washington, D.C.: With such a strong draft class likely entering the NBA in 2007-2008 (Oden, Durrant, Noah, Glen Davis, Afflalo, and all of the big buys overseas), will we see some teams tanking games to get extra bingo balls in the drum? Don't the Sixers have a bunch of first-round picks coming up in this year's draft?

Michael Lee: Have you been keeping an eye on Boston? That is a tank job supreme with extra cheese. With Paul Pierce sitting out with a foot injury, then going down with an elbow injury, the Celtics appear poised to go after Oden or Durant. This situation looks similar to it's attempt to tank and land Duncan 10 years ago. You know how that worked out. But unlike football, where the worst team is assured the top pick, being the worst in the NBA just gets you more ping pong balls. And if I'm not mistaken, only three teams have finished with the worst record and actually won the lottery. Not good odds.

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Gary (D.C.): Hey Mike, relax, College Park man was joking about Wilcox...

Michael Lee: You sure? Did you talk to him?

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Fredericksburg, Va.: The Wizards showed as much patience with Peter Ramos as anyone. The Wizards took him pretty high as I recall. Who was drafted after him that is making an impact in the league today?

Ivan Carter: The Wiz took P.J. with the 32nd overall pick (second round) of the 2004 draft. The only guy taken after him who has shown even the slightest ability is Trevor Ariza, who went at pick 43 to the Knicks and was later shipped to Orlando, where he's flashed some skills. Other than, it was a whole lot of Blake Stepps, Tim Picketts and Ricky Pauldings.

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Landover, Md.: As Wizards beat writers, have you reviewed the previous championship season, and, more importantly, heard the song "Bullets Fever"? I think that tune might have little comeback this season.

Ivan Carter: I'll look for it. How does it rank on the cheesy sports song poll?

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Laurel, Md.: What are your thoughts on the new Beast from the Far East, Sun Ming Ming, the 7-foot-9 giant from China who's playing with a local Maryland team in a pro league? Have you guys seem him in action?

Ivan Carter: Haven't seen him play but I did see him at a Wizards game watching. He's huge.

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Alexandria, Va.: New Orleans or Oklahoma City? When will this team have a permanent, singular home?

Michael Lee: The Hornets have already announced that they are returning to New Orleans next season and the All-Star Game will be played there in 2008. As much as I enjoy visiting New Orleans, eating some Cajun food and hanging out, I don't think New Orleans is able to handle two franchises -- and that was before Katrina. Since Katrina, fewer people live in the city and NBA games are expensive. It will hard to see them support the Hornets 41 games a year. Eight NFL games, with fans coming from all over Louisiana and lower Mississippi or whatever, is a different story.

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Falls Church, Va.: Do you guys check out message boards and just laugh at how crazy people are?

Ivan Carter: You do run into some wild stuff in there but you also get some interesting story ideas/angles. From what I've seen, area NBA fans know their stuff.

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Washington, D.C.: If you were the coach of the Pacers today, would you bench Tinsley, Daniels and McLeod? They claim they had "nothing to do with this" but I'm betting their bruised knuckles might tell a different story.

Michael Lee: Unless something is proven, I'd find it hard to bench them. If it is, then I think Carlise has to put his foot down. Tinsley and Daniels have to be smarter. They were hanging out at the strip club the night Stephen Jackson went all "shoot-em-up" like Cypress Hill and now they are caught up in this mess, whether or not it happened. If this is found to be true, I think the Pacers have to punish these players themselves. You cannot take a blind eye to this, especially in a place like Indy, where the fans are fed up with this stuff.

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Washington, D.C.: Are there any arenas out there that are worse for watching ball than the Phone Booth?

Michael Lee: You don't like the Phone Booth? It's a pretty nice arena, in my opinion. Seattle is worse, so is Orlando. The others are pretty much on par or slightly better -- but not by much.

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Michael Lee: That's all folks. I've got to bounce. Thanks. It's been real. Talk to ya later.

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