The Washington Wizards
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; 2:00 PM
Washington Post staff writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter were online Wednesday, March 28, at 2 p.m. ET to field your questions and comments about the Wizards and all the latest NBA news.
From The Post:
The transcript follows.
Michael Lee: Hey, everybody. Kobe finally cooled off, but we plan to bring the fire this week. I'm sure there are some angry people with questions now that the Wizards are in second place in the Southeast Division for the first time since mid-January. No matter how much losing Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler hurt, they really had no business getting caught by the Dwyane Wade-less Miami Heat. But you already know that. Bring on the questions. Let's go. . .
D.C.: It's time for the Wizards to fire Eddie Jordan.
Michael Lee: Okay. Step away from the computer. Calm down. Wow, I guess you guys are ready for blood, huh?
Office Cubicle, NW Washington: Plain and simple, what's the morale and attitude of this team right now? It seems like during the first half of the season, they played to get Eddie and company into the All-Star Game; now, it just seems like they are coasting and just waiting for the playoffs.
I am concerned.
Ivan Carter: Getting Caron Butler back tonight against the Sixers will help. So will having some home games. The thing about that road trip is that they were in every game and should have come out of it no worse than 2-3. Right now, the key will be keeping the big three healthy because this team has proven that it cannot consistently win if one or two of them is hurt or not playing.
Washington, D.C.: A lot of people watch the Wizards and just cringe at their shot selection. It appears, however, that Eddie Jordan has a different philosophy about shot selection than a "basketball purist" might. Can you identify and explain his philosophy. I have heard him use the phrase, "open looks," many, many times, so is that it? That an open 20-footer 5 seconds into the 24 second clock is a good shot?
Ivan Carter: He cringes when guys throw up a bad shot seconds into the shot clock, especially when it's from long range. However, he does give Gilbert, Antawn and Caron more space. What he wants is what he got in those blowout wins over Toronto and Indiana. The ball moved, guys cut hard and set good screens and they made the defense work every time down the floor.
Richmond, Va.: Michael, this slide is not all Gilbert's fault (well, outside of the Portland games.) When Caron has been playing, he's played like a bum and turnover machine, Brendan wants to only shoot fade-aways, and, lets face it, Ernie needs to completely overhaul that bench, because outside of AD and Songaila, that bench is garbage. Eddie's working my last nerve too, how do you take out both Jamison and Arenas at the same time?
Michael Lee: Richmond, I'm not blaming this slide solely on Gilbert. I never said it was all his fault. That would be asinine.
I have merely said that he has lost some of that edge that propelled him to greatness the first half of the season. I think those Portland games were examples of how that edge was gone. If those games were played in December, he surely would've scored 50 in one of them. He was that hot.
But no matter who is in the lineup, Arenas sets the tone for this team. When the season began, Caron and Antawn were playing pretty good, but guess what? Gilbert wasn't and the Wizards were 4-9. When Gilbert caught fire in December and January, the Wizards climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards certainly have problems that go beyond the play of Arenas, but the team's best player is often the one who gets blamed when times get rough, just like they are the one who gets the glory when things are going great.
Washington, D.C.: I know it was legal, but do you have any thoughts about the fairness of how Randolph Morris signing with the Knicks played out? Is this a good thing for them, or for him?
Michael Lee: It was totally fair. Morris was a free agent this entire season. He could've signed at any point. It's just that the Knicks waited until he played his last collegiate game to offer him a contract. It's a great move for both sides. I think it's cool that Morris is already in the NBA after playing in the NCAA Tournament a week ago.
Washington, D.C.: Can you give us the real low-down on what happened this past summer with the hiring of a "defensive coach"? The fact that Grunfeld and Pollin went to Jordan and asked him to hire a defensive coach was, in and of itself, a bit of an insult. For Jordan then to hire a then-current Wizards scout, not a real defensive specialist, seemed to me to be a bit of a shot in return, and a complete wallpapering over of a problem by the organization. And what real authority or role does Bill Berry have? Does he lead the team in defensive slide drills?
Ivan Carter: Great question. Remember, they were figuring out Eddie's contract situation the entire time as well. I had the feeling that Eddie wasn't thrilled by the idea of adding a defensive specialist to his staff. He likes his assistants and felt it was an insult to them. The decision to add Berry was a compromise of sorts. He has been a respected coach in the league for awhile. That said, it's not as though he's like a defensive coordinator in football. The thing I've always said about this team and defense is this: It will become a better defensive team when it acquires some defensive players. That's it. Gilbert and Antawn are not. Caron is solid but not a lockdown defender either. DeShawn is good but he's no Bruce Bowen.
Non Wiz related: Is Van Gundy an idiot? He says that every team should be in the draft lottery.
He wouldn't be singing the same tune if he was in the Celtics shoes.
I still don't get the lottery thing; shouldn't it work like the NFL -- if you stink and are the worst, you get the No. 1 pick.
Where did the lottery come about?
Michael Lee: No, Van Gundy isn't an idiot. He wants Greg Oden, too.
But the lottery was created in an effort to prevent teams from tanking, by giving every team that doesn't make the playoffs an opportunity to get the No. 1 pick. The lottery started in 1985, with the Knicks winning the rights to draft Patrick Ewing. But for almost 30 years before that, the No. 1 pick was determined by a coin-flip between the teams with the worst record each division. Can you imagine how teams might be losing if they were guaranteed the pick?
In the NFL, you have 16 games, but in the NBA you have 82. It would not be cool to watch teams go out like chumps 82 times in a season, especially if there is a potential Shaq, LeBron or Oden available.
Seattle: Good morning. Having gotten to see Blatche last week he's... well I'm impressed. He runs the floor, good footwork, great passing ability for a really young big, invested in the game, good defensive rebounder, can score some, doesn't get to the line at all, which would be nice, but not a big deal right now. Where do you see him in a couple of years, who's career, or potential trajectory is he most closely associated with right now? Is it even possible to ask that?
Oh, and I meant to put my two cents in on the silliest "trade Antwan" bandwagon from a couple of months ago, forgot so I'll do it now. Antawn straight up for Nate Robinson.
Ivan Carter: The organization has to like what Blatche has been doing. I really thought he was starting to get comfortable before going down with that knee injury Saturday night (he's out for tonight and probably will miss a few more). The area where he's made rapid progress is on defense with his footwork, positioning and weak side shotblocking. He's really long out there. As you pointed out, he's a natural ballhandler, can get to the rim and has shown improvement on his jump shot. I've said it before: I see him and Oleksiy Pecherov giving this team two young, rangy, interchangable big men who will be matchup nightmares in two to three years.
Williams Dr., Fairfax, Va.: Guys, please tell me that certain teams in the league (Celtics or Bucks to name two) make personnel decisions during the season to give themselves a greater chance of winning the lottery. I work with a couple of guys that are convinced that tanking just doesn't happen. Ever.
Michael Lee: You know, players always tell me that they don't tank games, that as competitors it would be hard to lose intentionally, but I don't know. Losing the most games doesn't guarantee the No. 1 pick, but I found it interesting that Boston lost 18 in a row this season. Did you know the last three teams to lose at least 15 in a row went on to win the lottery?
Houston lost 16 in a row and got Yao in 2002. Cleveland lost 15 straight and got LeBron in 2003 and Orlando lost 19 straight and got Dwight Howard in 2004.
An interesting link: Doc Rivers coached Orlando and Boston. Hmmm.
Woodbridge, Va.: Hope you guys take this question, you seem to ignore/minimize Wizards trade discussions. I know this can't occur until the offseason, but the Wiz need some interior and/or defensive help. I'm a 'Heel at heart, but we have to give up AJ, because is contract is tradeable and he's a defensive liability. How about AJ, E. Thomas, Blatche or the young European straight up for Garnett and Madsen. Minny wouldn't have to worry about seeing Garnett but two times a year. They could rebuild once AJ's contract comes off their books....
Ivan Carter: As I've said a million times before: Ernie would drive to Minneapolis and pick Garnett up himself if such a deal were doable. It's not because Minnesota isn't doing it. Besides, and I might be crazy here, I wouldn't move Blatche or Pecherov.
RE: Randolph Morris: For those of us not up-to-speed, can you explain the backstory for us.
Michael Lee: Oh, sorry. I wrote about it this week. Randolph Morris was a center at Kentucky who entered the draft after his freshman season in 2005 and went undrafted after teams became concerned about his weight and work ethic. He returned to school but according to the collective bargaining agreement, Morris could not re-enter the draft and was a free agent this past season at Kentucky, where he made all-SEC after averaging about 16 and 9.
Dale City, Va.: I think Eddie Jordan is a good coach. As good as we've had here in years. Do you think the requests for his head are warranted by these folks who post a lot? I mean we would be no where without EJ and Gilbert. How did we become so spoiled?
Ivan Carter: It's just a natural part of life in the NBA. Getting around to all of these towns and meeting fans put that in perspective for me. Detroit fans don't trust Flip Saunders and will want him gone if that team doesn't get to the finals. Cleveland fans want Mike Brown's head. Chicago fans think Scott Skiles is too hard core and can't take the Bulls to the next level. Toronto fans wanted Sam Mitchell out of there earlier this season. Orlando fans blame Brian Hill for that team's collapse. Milwaukee fans wanted (and got) Terry Stotts out of there even though he was forced to coach a team that was without its two best players a large chunk of the season. When the Wiz struggle, fans are going to call for Eddie's head. That's just the way it is. My take is this: he's a good coach who has gotten career seasons out of his three best players (Antawn two years ago, Gilbert and Caron this season) and has made chicken salad out of chicken (you know what) when you factor in the Songaila injury, Brendan and Etan's drama and inconsistency, Jarvis Hayes's lousy shooting and Gilbert's overall, uh, originality as a human being.
Anonymous:"The thing about that road trip is that they were in every game and should have come out of it no worse than 2-3."
Yeah, but the only team with a winning record was Utah, which basically manhandled the Wiz at the end of the game. A division leader, with 2 all stars, losing to three sub .500 teams on this road trip, never mind losing to Atlanta minus three starters, losing to GS minus Stephen Jackson, Clippers minus Cassell and Livingston, Blazers minus Randolph, Knicks minus David Lee, is very very sad.
Ivan Carter: Good point.
Cleveland : Tell the choke artist, a.k.a. agent big mouth, a.k.a. Gilbert Arenas, to never talk about my man LeBron not wanting to take the big shots after he airballed a layup attempt at the buzzer in Portland last week. Tell him he should worry about Jarret Jack after he locked him down two times in a row.
Michael Lee: Dang, Cleveland. You're a bit harsh here. But before you keep going overboard, let me remind you that Arenas has three game-winning shots this season. No other player in the league has more than one. Don't try to tell me that Gilbert isn't a clutch player because he's proven it before. Yes, he missed the shot against Portland, but I happen to remember LeBron missing a few potential game-winners this season, too. A recent game in Dallas comes to mind.
D.C.: Gilbert, who placed himself on a pedestal, is essentially the face of this franchise. All wins and losses point to him, whether he's anointed the leader or not. If the Cavs lose, do they blame LeBron or Eric Snow? If the Lakers lose, do they blame Turiaf or Kobe? If the Rockets lose, do they blame Juwan or TMac? If Gilbert is going to put himself out there and have his "coming out party," then he'd better be ready to take his lashes too.
Michael Lee: That's right, D.C.
Oak Hill: How do you rate the Wizards locker room v. other teams you've covered/visited?
My son in another NBA city says the Wizards are loose, gregarious, friendly with the media, etc., somewhat unique to the other teams which visit.
Ivan Carter: Everyone says that about this team. Reporters from other towns love coming into the Wiz locker room because the guys are friendly and almost always funny.
The other night we were in Los Angeles before the game against the Clippers and a reporter from out there approached Jamison. "Get away from me, I don't talk before games," Jamison barked. The guy kind of backed up and then Jamison busted into that smile of his. "Just playing with you my man. What do you need?"
Gilbert, of course, is entertainment unto himself. I ask the ball boys and locker room staff about this all of the time and they say the Wiz guys are consistently the nicest, most generous players they deal with.
Virginia: Kings fan here....do you think its fair to fire Musselman considering his roster includes an overpaid point guard on the downside of his career, a good but young shooting guard, a bonafide lunatic at the small forward, about three washed-up power forwards and a center that hasn't been good in about three years?
Michael Lee: Life isn't fair, Virginia. If Musselman gets fired, he'll still get his checks and he might get a much-needed break. Based on what you just wrote, why would anybody want to coach this team anyway?
But seriously, the Kings have had a number of issues this season - most of them surrounding Ron Artest - and I think they are regretting the dismissal of Rick Adelman. His firing made less sense because he got the team in the playoffs. The Kings aren't getting in this year, so anything can happen. Hey, you can't fire the players.
Richmond, pt2 : My bad Mike, you're right. Gil def. lacks that scowl and swagger from December and January.
Michael Lee: Yeah. Remember when his swag was phenomenal?
Washington, D.C.: Let's talk next year -- who's staying and who's gone? I'd like to see DeShawn Stevenson back (and I think Gilbert would too). I'd also like to see Jarvis Hayes hit the road to take up a spot on some other team's injured list. Finally, I hope that Oleksiy earns a spot. Your thoughts and/or predictions?
Ivan Carter: Oleksiy will be here next year. So will Andray Blatche, who will be a restricted free agent and is going to get a nice piece of that mid-level exception. Ernie loves the kid. Jarvis, Ruffin, Booth and perhaps Donell Taylor will likely be gone. I have a feeling that Ernie will do everything he can to move Etan's salary but that is going to be tough unless Etan starts beasting here down the stretch and drives up his value. DeShawn will be tricky. How much will he want? He and Andray may have to split that mid-level (around $5 million) and that could be tight. The core: Gilbert, Antawn, Caron, Brendan, Songaila and Daniels will be back though don't be shocked if you hear Daniels' name thrown around in some trade rumors.
Delaware: Should Ernie go over Eddie's head and hire his own defensive assistant?
Michael Lee: If that happens, I think we would have to start the countdown for Eddie's firing. That would be a horrible situation for the team, too. Players notice those kinds of things. Eddie's words would mean nothing. To undermine the coach in that manner? Not good. I don't see Ernie doing that.
D.C.: What in the world does Wes Unseld Jr. do for the team? He's the head scout, but under his watch, they drafted Jared Jeffries instead of Boozer or Tayshaun Prince. Also, they drafted Jarvis Hayes instead of Josh Howard or David West. Then they drafted Navarro, and he opted to sign with a European team. Talk about a job for life, as long as Pollin's the owner.
Ivan Carter: Easy on Wes Jr. He does advance scouting for upcoming opponents and helps Eddie and his staff on the bench. The front office: Ernie, Tommy Sheppard and Milt Newton handle college and European scouting.
Kevin Garnett: Man, my team lost a 25-point lead to the sorry Sonics last night at home. Will I ever get out of here?
Michael Lee: Kevin, what are you doing on this chat? I thought you said you never wanted to leave 'Sota. I thought you wanted to outlast Kevin McHale.
If this really is you, KG, I'll just say "Be patient." It's almost over. Either you get moved this summer or before the trade deadline next season, or you opt out of your deal in the summer of 2008. Until then, enjoy your playoff-less offseason. Go to Cabo or something.
D.C.: I know this may sound crazy, but is something wrong with Gilbert? I understand he scored 32 against Utah, but maybe his mind is on his new child, online poker, or whatever. But he doesn't look right. Looks unaggressive, and in a daze. Thoughts?
Ivan Carter: I think he's played pretty well lately. Look at his assist numbers. This entire team has missed Caron's scoring, rebounding and overall presence. How many times a game does he get a steal and momentum changing breakaway dunk? He comes up with big defensive rebounds and get get on one of those personal 6 to 10 point rolls that carry a team through rough patches. More than anything, Gilbert is simply having to carry more of a load. Also, those back-to-backs out west were brutal. I'M exhausted and all I did was hop flights and write stories. Let's see what happens here down the stretch. The pressure is on these cats.
Laurel, Md.: I hope I can ask this question in a way for all to understand: Is there any other team in the NBA that has allowed a personal best game (points, rebs, assist, etc.) to at least one person from the competing team more then the Wizards? And what kills me is that half of the time the person who has the game of there life, most the time is NOT the star of the team.
Ivan Carter: It reminds me of when I was kid and it seemed that every great football player had a career day on my Vikings: Walter Payton, Billy Sims, James Wilder, Tony D, Brett Favre, etc.
Yes, this team has coughed up some monsters but flip it around real quick: how many teams have been victimized for career nights by the Wiz? That's life in the NBA. But man, Carlos Boozer was a beast the other night. That was fun to watch.
Pacers fan in D.C.: Please tell me my squad is going to blow up that roster. It's awful...I understand we needed to get rid of Stephen Jackson, but man, Larry Bird needs a fire sale and our first-round pick belongs to the Hawks.
Michael Lee: Sorry, dude. I don't know what else they can do. The Pacers just blew up the team and look what happened. You're stuck with Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. I had no idea they'd be this bad. The Pacers might've been better off just buying out Jackson and counting their losses.
But this offseason will surely be an interesting one in Indiana, playoffs or not, especially since Jermaine O'Neal already said that he should be traded if he can't turn the team into a winner. They'd just better hope they can find a taker who can give them something in return. O'Neal is an old looking 28-year-old.
Plus, based on the deals he's already made, would you trust Bird with a fire sale?
D.C.: Did Brendan and Etan kiss and make up? I saw one episode where Brendan was being relieved, and while walking toward the bench, Etan extended a fist to tap fists. Brendan didn't see the gesture though, as he was busy fuming.
Ivan Carter: Brendan takes it as a personal insult every time Eddie pulls him out of a game. That's the one area where he's consistent. I think those two have squashed whatever beef was there. They have even been sitting next to one another on the bench lately. Perhaps there is hope for the Middle East.
D.C.: DeShawn was brought here to be the defensive stopper. After watching Ridnour blow by him several times, I'm convinced DeShawn couldn't guard his own shadow. Is dude too busy planning his engagement party at Love?
Ivan Carter: Ouch.
Phone booth town: It seems to me, after watching this team the last three years, that Gil can't/shouldn't run the point. I really think Eddie's system works (it did in N.J.) but I really think we need a true Sam Cassell type PG. Getting one of those make this team much better right away on both sides of the ball. Gil is the team's ninja, but not a court manager.....Your thoughts?
Ivan Carter: The quandary about coaching Gilbert will always be this: he is not a pure point guard but he'll also never be able to play next to one because he has to have the ball in his hands. You can run him off screens from time to time but for the most part, Gilbert is dangerous when he has the rock. He's a scorer first, PG second. You can win with that but the parts around him have to fit.
Hugging the Inner Loop: Pulled this from the Insider:
"We've emphasized it but it really comes down to guys just doing it," Jordan said. "Guys that do it, don't need practice and don't need it to be emphasized. I brought up the Georgetown game. North Carolina misses 22 or 23 shots and Georgetown got every rebound. They've got guys that do it, and it was crucial to their success. We have to bring that same attitude to it."
Is this a personnel issue, or is the indicative of the coaches inability to get these guys to play "D"? I've been hearing "D" from all these guys for a long, long time -- yet the guys seem just as inept.
Eddie seemed grasping with that quote, maybe JT III can get these knuckleheads to "Hoya Up." (I'm not even a big Hoyas fan).
Part Question / Part Rant
Ivan Carter: Rebounding is all about wanting it more than the other guy. Pure and simple. Carlos Boozer rebounded like his life was on the line the other night. Until the Wiz - and not just the bigs but the guards too - get that attitude, they're going to struggle on the boards. And Eddie's point about Georgetown was dead on. I watched that game from a spot on Hermosa Beach (poor me right?) and was amazed at how hungry the Hoyas were on the boards. If Pat Ewing Jr. had his old man's body, he'd be a terror in the NBA. I love the way that dude plays.
San Diego: Carter and Lee, I just saw a player profile that lists Kevin Durant at 6-10, 190 pounds. Can he play the 3 in the NBA or will he get bounced around like a pinball every night? Does he have the ballhandling skills to excel in the backcourt? Obviously he's a brilliant talent, but over an 82-game season, might this string bean be in for a rough go? Call me Concerned in the Sun.
Michael Lee: I don't think Durant will be a string bean forever. He can eat, hit a weight room and fill out. Kobe was quite skinny when he entered the league. Did you see Kevin Garnett his rookie season? And, Garnett played the 4. Tracy McGrady was skin and bones.
Bottom line is, Durant can ball. If you can hoop, you worry about the rest later. I'd be more concerned about somebody who couldn't score at will or didn't have a great feel for the game. Give the boy a few steaks, he'll be okay.
Draft Lottery: With the recent shut downs of Ray Allen, Andrew Bogut, Charlie V, Joe Johnson, etc., does any of this show evidence of tanking? Of is tanking a totally made up fan idea.
Ivan Carter: Look at what the T-Wolves did late last year shutting Garnett down. You can't get that dude out of a pickup game and yet they sat him. If that's not tanking it for draft position, I don't know what is.
Question from GS: What's Antwan and Gilbert's relationship like in D.C.? I've heard they are tight there; I read they really were not all that cool here when they were Warriors.
Michael Lee: It's much better than it was in Oakland. It's like a big brother, little brother thing. They both told me that they had no serious problems with each other in Golden State. But I'm sure they bumped heads a few times (I remember an infamous disagreement when Jamison asked for more touches and Gilbert refused to shoot for three quarters the next game), but at that stage in their careers and life, they both could be a tad immature (Gilbert, perhaps, a little more than Antawn). They're older now, they're careers are more decorated, and the Wizards are winning more than the Warriors. So that helps.
Anonymous: Seriously if the Wizards keep falling and notice that the Heat are gonna be at the three seed should they drop out and just go to the 7 or 8.
I really think they have a better shot at beating the Pistons than they do against Cleveland and the Heat.
Ivan Carter: Right now, they aren't going to beat anyone in the playoffs. If Caron comes back like his usual self and they get rolling, they can beat anyone. That's the amazing/interesting/frustrating thing about this team.
Ivan Carter: Thanks from dropping in during March Madness folks. Getting ready for tonight's game. Read the blog and share your thoughts anytime.
Northeast : Michael or Ivan, would you agree the season went down Jan. 30 with Jamison? Going into that game this team looked like it could beat anyone at anytime. Now they just stink. I mean Gil and Caron look like two prima donnas and the bench, well they could probably be competitive in the D-league
Michael Lee: I think your first statement goes without saying. The Wizards are 10-15 since Jamison went down. I won't even touch that last statement.
Michael Lee: Alright, people. Another good time. I have to run now. We'll talk again next week. Peace.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.