Wednesday, April 4, 2:30 p.m. ET

The Washington Wizards

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; 2:30 PM

Washington Post staff writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter were online Wednesday, April 4, 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.

____________________ Ivan is running late and will be with us in a few minutes.


Bloomfield, N.J.: When your team gives up 122 points to the cellar-dwelling Bobcats, it's time to ask: Who should be the new coach of this team next season?

Ivan Carter: That was brutal and I can understand blaming Eddie Jordan, but at what point are the players responsible? Where is the inner pride to not allow your man to repeatedly beat you? That's my thought on this team right now. There are nine games left and if these guys are serious about being taken seriously, they have to show more pride than they did last night regardless of who the coach is.


Edgemoor, Md.: I enjoy these blogs very much. Thanks for doing them.

The Wizards are a puzzle to me. Perhaps you can enlighten me. I see that when any of the big three go down the team loses. I don't understand why the team is quite so delicately balanced that even teams like Charlotte can beat them up in that condition.

On paper, the bench seems perfectly okay to me. Songaila appears to be coming on. Booth puts up decent numbers often when called on. Ruffin contributes. Even Jarvis Hayes has his moments. And, the center position is no better or worse when the big three are not all there. What can be the real explanation for this fragility?

Ivan Carter: It's pretty simple: when one of the big three is not playing, this team simply can't afford to have one of the other two experience a bad shooting night. Last night, Antawn Jamison was 3 of 16 and scored 6 points while Gilbert's 33 points and 7 assists were crossed out by the fact that Raymond Felton and Brevin Knight drove around him at will and picked the Wiz defense apart. Also, this team simply can't have Jarvis Hayes go 1 of 6, Roger Mason go 0 of 3 and Brendan Haywood provide zero points and two rebounds in nine minutes.


Tough Juice: Who do you think would be the best match up for the Wiz with no Caron?

Also, I am looking to buy playoff tickets this week, but the schedule will not be released until the end of the season.

Do you know the playoff schedule? I am assuming if the Wiz don't have home court it looks like the Wiz home games would be the weekend of April 25-27. Do you think tough Juice could be back for a second-round match up? It would give him about four or five weeks of recovery time instead of six. Thank you!

Ivan Carter: In my opinion, and a scout I asked last night agrees, the best matchup would be Cleveland. Miami is Miami and we all know how that goes. Chicago is so tough defensively and the Wiz always fall apart playing there. Toronto has a large front line and can put five scorers on the floor at all times. Against the Cavs, the Wiz would have to worry about LeBron and that's about it.


Landover Hills, Md.: Is Charlotte's Walter Herrmann the next Dirk Nowitzki?

Ivan Carter: He certainly looked like it last night. Really gave Antawn the fits. Herrmann was the rookie of the month for March, but that's a little misleading because he has a ton of pro experience from stints in Argentina and Spain. He's actually played a lot better than the far more hyped Adam Morrison of late.


Re: Drinking Kool-Aid: Ivan:

My boy and I thought you were crazy talking about 50 wins during the pre-season. I respect your journalistic skills, but how did you swallow the spin so hard from the Wizards front office? It was so obvious from the beginning that this was not doable considering everyone in the East got better and we stood pat. Have you noticed how well opposing PFs play against us? You owe everyone an apology for getting our hopes up.

Ivan Carter: My prediction of 45 to 50 wins solely came from my own, non-influenced opinion and it was based around one huge stipulation: that Gilbert, Antawn and Caron all stay healthy. You would expect each of them to miss four or five games along the way but this team was not going to survive losing Antawn for 12 games and Caron for what will turn out to be 20 games. Throw in the fact that Darius Songaila missed the first 45 games and Blatche recently went down and my prediction went right down the tubes. Like the team, I was looking good at the All Star break, wasn't I? And know this about me: I will never drink any Kool-Aid, team provided or otherwise. I much prefer Budweiser.


Burtonsville, Md.: Ivan, where was Calvin Booth yesterday? I just don't understand how he could put up a double double one night and then pretty much not play the next!! I am a big fan of Eddie Jordan but there HAS to be consistency to the rotation and has has been all over the place this year. Brendan did not deserve to play yesterday over Booth....

Ivan Carter: My thinking is that after benching Brendan totally at Milwaukee, he wanted to give him some minutes last night A) to see whether the benching would spark something in Brendan and B) Brendan was playing in his hometown in front of family and friends. Booth did deserve those minutes based on how he played at Milwaukee Sunday. I agree with you on that.


Ruff stuff: Gentleman,

Honestly, has any teammate talked to Michael Ruffin since the gaffe against Toronto? That loss was the worst!!

Ivan Carter: It's like a teammate and friend said to me in college when I jumped offsides and negated a catch that would have given us a first and goal in overtime once (We lost): "Way to go idiot. Glad it happened to you not me. Now let me buy you a cold beverage and let's forget about it."

What are you going to do? Shoot Ruffin?


Washington, D.C.: Better interview: Dick Vermeil or Eddie Jordan?

Ivan Carter: Great question. I covered Vermeil for about six years and he and Eddie have some similar characteristics (though I've never seen Eddie cry after a win). They are both good to deal with, will look you in the eye and answer a question honestly and with insight and they treat everyone around them with respect.


Office Cubicle, NW Washington: Does anyone on this team even care anymore? How can you get blasted by the Bobcats like that unless you are playing with no energy and no heart? This is a disgrace what they are doing to the fans.

I don't want to hear anymore excuses, I want to hear someone call everyone on the team out, from the coaches to the players.

Ivan Carter: After last night, I don't blame you for feeling this way. As I said on the radio today, there are nine games left. Isn't it time for this team to perform? No excuses now.


Wiz fan at the University of Minnesota : Ivan or Michael, do you sense in the Wizards' locker room that they have just given up on the season? By the way, Ivan, what do you think of the Gophers new bball coach?

Ivan Carter: I wouldn't say they have given up. Now, if they go out and get blasted by the Bobcats at home tonight and look as bad defensively doing it, you can make that charge. As for the U of M getting Tubby Smith, what can I say other than it is the single best hire by a Minnesota sports team since Terry Ryan wisely chose Gardenhire as the replacement for Tom Kelly with the Twins. What a steal. Within five minutes of the news breaking, five of my boys from back in Minneapolis texted or called saying they were getting season tickets. That state produces a ton of Div I basketball talent every year and Tubby will keep 'em home. Great hire.


22314: In Gilbert's solo Adidas commercial, he talks about how he worked hard to prove all his doubters wrong, rather then something like "prove to MYSELF they were wrong." I know it's a fine point, but it seemed to add to my thoughts that while Gil is not a selfish player; most would not classify him as an unselfish player.

I know age will provide wisdom and maturity, do you all see him becoming more mature, and are his leadership skills improving? Facing the rest of the season without Butler, this looks like the perfect opportunity for Gilbert to step up and lead, and even if they don't advance in the playoffs, he will help set a tone for next year.

Ivan Carter: For now, I'd really like to see Gilbert dig in, play real defense -- not just shoot passing lanes and gamble for steals -- and take on more of a leadership role. He's earned the right to get into some guys on night's like last night but as he's said in the past, that isn't his personality. If he doesn't improve in those two areas: defense and leadership, he'll risk going down in history as a great offensive player and all-around entertaining character who didn't win a thing of significance.


D.C.: This blaming Eddie for a lack of defense must stop. If you traded Eddie to the Bulls for Scott Skiles, you think the Wizards would stoppers and the Bulls high flyers? Of course not. The NBA is a player's league. Blame Brendan for failing to make proper use of his length. Blame Gilbert for letting his mind wander on the defensive end. It ain't Eddie's fault. Now if you want to fire a coach for a lack of a clear rotation system, that's another story.

Ivan Carter: Interesting take on Eddie and one I tend to agree with. I know from personal observation that he and his staff have emphasized defensive principles over and over again. But when your two best players - Gilbert and Antawn - are not good defenders, what are you going to do?


ATL: Are my Wiz going to end the year with a winning record?

Michael Lee: Hey, everybody. I decided to sneak in for a second.

Yes. They should finish with a winning record. They are 2-8 without Caron this season, but I think they should be able to get at least three more the rest of the way. I see them winning tonight against Charlotte and they have some more winnable games against New Jersey, Atlanta, Orlando and Indiana. But it's not looking good for much else.


Oakton, Va.: Could you provide some clarity on Eddie Jordan's current contract? I believe he signed an extension before this season (his last year on the old contract), but only two additional years guaranteed. Meaning after this season, the Wizards are on the hook for two more years of salary.

Did you ever get the feeling that the Wizards took so long to give Eddie an extension because they wanted to see what their other options were?

Ivan Carter: My take is that Abe Pollin called down to Ernie Grunfeld and said something to the effect of: "The man has taken us to two straight playoff appearances, he's a D.C. guy and he's done a great job developing our franchise player, so give him an extension."


Frederick, Md.: Are any of the European players the Wizard have the rights of coming over next year? What possible trade value do they have?

Ivan Carter: This year's first round pick, Oleksiy Pecherov, will sign and join the team in time for summer league play. He'll be on the roster next season. Juan Carlos Navarro, the guy the team drafted in the second round in 2002, said he wants to come over but he has to buyout his contract with Barcelona, his team in the Spanish Pro League. Pecherov is a 20-year old 7-footer in the Nowitzki mold. He has skills. Navarro, 26, is a smallish guard who is one of the best players not in the NBA.


Baltimore: Too hard to talk about the Wiz.....Should the Mavs be worried about the Suns? Those last two games seemed to take an emotional toll on them.

Michael Lee: The weird thing about this is that I think the Suns could really give the Mavericks the most trouble, but I don't think they can beat the Spurs. I think the Suns just play at a pace that is tempting for Dallas. They have guys that like to run. The Spurs like to slow it down against Phoenix. They don't try to get too caught up in shootouts, which makes them pretty tough for the Suns. But if Phoenix beats San Antonio in the second round, Dallas should be concerned. They barely beat them in the conference finals last year -- and Amare is such a difference maker.


D.C. Boys: So Ivan, if we get through the first round and Butler comes back, do we have a chance?

Ivan Carter: After what you saw last night, you think this team is getting out of the first round? The only way I see Caron coming back is if they go deep in the second round and they may need to make to the conference finals. He broke a finger on his shooting hand so it's hard to imagine him being 100 percent when/if he does come back, especially given the rough and tumble way he plays.


D.C.: Even if Gilbert and Antawn and not good defenders, it doesn't take a good defender to nail someone who's driving down the lane for an easy lay up. They need to set the tone and let people know that there's no free pass to the hoop. Look at what Raja Bell did to Kobe, and now Kobe is making all the white guys in the league pay for that Raja Bell clothesline.

Michael Lee: Raja didn't clothesline Kobe because he was trying to send a message about not having a free pass, he hit Kobe because he got sick of Kobe's elbows. There is a difference. The guys on the Wizards are too nice to be enforcers. Can you really see Antawn knocking somebody on their butt? This team doesn't have any Charles Oakleys or Danny Fortsons, for that matter.


D.C.: Gilbert's going to leave, I can feel it. Someone else is going to throw money at him and give him a better supporting cast and the Wiz will slip back to being a failing franchise.

Ivan Carter: As long as Ernie Grunfeld is GM and Abe Pollin is the owner, Gilbert is not going anywhere. They will do everything to keep him. He's THE franchise player at this point and perhaps the most recognized sports figure in the city.


Houston: Is there nobody available for the Wizards to sign as a replacement for Butler?

Ivan Carter: Well, it would be great to throw Bernard King in a time machine and bust him out but that isn't going to happen. There is no replacement for Butler at this point. This team needs to play better defense, get Andray Blatche back and keep riding Darius Songaila. He's been playing great ball of late.


Washington, D.C.: The three teams more disappointing than the Wiz since the All-Star break are...

Michael Lee:1. Indiana

2. Denver

3. Orlando

Those teams were definite playoff teams at the break. Now they are fighting for invitations. Indiana might not make it. Orlando might get in by default. And, who knew Iverson and Carmelo would be scrambling to avoid the No. 8 seed?


Pragmatists View, USA: Let's be honest; this season is over, and it's time to look ahead to next year. If Blatche can put on 5-10 pounds, can he play C for the Wiz next year as a starter, with Thomas coming off the bench? Will Pecherov get real minutes, or will it be more like Blatche from last year?

Ivan Carter: Seriously, it's too early to start talking about next season. Let's see how this thing plays out first. Besides, I'll have all summer to answer these types of questions.


Arlington, Va.: Is this team cursed? Just when things are starting to look up, and now this.

Ivan Carter: This team is not cursed. You want a team that is cursed? Take a look at my Vikings. THEY are cursed. The Butler injury was just a case of very bad luck.


D.C.: How scary is this? The Suns currently own the 5th pick (if everyone picks in order) in the lottery courtesy of Atlanta.

Michael Lee: I know. That Joe Johnson trade continues to haunt the Hawks. When I was watching the championship game on Monday, I kept telling myself, "Wow, the Suns might be able to add Corey Brewer or Al Horford." I can't fathom how scary that is. But here is a scarier thought. What if they can work out a deal to send Shawn Marion and a No. 1 to get Durant? Yeah. I'm not going out on a limb here, but the Suns should be pretty good next year, too.


Ivan Carter: Folks, I just got off a flight from Charlotte and have to drive from BWI to the crib in D.C. and then get to arena for tonight's game so I'm busting out early. Thanks for coming and feel free to continue sharing your thoughts on the blog. Peace, IC


Phoenix: Who do you see winning the Eastern Conference? I'm think the obvious is the Pistons or Bulls.

Michael Lee: Huh? Obvious? Did you notice that Miami is getting Dwyane Wade back? I'm not ruling them out unless Shaq breaks down. Until then, I think the Heat can win the East, especially if Wade comes back at just 80 percent. The Pistons are definitely the top team, but they aren't scary. The Bulls have been playing in the background, but I don't see them beating Detroit in a seven-game series.


simple question: What is the secret to winning in the NBA? Some say talent, yet Miami is winning with not so stellar talent. Some say coaching? What's your opinion? I would go with a combination of both, but for the NBA, a certain level of winning can be attained through solid and consistent play. Utah is a prime example. May not be the most talented but they generally give you a complete 48 minutes.

Michael Lee: If I knew the secret, I think I'd be on the other side of the game. But I think you certainly need a combination of talent and coaching. Trust me, all of the legendary coaches can look back at their teams and find a few great players. You cannot win without talent. I mean, Phil Jackson won nine rings with Mike, Scottie and Shaq and Kobe. He is barely making the playoffs with Smush, Like and Kwame. Did his coaching get any worse? No. Is he getting the most out what he has? Yes. Probably more.

But yeah, you have to stay consistent to win, that's why the Spurs are always a threat. They don't go on major winning or losing streaks. They just keep moving at a pretty good pace.


Albuquerque, N.M.: This is a soft team with the exception of Butler. They need more tough-minded players.

Michael Lee: Mental toughness is certainly the key, even more than physical toughness. You're right. The Wizards need more guys who don't get rattled when times get rough. It's obvious they have a few.


Michael Lee: Hey, folks. I've got to run, too. I just wanted to stop by and say hello. We'll do it again next week. Peace.


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