Wednesday, March 14 , 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

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Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Michael Lee was online Wednesday, March 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: Yo, everybody. I've got bad news today. Ivan Carter will not be joining us, so all of you IC Fan Club Members who have been fawning over him since that article in Washingtonian Magazine, I'm sorry. You will have to settle for little old me for the next hour. I apologize to the "focus on the family" folks I may have upset last week. I will try to be nicer this week. Let's just try to keep it about basketball, people. Alright, let's go. . .

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Office Cubicle, NW Washington: Eddie Jordan either "overcoaches" or has no concept of what is happening, in my opinion. Bear with me. In the third quarter of the Miami game, I'm willing to bet his halftime talk resembled something like "just go out there and run and play -- let's see what happens." And what happens? We go back to playing "helter skelter," as Gilbert says, and absolutely destroy the Heat in that quarter. That's what our identity is...that's what we do best. However, he ruins the one good bit of coaching he's done in the last month, which is ironically not doing anything, by putting in the awful bench, in hopes of "developing them" for the playoffs, for much of the fourth. What happens then? Blown lead, stagnant offense, etc. I understand keeping your guys fresh, but in a game of that magnitude, I am sure they could have played 8-10 minutes in that quarter.

Say what you want about Eddie -- he's a good guy and all, but he is definitely holding the team back. With respect, I am tired of you guys and the media not holding him accountable for anything. From his smallball antics to him trying to change the identity of the team to a defensive one, he has become a joke. Not to mention his love for Jarvis Hayes, who has done absolutely zero this year.

Lets not mention leaving arguably the worst defensive starter in the NBA, Jamison, in the game to defend Haslem at the end. Hindsight is 20/20, but come on. Riley saw that and IMMEDIATELY went to him. Now THAT is coaching.

With Eddie Jordan, the Wizards are just entertainment. With a real coach, the Wizards have a chance to become a real contender.

Your thoughts?

Michael Lee: Ouch. Let the Eddie Bashing Begin! Based on the questions I've received so far, there seems to be a theme this week. So before I provide an answer, let me let you guys have your say.

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Dr. Rao: I am bewildered by The Post writers that, while you find some criticism for every player on the wizards roster, not one comment has been made about the coaching of this team. On Saturday against the Knicks, coach Jordan rolled out a rotation of players that hadn't been shown all season. On Sunday he left our two worst defenders (Arenas, Jamison) on the floor for the last possession of the game (I think Ivan asked him about this, although somewhat indirectly). Simple coaching things such as set rotations (imposing our will on the other team), offense/defense subs (saving certain possessions), set plays, and time outs to stop another team's run are things, while routinely done by other teams, seem to elude this staff. Any comment?

Michael Lee: Okay. I'll get to this. . .

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Champaign, Ill.: I think it is fairly obvious from watching this team that coaching is the major issue here. The disorganized play on the offensive end, not getting players into proper spots, illogical and inconsistent substitutions leads to the overall inconsistent play of this team. We look great when the big three drop 70, awful otherwise. The Wiz have a roster that other teams would love to have. I've read Post writers comment about players' inefficiencies, but why no criticism of the coach? Interesting that NFL coaches seem to get a lot more scrutiny.

Michael Lee: Alrighty then. I'm sure this isn't the last of the Eddie Bashing, but let me address this now before I get any more. I can agree with all of you that Eddie does some things that are rather perplexing, especially in terms of his substitution patterns and late-game personnel decisions. It frustrates me that he too often makes decisions based on the personnel the other team has on the floor rather than playing to his strengths.

I think the recurring theme since he was in Washington was how he would get the team to play defense. I've often wondered if it's really possible to be a lockdown defensive team with that personnel.

I was a little amused that Antawn was defending Udonis Haslem on the final play in Miami, but who among us really expected that Haslem would get the final shot - and make it? I don't think most teams go into the huddle in the final seconds of any game and say, 'Okay guys, we've got to shut down Haslem!' That was a great move by Pat Riley, but he has five rings, and he is trying his best right now to raise the confidence level of his players in the absence of D-Wade. A few weeks ago, he let Eddie Jones get the last shot against New York and the Heat lost. Was he an idiot that night? I don't think so. It just didn't work out that time.

I think the problem with the Wizards is that what makes Eddie a good coach also opens himself up for criticism. He gives his players (especially Gilbert) freedom, perhaps too much freedom to make plays and decisions. When things are going well, he looks great. When things get out of whack, he looks terrible. The problem also occurs when he tries to reign in his players after things start going poorly. (See Gilbert's "defense" rant after the loss to Portland last month).

That being said, you have to give Eddie a chance to get out of this before you start destroying him. When the season began, not many people expected the Wizards to be in first place (no matter the margin) this late in the season. The fact remains that they are still in first place, although the Heat could very well jump them before the beginning of next week.

I will say this, though. If the season continues to unravel, expect to hear a more critical slant taken.

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.D.C.: Both Muresan and Sun Ming Ming supposedly played together in a local game. Why won't any NBA teams give these two guys some consideration?

Michael Lee: You're joking, right?

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Woodbridge, Va.: TWO STOPS! TWO STOPS! That's all it takes and the Wiz would have two more victories. When will this team realize you sometimes have to do more than outscore the other team? Why not double Francis and make him pass to someone else? Why not have Thomas or a bigger body on Haslem? The screws are tightening in Chinatown....

Michael Lee: Hey, the Wizards have been on edge all season. I mean, Gilbert hit two buzzer beaters against Milwaukee and Utah in games that could've gone either way. They were 9-2 in games decided by three points or less before they lost the past three. These things even themselves out. The Wizards have been hit with the bad luck stick. Think about it. Steve Francis was talking about shutting down his season before he came back to beat the Wizards on a wild, off-balanced three-pointer. Who knew Udonis Haslem was clutch? You cannot win them all. The problem for the Wizards is that they shouldn't have put themselves in position to lose those games. It really should not have come down to that.

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Detroit, Mich.: I find it amusing that all the Wizards fan who were whining that their team got no respect and they were the best in the East a few months ago are suddenly silent. As I have said before, accomplish and prove in the playoffs (i.e. Pistons, Heat, Spurs, etc), then you get respect, until then shut your traps and stop the whining. Regular season means nothing.

Michael Lee: Thanks, Detroit. You can say that because the Pistons have three rings, including one this millennium. The Wizards haven't won since the late '70s. Trust me, the regular season is HUGE here. But you're right about one thing, the Wizards should try to focus on more than regular season success, but you have to take some steps first. You usually don't become a contender overnight -- unless you get Tim Duncan or Shaq.

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Detroit: Is there anyone in the East my Pistons should be worried about besides the Heat?

Michael Lee: Um, yes. They are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference that isn't in Miami, they reside in your division and they just went into your house last week and stole one: The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally getting it together. You might want to keep an eye on the Cavs. They can win without or without LeBron (as long as they play mediocre teams from Northern California).

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Arlington, Va.: You Eddie bashers are a joke. This guy takes more heat then Gar Heard and those duds did when they were here. For one, how in the world does anyone really know what he says at halftime? Where were are all you people at in December and just recently against Toronto? Were you complaining when Jamison was nailing threes in the third quarter? You can't run your starters ragged down the stretch, you just can't do it. People have to step up. When they step up he's a genius yet when it doesn't work out he's the scapegoat. Grow some manhood and blame the players for gambling too much on the defensive end and blame them for shooting woes. You want Eddie to shoot for them too?

Michael Lee: Wow. Somebody ready to defend Eddie. Oh, boy. You wanna be starting something, Arlington?

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Tampa, Fla.: The Cavaliers seem to be playing better ball of late. TV analysts seem to believe LeBron has stepped his game up. I tend to believe that they are playing more uptempo as opposed to walking the ball up and clearing out for LeBron in the half court. It seems to have translated into easier scoring opportunities for the team. We know Hughes plays better in a free flowing offense from his time in D.C. Your thoughts?

Michael Lee: You're right, Tampa. It is not a coincidence that the Cavaliers six-game run started when Mike Brown moved Larry Hughes to the point. Hughes does not play well off the ball, which we learned here in Washington. By putting the ball in Hughes's hands and letting him make decisions, he's helped Larry feel as if he has a purpose in the offense other than shooting jumpers whenever LeBron dribbles into a triple team. The Cavs have averaged 105 points with Hughes at the point and they've scored at least 120 twice.

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D.C.: I'm a Wizards fan, but I seriously hope we "make" the lottery this season. The players that most likely will come out include Oden, Durant, Noah, Corey Brewer, Acie Law, Horford, Jeff Green, etc. We need that help, because, for sure, if we are one and done, we'll end up with another sorry pick and the same team next year. No free agents will consider D.C. They'll never get the ball.

Michael Lee: Sorry to disappoint you, D.C. But the Wizards are going to the playoffs.

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Burke, Va.: If you were running this chat in any random NBA city, what do you think the odds are that people wouldn't be ranting about the head coach?

I'm thinking about 29:1, and I'm not sure there aren't lunatics in Dallas who are upset about the 10 losses.

Michael Lee: You know, if I had to run a chat in 30 NBA cities, I bet there are fans who are upset with the coach in 30 NBA cities. Some people are never satisfied. I'm willing to bet my salary that some lunatic in Dallas went ballistic over the Mavs losing to Golden State. Some guy in Utah is all over Sloan after the Jazz blew that game in Miami last night. It comes with the territory. That's why only 30 men have NBA head coaching jobs. It takes a lot to put up with all the mess.

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Washington, D.C.: In my opinion the Wiz's biggest problem, besides their complete inability to play defense, is their lack of consistency. I was steaming mad after we lost to the Knicks and I was wishing I could be in the locker room so I could give the team a piece of my mind. How can we fix this consistency problem and is there a player/leader on the team who gets pissed off when we lose and lets everyone know that losing to the Hawks and Knicks is unacceptable?

Michael Lee: Even if the Wizards did, it doesn't seem to be working if they go out and give the kind of first-half performance they did against Miami on Sunday. That's where the game was lost, not on Haslem's jumper. The Wizards cannot afford to coast through one half of basketball against a team, but they've found a way to do it in two of their past three games.

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Toronto: If Isiah got an extension, doesn't Mitchell deserve one too?

Does he get one?

Michael Lee: Earlier this week, I wrote that Sam Mitchell has to be upset that Isiah got an extension when he doesn't even had a team with a winning record, but the difference in New York is that James Dolan was just looking for an excuse to give Isiah an extension. All that talk about "significant and evident progress" was a joke. He wasn't seriously looking to can Isiah unless he proved to be worse than Larry Brown. The bar was set so low in New York.

With Sam, I wonder what happens with him. He deserves one, based on the job he has done this season. Nobody picked the Raptors to win the division. His only problem is that he wasn't hired by Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo and Mitchell have worked well together so far, but you have to wonder if Colangelo eventually wants to bring in his own guy to run the team.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael:

Is it fair to say, even this late in the season, that the Wizards win when Gilbert plays great, but loses when he doesn't? You notice that Miami continues to win without Wade. What does that say about the Wizards?

Michael Lee: That the Wizards don't have Shaq! That's what it says. Shaq has too much pride to let his team go under. The Wizards don't have anybody to compare to Shaq (okay, major understatement), not just in terms of stature or rings (Shaq has four; the Wizards as a collective have none), but also in terms of leadership. Just having Shaq on your team makes everyone else so much more confident.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael:

I mostly agree with your assessment of Jordan, above. Some good points. One point that you and others make that I really disagree with is the claim that Jordan doesn't have the players to be a good defensive team. Haywood is at least in the top half of league centers defensively, probably top third. Butler is a terrific athlete, and Gilbert is one of the league's best athletes. Stevenson is a solid defender. So four of the five starters are more than capable of being part of a solid defense. I think you have to look to the coach.

Michael Lee: The Eddie Obsession Continues.

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Washington, D.C.: In your response to the Eddie bashing, you stated Eddie Jordan gives his players "freedom" then has to reign them in.

I'm curious though - do the Wizards have players of such basketball savvy and I.Q. to coach and self direct themselves? Isn't that why they pay E. Jordan and the coaches the big bucks?

I know Phil Jackson and the Bulls earlier coach often gave MJ some free reign, but Jackson quickly realized the only way the Bulls would win a championship was to get MJ on board with the team. Until then, they lost playoff after playoff. Is anybody on the Wiz of MJ basketball status and IQ?

They play fine, but who the heck is he giving such free reign to?

Is that why the team is constantly inconsistent and lacking in basic skills?

They're like the story "The Emperor has no clothes " but HE thought he did!

Somebody has to tell them.

Michael Lee: Good post. The saga continues. . .

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Woodbridge, Va.: With the recent injuries of Jamison and now Butler again, do you think this is all coming from Eddie's decision to play these guys 40-plus minutes early on in the season, or do you think it's just bad luck?

Michael Lee: It's bad luck. During the NBA season, players get hurt. I do think that playing heavy minutes can wear down players. Just looking at the players in the top 20 in minutes played, most of them have had serious injuries this season. But you cannot blame Jamison's knee injury on minutes played; those things happen. It's a grueling season.

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Bay Bridge: Fellas, not since Chris Webber have the Warriors made the playoffs. They have a great shot now. Two question here:

1-Do you see them making it and hanging on to the eighth spot? By the way if they do, how funny would that be, Nellie vs. Cuban.

2-Monta Ellis and his game, he's quick and can get to any spot on the court. Do you see him as Arenas without a jumper, or a taller Tony Parker?

Michael Lee: I think the Clippers can get in, even though they have the toughest schedule. The Warriors really oscillate from one extreme to the other. They can play great against good teams (they are 4-0 against Dallas and Detroit) and stink against the really bad teams. That has to be driving Nellie mad. Of course, I'd personally love to see Nellie vs. Cuban in the first round. That's easier to sell than Nowitzki vs. Brand. Snooze.

As for Monta, his style of play is closer to Tony Parker, although he probably has Gilbert's mentality for scoring. If I had to say who he will resemble more in the future, though, I'd go with Parker, who likes to use his speed and quickness to get to the basket and takes more efficient shots.

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Fairfax, Va.: Have you talked to any players about Kobe's throwing elbows on his "follow through"?

If so, what's the consensus: pro-Kobe or con-Kobe?

Michael Lee: I think after the first elbow, most players didn't really care. But after the second one, I think most players are wondering why Kobe isn't throwing his elbows at players who might strike back. So far, he's picked on a peaceful trio. He hasn't tried that mess with Raja Bell, Ruben Patterson or Danny Fortson.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of Shaq... do you think his body can hold up for Heat's end of the season run and an extended run in the playoffs?

'Cuz ya know, 35 ain't 25, bro...

Michael Lee: That is my concern. I think it's good that Shaq is asserting himself for this run, but I wonder what he will have left in April. The Heat might be worn out by then. I guess the team is hoping one-armed Wade can come back to save the day.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Maybe I have the wrong attitude, but I have a real problem mustering up any of the ill will towards the Wizards that some folks on this board seem to have. While I'm bugged by the recent stretch and hate that the Heat have closed the gap so much, I'm just elated that we can have conversations about the Wizards holding on to first place in March. Does anyone realize how special this is for this city? I'm 29 years old and can remember having to say things like, "Hey, if Ledell Eackles can keep his weight down, the team should be in good shape this year." Enjoy the ride, folks! Whenever you find yourself ready to complain about how weak the team is defensively, or how you don't understand Jordan's substitution patterns, remember that five/ten/fifteen/twenty years ago, this franchise was a black hole. People are acting like the Wizards have been playoff contenders for the last decade. There's no way we should be this spoiled already. Go Wizards.

Michael Lee: More perspective from Hyattsville.

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Fairfax, Va.: Will people quit saying "we lost" or "we need to fire Jordan" etc... Don't write "we" unless you get a paycheck from Abe Pollin.

Michael Lee: How do you know that they don't?

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Tampa: Why is it that teams with multiple athletic players like Golden State seem to have Dallas's number? Or do you think some of it has to do with the fact that Don Nelson once coached them and knows their tendencies?

Michael Lee: Well, to my understanding, Golden State is the only team that appears to have Dallas' number this season. To my knowledge, only one team has had more than one victory over Dallas this season. I think that has a lot to do with Don Nelson. He knows that team probably better than the one he's coaching right now.

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D.C.: What would Chucky Atkins had done for us if he stuck around instead of bailing out. Did you ever get the reason from him on why he wanted to leave?

Michael Lee: Wow. Are we in 2006? Chucky would've continued to gripe about minutes and further undermined Eddie. He's happy to be gone and the Wizards don't really miss him, either. It was best that he move on. Chucky is getting older and didn't want to throw away the few seasons he has left sitting on the bench. He'll help some team next season. Just not the Wiz kids.

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Anonymous: Been reading a lot of criticism for Eddie Jordan recently as he is the blame. I think folks do not realize this man has known of their defensive weaknesses for years and has tried to promote an offense to overcome them. Comments? Arenas and Jamison's defense is abysmal at times though. why won't the media call them out by name? There's no way they played D like that in HS or even college.

Michael Lee: Your point goes directly to what plagues the star-driven NBA. Players realize that scoring gets you recognition (money, fame, all-star appearances), while defense has the potential to get you hurt or unappreciated. I don't know how you can blame Eddie though. He's tried to preach defense. You saw how Gilbert reacted.

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Oregon: Make sure Arenas, a.k.a. "Mr. 9," knows he will be booed all night next week in Portland while my boy Jarret Jack locks him down again..

Michael Lee: Would you really boo him if he scores 50? C'mon.

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NW, D.C.: Luv Agent Zero, but he needs to broaden his game. Part of it is really maturity. For all his success this year, have you seen any growth in Arenas game? Maybe he is so skilled the bar is too high; I have seen flashes but no consistency.

Michael Lee: I think Gilbert looked like he was ready to turn the corner before that game against Portland. He was playing at a higher level than most players in the league, and he played like he had something to prove. Unfortunately, since he was voted to the All-Star game, it looks like Gilbert has lost some of that edge. It's like he's saving himself for the playoffs (I hope) or something.

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20010, DC: Hi Michael! Thanks for all the reporting. Could you tell us a little about what you see as the storylines developing this last month of the regular season, both in the East and the West? For example, it looks to me like the Cavaliers and Heat have really kicked it into another gear lately, but that's not to discount that the Pistons have stayed solid. Meanwhile in the West, the Mavericks, the Suns, and the Spurs are the obvious Big Three, but who else should we be watching?

thanks!

Michael Lee: For the most part, the teams you mentioned are the teams you have to consider for late May and June, but keep an eye on Houston and Utah. Those teams have been ignored all season long, because of the focus on the Mavericks, Suns and lately, the Spurs, but they can make something happen in the playoffs. The Rockets pushed the Mavericks to seven games two years ago and Utah already has a win over Dallas this season.

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National Cathedral: Love that chats thanks for doing them.

Does Eddie every yell? It seems like this team thinks they won something already. I love Jordan as our coach but perhaps he needs to ride this team a little harder to get the most out of them. Phil would be shaming them right now, they have the position to steal a great playoff spot but now might be 1st round easy outs for somebody...

Michael Lee: Huh? The National Cathedral cares about the Wiz? But yes, Eddie yells. He uses bad words (forgive him) and he takes time to rip into his team from time to time. He just chooses to keep his private conversations between him and the team. He won't publicly crucify (bad choice of words) his team and rarely does he call out his players (except for Brendan) in the media like George Karl or Phil Jackson. That's not how he operates.

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Bowie, Md.: The Wizards like to compare themselves to the Suns, but what I've noticed is that although they've got a lot of scorers, the Wizards don't have a lot of guys that play above the rim or can finish strong. You see a lot of layups and short J's. Do you think this team needs to get more athletic this coming draft?

Michael Lee: No team out there can seriously compare themselves to the Suns, because they are the only team in the league with Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa, four extremely unique players with uncommon characteristics. The Suns are also seven players deep, seriously. There is little drop off from their top seven. That doesn't happen in this league to often, certainly not in Washington.

But to answer your question, it would be nice for the Wizards to add one or two above the rim guys.

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Michael Lee: Wow. What a week. Strictly basketball questions. I'm proud. But I have to go. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get to everybody, but I appreciate you spending your lunch breaks with me. I really have to run. Peace.

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