Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Michael Lee was online Wednesday, Feb. 14, 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: Ah, love is in the air -- or is that more snow and ice? You guys worried about celebrating Valentine's Day or keeping warm? I know this is a crazy day in D.C., but I appreciate those of you who took some time to talk with me. Yes, it's just me today, because Ivan is on his way to Philadelphia, but I hope I answer you questions. Let me stop wasting your time - let's go!

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Tallahassee, Fla. Let's hope the past few weeks quiet the Antawn Jamison critics. The simple fact is that Jamison is more important to the Wiz than Nash is to the Suns. Without Nash, the Suns go from among the best in the West to just another playoff team. Without Jamison, the Wiz go from among the best in the East to the Greg Oden sweepstakes.

Michael Lee: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! You've got a point there because the Suns top six players trump any other six in the league to me, but I wouldn't say the Wizards are in the Oden sweepstakes just yet. Close. Just not yet. They still have two all-stars in Butler and Arenas, so that's enough to be a playoff team in the East. They just really stink right now and they haven't made the proper adjustments since Jamison went down. I don't agree with how Gilbert threw Eddie under the bus after that embarrassing loss to Portland, but he made a point. The Wizards aren't playing the same way they did before Jamison went down. They aren't attacking or being aggressive. They are playing from behind, like a team that has a built in excuse and is ready for the all-star break. They should snap out of it. Better yet, they'd better.

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Savannah, Ga.: I have two questions for you. Did the Wizards give any thought to signing Chris Webber? He would helped in so many ways, and he was cheap.

Also, what is the scoop regarding Jared Jeffries. He is not starting, and is not even the first or second sub. His minutes are down drastically.

Thank You

Michael Lee: The Wizards didn't give much consideration to bringing in Webber. His skill set works much better for Detroit than it does Washington. The Pistons can cover for his defensive liabilities, the Wizards cannot. By the way, I'm glad to see that Webber is playing better since joining the Pistons, but I do want to remind people that him joining the team coincided with the return of Chauncey Billups, so the Webber impact might be a bit overblown.

As for Jared Jeffries, his skill set actually works better for the Wizards than it does for New York. The Knicks really didn't need him. Isiah just wasted money to make a splash, similar to the year before when he overpaid for Jerome James. David Lee, Channing Frye and Quentin Richardson all have the skills that the Knicks need to win. They really didn't need a nice guy who can't really rebound or finish.

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Bowie, Md.: Arenas is supposedly having shoulder issues due to an injury, which is contributing to his shooting woes. If so, do you guys think he should sit out the All-Star Game like Steve Nash, and rest up for the second half of the season, which is much more important? He's scheduled to participate in the 3-point shooting contest, which supposedly throws out the rhythm of a shooter. I doubt if he will sit out, since he craves the limelight.

Michael Lee: You said it best. Gilbert loves the limelight. He craves the attention. Plus, this is his first start. Even if he had one arm, I cannot imagine seeing Gilbert pass on an all-star game when the fans voted him in. He is not as large as Nash or Iverson or Yao, players who have been to the game and don't really need it to boost their marketability. Gil needs every opportunity he can get - or he will create his own.

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New York, N.Y.: I know everyone is in panic mode here, but if Jamison doesn't go down we probably lose against the Spurs and that's it. He was heating up big time and so was the team. I know that his going down will hurt our seed in the East, but once it's playoff time we will be a force again. Am I completely off base here? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

Michael Lee: You're right. The Spurs thumped the Wizards with or without Jamison but Portland? That was awful. I can understand maybe losing by two or one points to Portland, not 21. That should never happen.

I'm glad that you are so optimistic, but if the Wizards lose to Philly tonight -- which is very possible -- I think your tune will be changing. That being said, the only way the Wizards will be a force in the playoffs is if Antawn doesn't rush back and takes his time to heal completely. They should make the playoffs without him, but if he rushes back and gets hurt again later, they are in trouble.

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en route to Ben's Chili Bowl:"They are playing from behind, like a team that has a built in excuse and is ready for the all-star break." - You hit the nail on the head. They are playing like they are on a vacation from the marathon that is the NBA season. It's like they are happy to just accumulate losses while Antawn is away because his absence lowers expectations. I think they still expected to beat the Portlands of the league just by showing up, and Sunday's loss hopefully shocked them back to reality.

Michael Lee: We'll see tonight. This might be the biggest game of the year for them. Seriously. If they win, they'll be feeling good before they head to some white sands and sip coladas on the beach. If they lose, it will be with them for the entire break that they cannot win without Jamison and he might try to hurry back and trust me, you don't want that.

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Arlington, Va.: How can Arenas expect to be a star and act like defense is a disease? Someone as in shape as Arenas and with his work ethic should be a much better defender. This is why no one can ever be compared to Jordan. Not Wade, not Bryant, not anyone because Jordan would put 40 on you and then clamp you down on defense. I cant wait to see a basketball player with that mindset in today's league.

Michael Lee: You are right about nobody being compared to Jordan, but it's nothing new for young stars to focus on scoring because that gets you max contracts, endorsements and shoe deals. Nobody is lining up to get the new Bruce Bowens, ya know? You want a list of stars who treat defense like a disease? Gilbert is one of many.

Here's a start:

1. Chris Webber.

2. Vince Carter.

3. Allen Iverson

4. LeBron James.

5. Tracy McGrady.

But you're right, it would be nice to see a player start playing on both ends, but Kobe already does and Wade is getting there. That boy is blocking shots like he's trying to compete with Alonzo Mourning.

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1900 L St. : Thoughts on Songaila's play? I've been a little worried that I haven't seen him win a single contested rebound or make that mid-range shot that's going to be available to him all the time. Perhaps I'm rushing to judgment since the guy is surely a bit rusty.

Michael Lee: You are rushing to judgment since the guy is surely a bit rusty. He came back about a week or two earlier than anyone expected and you have to remember this is training camp for him. He hasn't played in an NBA game in more than eight or nine months, so this is what you should expect. Backs are tricky and playing with a team that has already established some chemistry is trickier. Songaila might not be the best fit for these Wizards, but he should be able to have an impact in March and April. That's when you really need him. Not now.

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1900 L St.: With Blatche starting does it appear that Coach Jordan believes that Jarvis Hayes blew his chance to step up in Jamison's absence?

Michael Lee: I don't know if Jarvis has completely blown it, but he most certainly is blowing it. It's been painful to see Jarvis' confidence fall while his shots aren't. Eddie has given him ample opportunities to shine, but he doesn't look confident enough to take advantage of it. If Jarvis has a few good games off the bench, though, I think he can definitely get a chance to get back out there because it's not like Blatche can be considered a reliable option at this point. I mean, he got the start against Portland and the Wizards got drilled at home. So, nothing is set.

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San Diego: Gentlemen:

Enjoy the chats! Why is Doc Rivers still employed? After 18 straight defeats, isn't it time to say happy trails? Also, Gilbert needs to shut up! Rule No. 1 in competitive sports is to not give the opposition blackboard material. Rule 1A is not to put personal goals above team goals. Grow up Gil.

Michael Lee: Wow, San Diego. Isn't the weather nice there? You'd think you were hit with two inches of snow and ice or something.

The only reason I think Doc Rivers remains employed is because he is getting paid about $3 million and Danny Ainge feels guilty for giving him that garbage team to coach.

As for Gilbert, I love it when he gives the other team bulletin board material. Most of the time he is able to back it up, but the past two times he's spoken up -- against the Lakers and Blazers -- he's been completely embarrassed; so has the team. Next time, he'd better be ready to back it up, and not force his team to cash his checks. Notice I said next time, because I want Gilbert to keep being his unfiltered self. He's refreshing in a league full of cliche men.

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Bowie, Md.: Iverson: "Practice?!?! You're talking to me about Practice?!?! C'mon now..."

Arenas: "Defense?!?! You're talking to me about Defense?!?! C'mon now..."

Michael Lee: Jokes. Jokes. Keep them coming.

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Washington, D.C.: Everyone is pointing to the loss of Jamison as the main reason for the Wizards struggles, and I generally agree with that, but I think that the offense in general hasn't functioned smoothly since early last month, beginning with that relatively ugly win against the Bulls. The main exception to that was the big win in Orlando, but they're just not playing on offense like they were in December. So the question is: can they recapture that kind of offense (that seemed second only to Phoenix) for a long period of time when Jamison is back, or was that a one month spurt?

Michael Lee: I think that burst in December and January was just one of those runs that teams go on in the course of a year -- and it had everything to do with the Hibachi. Until Gilbert returns to his "hibachi" form from those two months, the team doesn't have a chance to play offense the way they did. The key is Gilbert. If he plays at a high level, the Wizards will follow. It's not like he's going for 40 and the Wizards are losing. He had 9 points against Portland. Nine!?! He can't keep having 3-for-15 or 10-for-29 games and expect the Wizards to win.

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Logan Circle: Any word from the Wizards' players, coaches or staff on the Amaechi revelation? There have been media reports detailing the responses of NBA folks from around the country, but I haven't seen anything regarding the Wizards. This seems like one of the biggest extracurricular stories in the NBA this season. Has nobody asked the team or the organization to comment on how they feel about gay players?

Michael Lee: I haven't had a chance to speak with any players about that subject. I haven't been around the Wizards this week and based on what has been going on with them, it seems like they've been dealing with other issues. Honestly, I'm not sure what insight players would really be able to offer. In this politically correct world, I'm not sure many players will say what they really feel for fear of being blasted in the media. So many of the comments that I've read have been pretty stupid (Shavlik Randolph, LeBron James), but I know plenty of veterans are probably aware or have an idea that that have or are playing with a teammate who is gay. Some things are just best left unsaid.

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Rockville, Md.: Now that the Wiz have shown how vital Antawn is, what can Eddie do from a coaching standpoint to stem the bleeding, given the limitations of his roster? It seems like neither Andray, Jarvis, Calvin, Darius nor Michael are capable of filling the void, individually or collectively.

Michael Lee: Pray that the "hibachi" starts cooking up shrimp and steak again. I mean, the Wizards started the season 4-9 because Gilbert was stinking it up. Once Gilbert got it together, they started rolling. Gilbert has to put the team on his back again.

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Seattle: What do the other Wizards players think of the Thomas- Haywood feud. I think Boswell's column today said it perfectly. Neither of them are that good that they should be angry because of the minutes the other one gets. Together, they barely make one adequate center. How important is it that all players on a team get along? I think this situation can only hurt the Wizards. Both of them should grow up and realize their limitations.

Michael Lee: I don't know if the players are really concerned that these dudes don't like each other. It's not like the team is divided into a Thomas camp or a Haywood camp. They only care about who is going to produce. When Etan started the season, they were with him because he was putting up respectable numbers. When Haywood started after Etan got hurt, they were with him because they were winning. It doesn't matter if they get in the ring on a daily basis, somebody just has to step up. We're not talking about the stars of the team here. This isn't Shaq vs. Kobe -- which worked out pretty well in Los Angeles, if you use championships as the measuring stick -- but I think it has to end in similar fashion. Eventually, they have to cut ties with one. Not because they don't get along, but because they aren't producing.

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D.C.: Kidd might be on the trading block. Would you pull the switcheroo with N.J.? Kidd for Arenas, or maybe Kidd-and-one for Arenas?

Michael Lee: D.C. Did you eat some snow really quickly and catch a brain freeze?

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Arlington, Va.: I just read that Juan Dixon is on ESPN's "10 Most Likely To Be Traded" list. Any chance we can get him back here to D.C.? I haven't run the math, but what about a deal where we'd get Magloire (expiring $8.3M contract) and Dixon for maybe Thomas, Hayes and someone else? We need that instant offense off the bunch -- can Ernie bring Juan home?

Michael Lee: I know everybody loves Juan here, but there is a reason the Wizards let him go two years ago. And no, money was not the issue. Ernie had seen enough to know that Juan was a streaky shooter who could shoot you in or out of a game. So, don't expect to see him back in a Wizards uniform. Sorry.

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Arlington, Va.: Looking at the big picture of the playoffs. Don't you have to have some interior presence down low as far as defense, rebounding, and scoring? The games get tighter than in the regular season and the court seems to shrink with more half court sets. The Wizards still have the same deficiencies they did last year in those areas. How far do you think they can get this year?

Michael Lee: I don't know. The way the East is shaping up or scrambling up, I really have lost all perspective on who's good and who isn't. If Gilbert can elevate his game and Antawn takes his time to get back, I think the Wizards can hang with just about anybody in the conference. But they need a healthy Antawn and a motivated Arenas to get anywhere. The Wizards are deficient, but fortunately, so is just about every other team in the East in some area. Detroit is the best team and Miami is starting to look like the second best team, but Chicago can't score inside, Cleveland relies too heavily on LeBron and Toronto isn't ready to be taken too seriously yet. So, it's wide open.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it just me or does Eddie Jordan need to learn how to use his bench? His rotation is so weird and inconsistent, no wonder the Wiz don't get much help beyond the Big 3.

Michael Lee: Who is the bench player that isn't being used correctly? Really? The second unit is pretty suspect. I don't what Eddie is supposed to do. Bench Gilbert to get Donnell Taylor some more run? Give Jarvis more minutes to miss jumpers? His rotations are off because the talent is so inconsistent. He doesn't know what he's going to get from anywhere outside of the Big 3, unfortunately.

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Michael Lee: Hey, guys. I've got to go. I'm heading to Vegas tomorrow for the All-Star Game and I'm planning on staying out of trouble. Stay warm while you can. I'm pretty sure I'll be okay in Vegas. Good chatting, folks. Peace.

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