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NBA Training Camp Begins

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2007 2:30 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss what to expect from the Washington Wizards this season, and what stories to follow as NBA training camps kick off this week.

From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Michael Lee: Can you believe we're back at it again. This was an awful offseason by the way, with Tim Donaghy's gambling, Greg Oden's balky knee, trade demands and this Knicks fiasco which has bled over into training camp (and we haven't even mentioned Andray Blatche's legal trouble and the shooting at DeShawn Stevenson's house). If you haven't already heard, a jury found Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden guilty of sexually harassing former executive Anucha Browne Sanders today in New York. Thomas and MSG have vowed to appeal this case, but they look more foolish every day for letting this thing go to trial in the first place. There's is so much more to talk about. Ivan has the Wizards covered, I'm ready to talk about the other 29 (and a little Wizards). So, let's go. . .

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washingtonpost.com: Jury Awards $11.6 Million in Knicks Case (Associated Press, Oct. 2)

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New York City: I'm done with basketball. I quit. I find more pleaseure in watching basketball on ESPN Classics from the '70s, '80s and early '90s. It is too crass, too vulgar, too uppity, too thugish, and too ghetto (and I DARE you to call me racist).

I'm through, and my squeeky clean friend on the Knicks, Mr. Thomas, just shows me that you don't have to have tattoos to be a part of the decline of the once great NBA!

Michael Lee: I won't call you racist because I have no idea who you are and I've never spoken to you or met you, but I have an issue with people calling the NBA too thuggish and too ghetto. Those are code words to me for something else, especially when I look around the league and so many of the best players are anything but thuggish and ghetto.

Some stars come from middle class homes with both parents (Dwight Howard, Grant Hill, Chris Bosh), some come from other countries (Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan). Do you really think Dwyane Wade is a thug? Shaq? C'mon, dude.

I also am of the belief that it's not where you're from, but where you are at. A lot of these guys have moved up several tax brackets and are walking the straight and narrow at a time when everything around them - including the people who love them - has changed. It's no easy task.

As for the Knicks, they are an embarrassment right now. Too much scandalous and salacious stuff came out in this trial and they're record on the court has been abysmal. For that reason, you should be upset and I wouldn't be mad if you ditched the Knicks all-together. But basketball isn't bad.

Yes, there are bad people who play hoops, but the same goes for every profession. Can we stop generalizing an entire profession?

But maybe it's generational or something, but having a tattoo does not mean you are a criminal or a bad person. I personally don't have any tattoos, but people without tattoos get in trouble, too.

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Washington, D.C.: What is your assessment of the Wizards' bench this year? Many people are saying the bench has been upgraded. I don't see how that can be, especially in the short term. Jarvis, Booth and Ruffin are gone, replaced by three rookies. Songalia will hopefully be healthy, so that's an upgrade, and hopefully Blatche will be better. On balance it looks like the bench has taken a step backwards in the short term, unless one or more of the rookies is effective right from the start. Long term, I think the bench will be in good shape with the current crop, but how much can you expect the three rookies to contribute this season?

Ivan Carter: Thanks for stopping in folks. I'm here in Richmond for the start of camp. It appears that a bench that appeared to be potentially deep may have taken a big hit with the news that Etan Thomas hasn't been cleared to play/practice after a routine physical revealed an irregularity in the heart. There's no word yet how serious it is but we know that teams are being very cautious and with good reason. Eddie Jordan said that Andray Blatche worked at backup center today behind Brendan Haywood with Tony Massenburg listed as the third stringer. You know what you have in Antonio Daniels and Darius Songaila: solid, veteran players. The rookies could be the key to how this bench contributes and I have a feeling that there is a lot more to Roger Mason's game than he showed last season. This bench should be much better but we'll see.

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Baltimore: What do you guys make of the stand off between Cavs GM Danny Ferry and the two restricted free agents Pavlovic and Varejao...... Do you think they sign before camp and who has leverage with whom in your opinion

Michael Lee: The Cavaliers have all of the leverage, because even if those guys leave to play in Europe, Cleveland still has their rights with regards to being restricted free agents. The Cavs need to bring in Varejao and Pavlovic if they hope to repeat as Eastern Conference champs but those guys - especially their agents - are rather delusional.

I heard that Varejao is seeking $65 million and Pavlovic wants $25-$30 million. By the way, their qualifying offers were $1.2 mil for Brazilian Carrot Top and $2.8 mil for the Serbian shooter. Pavlovic should've signed his deal without blinking twice. I think Varejao is worth more than $1.2 mil, but certainly not more than $6 mil. I'm hoping Danny holds his ground because it's obvious that no other teams are clamoring to break the bank to sign those guys.

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DC: Please tell me that Mike Wise's column was offbase. Do you think the Wizards will suffer from chemistry issues this season?

Ivan Carter: That column was dead on. Eddie and Ernie have had some issues. We know that Etan and Eddie have had some issues and Gilbert? Well, it's never easy to get a read on exactly where he is. That said, I think that this team will be fine if A) Gilbert, Antawn and Caron stay healthy, B) Andray Blatche continues to mature and grow as a player and a young man and c) Eddie gets these guys to buy into the idea that they have to play some kind of defense. It would really help if they can get off to a good start so that no bad vibes leak in early on.

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Oakton, Va.: Ivan/Michael - lets say further tests to Etan Thomas prevents him from playing again - can the Wizards legally void the deal and get out of that bad contract? Also if the deal is voided do the Wizards get any type of cap relief?

Ivan Carter: I have no idea how that process would work and it's way too early to speculate on Etan's future. Right now, I think everyone's simply hoping that he's safe.

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Will From Rockville: What would happen if....never mind, what will happen when Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas get into another fight? Would Ernie Grunfeld be open to any trades during the season for either of the two?

Ivan Carter: The Wizards have been open to trading Etan for awhile but haven't been able to find the right deal because of Etan's contract which includes a nasty trade kicker. They've been reluctant to trade Brendan because salaries have to match in such trades and it would be nearly impossible to get equal value meaning, a starting center in return. Go look at what the average starting center earns in this league compared to Brendan and you'll see what I'm talking about. Talking about getting rid of one or both of them is way easier than actually doing so.

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Washington, D.C.: Any news on what Daniels has been up to during the offseason? I haven't heard much about him (minus him and Gilbert's weight loss bet on Steinberg's blog).

Ivan Carter: Antonio keeps a home in San Antonio where he trained pretty hard this summer. I know that one of the Wiz trainers went down there to work him earlier this summer. He appeared to be in excellent shape at this morning's practice. I'll chat with him soon and get some detail about how he worked on his game this summer.

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Washington, D.C.: What kind of impact with Randy Ayers have? Is he just one voice in a group of assistants, or is he in charge of the defense? Will he push Eddie to play certain players because of their defensive play, and will Eddie listen? If Eddie doesn't initially listen, will Ayers push the issue or sit quietly in the corner? (I know these aren't all questions you can answer, but they seem to be important questions.)

Ivan Carter: I can tell you this about Randy Ayers: he was on the court leding the team through defensive drills at the very start of the first practice this morning. Eddie says he likes the philosophies Randy brings with him from previous stints at Orlando and Philly and he will bring a fresh voice to a team that returns its core of players from last season. Those all seem like positive signs but to me, having watched this team for three years now, it comes down to the players buying into the concept that they have to play defense. Until then, it won't matter what the coaches are saying.

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Arlington, Va.: So what shot do you give GW local Mike Hall of sticking with the Wiz this year? I say its 50-50.

Ivan Carter: Obviously Etan's situation could have an impact on one roster spot. Teams can keep up to 15 but don't have to and I wouldn't be shocked if the Wiz carried 14 to give themselves some flexibility down the road. Guards: Gilbert, Antonio, DeShawn, Nick Young and Roger Mason (5). Forwards: Caron, Antawn, Songaila, Pecherov, D McGuire and Blatche (though he's playing some backup center right now with Etan gone so call it 5). Centers: Brendan, Etan and Andray (3). Donell Taylor and Mike Hall have non-guaranteed contracts so they will need good camps and solid preseasons to earn one of those last spots. The drafting of D McGuire may hurt Hall because they both play the 3 behind Caron.

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Rockville, Md.: Has anyone ever found out when Greg Oden hurt his knee, (ie, before the draft or after)? Hopefully he can have a full recovery.

Ivan Carter: I was in Las Vegas for Summer League. Oden played in their first two SL games but shut it down after that but I don't remember them saying that he hurt the knee, just that he wasa exhausted and needed rest. That tells me that he was at least healthy going into and coming out of the draft but something may have happened after that.

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Idaho: Ivan and Mike,

How does Andrey look coming into camp? What is the feeling regarding his playing time this year? Do you feel that he will continue to be troubled child, or do you think he's matured at all?

Ivan Carter: I've heard that Andray has been working hard since signing that contract but this is a big preseason for him. He struggled last preseason but eventually got a chance to play once the reals games got going and had some real nice moments. The talent is there, no question and this could suddenly go from good to very good if Andray can be an off-the-bench force. I guess I'm saying that it's way too early to tell but the signs are good.

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Ray (20005): Hey guys-- what are your thoughts on Pech's game? Do you think they may go the untraditional route and play him and Darius at the 5 and leave Etan/Haywood on the pine?

Ivan Carter: As of this morning, they have no plans to play Pesh anywhere but the 4. Andray is seeing some action at 5. In SL and other situations, I've seen Pesh make open shots and show a nice ability to grab rebounds. He can handle well for a big guy as well. I'm looking forward to seeing him in preseason games against actual NBA players though.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you understand or agree with people picking Boston as one of the best teams in the league? They've got only 5 legitimate players, Ray Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Posey and Eddie House, though Rondo shows some promise. They don't have one solid player at PG or C, the two most important positions in basketball. (In the playoffs, they would be smart to start Garnett at center, but you can't do that all season and expect him to play 82 games.) If one of the big three gets injured, how can that team win any games in his absence?

Michael Lee: You're calling Eddie House legit? Just kidding.

I understand and agree with people picking the Celtics to be one of the best teams in the league because they just added one of the 10 best players in the NBA.

Granted, Kevin Garnett didn't get it done the past three years in Minnesota, but he also arguably had the worst supporting cast of any superstar in the NBA. He certainly never had teammates who were as good as Pierce and Allen.

In 2004, Garnett teamed up with aging stars Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, won the MVP award and the Timberwolves nearly advanced to the NBA Finals. And the T-Wolves didn't have much after their Big Three. Wally Szczerbiak only played about 28 games that season and the players who got big minutes were Fred Hoiberg and Trenton Hassell. That team still won 58 games in the West - when Shaq was there.

So, you pair Garnett with two all-stars like Pierce and Allen and you should get a serious contender, regardless of who is surrounding them. The signing of Posey, who won a championship ring in Miami, was the key though. It made them a legit team.

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Rockville, Md.: Clearly Gilbert will opt out and probably have to be resigned for the max or close to a max deal. Given how tight the Wiz were against the Luxury Tax/Cap, do you think this is Antawn Jamison's last year or would he resign for less?

Ivan Carter: Antawn's up after this season and how he plays and how far this team goes will determine what kind of offer the Wiz will be willing to put on the table. No team is going to give him the $16 mill he's making this season but you have to think that given his ability to put up 20/10s, his work ethic and his leadership will earn him a nice fat deal.

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G$, Tampa, Fla.: Is Portland actively looking for a veteran center to fill in for the loss of Oden?

Michael Lee: No, Portland didn't have a problem with big men. They already had Joel Przybilla and Raef LaFrentz. That isn't Oden class, but enough for them to put five players on the floor all of the time. Channing Frye and LaMarcus Aldridge could also get minutes at the five in smaller lineups. Right now, they just need to hope they can get a small forward next summer with the lottery pick Oden's injury all but guarantees.

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Bowling Green, OH: Im hearing Webber to Orlando is a possibility? I dont know why he would consider signing there, but it would certainly be nice for the Magic. If you could shed any light onto this Id appreciate it.

Michael Lee: From what I've read and heard, Webber wants to return to Detroit. He doesn't want to play for a team unless it has a shot an NBA championship. Orlando is not a championship team. If he signs there, it would be because he really wants to play and the Pistons or Dallas Mavericks don't want anything to do with him. At this stage in his career, he has done everything but win the title. Going out lame in the ECF last June didn't make him feel better, either.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: From the summer blog entries, it looks like Caron Butler is poised for a monster season. Assuming he stays healthy, is there a ceiling on how good this guy can be or is this a guy with limitless potential?

Ivan Carter: When I was down here last year for training camp I predicted in the blog that Caron would have an all star season. He had that look in his eye. I see the same thing this year plus, he's in unreal shape. Also, he's motivated to bounce back after that injury cut his season short. I'm looking for big things from him again this season.

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Baltimore: Hey Mike I thought that blog you did earlier this summer on Penny and Shaq was really good do you have any plans on heading down to South Beach to check them out at all

Michael Lee: I'd love to. Can you send a note to my editor and let her know that I'd love to go to Miami to do several stories this season; that I wouldn't be against spending several weeks in Miami - especially in January or February - so that I can tell a truly amazing story.

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Bowie, Md.: Ivan,

What will be the PT for Nick Young and Dominic Mcguire? Grunfeld seems to be ecstatic about the two draftees.

Ivan Carter: That's an interesting question because you know that Gilbert, DeShawn, Caron, Antawn, Brendan, Antonio, Darius, Andray and Etan (????) will form the core of his rotation and not many teams play more than eight or nine regularly so minutes will have to be earned by Nick, Dominic and Oleksiy Pecherov. Plus, you have to remember that Roger Mason is perhaps the team's best shooter so he could be in the rotation against any team that plays a ton of zone. I know this, somone has to get the minutes that went to Jarvis Hayes last year and Nick can score. Also, Dominic brings a nasty defensive approach to the table and his a high skill level so he'll be a tempting option for Eddie if the team hits a lull and needs a boost of energy.

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Rockville, Md.: Recently a few big profile players publicly requested trades (AK-47 and Marion). How do you see this playing out this season? Marion can become a FA after the season right?

Michael Lee: That will be interesting. I think Utah would love to move Kirilenko if they could get equal value in return. The owner practically said in a radio interview that they can't find any takers for him. His relationship with Sloan sounds like a nightmare, too. If he pulls a Vince Carter, circa 2004 Raptors, and totally tanks completely, he might force their hand.

As for Marion, he can opt out of his contract after this contract, but playes usually don't leave $17 million on the table. I don't see teams around the league with enough room under to cap to max out Shawn Marion in the open market. He'd have to be traded to a team that's willing to give him an extension. He wants long-term security. That's one of the major reasons why he demanded the trade - the Suns weren't looking to give him the three-year $60 million extension he was seeking.

These guys, and Jermaine O'Neal in Indiana, will remain huge stories until the trade deadline.

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Chicago: I like the talent that the Wizards have, but there seem to be a lot of things that need to go right for them to rise to an Eastern Conference Finals level of play. I hope they do and I will stick around and watch either way, but are the players/coaches really thinking Finals? Is that a tenuous belief given the Celts/Knicks/Magic upgrades or is there a atmosphere of confidence?

Ivan Carter: The players, particularly the big 3 and Antonio, have a bad taste in their mouths after seeing Cleveland get to the finals last year. They won't come right out and say it but they obviously believe that could have been them. I think they have a point but, as always, it comes down to doing not talking. We'll see.

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Rockville, Md.: Who in your mind is ready to breakout this season (a la Kevin Martin or Monta Ellis last year)? LaMarcus Aldrige looks like he can assuming he is healthy.

Michael Lee: I'm not sure if I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Minnesota's Al Jefferson, Philly's Andre Iguodala and Chi-town's Luol Deng are going to blow up this season. ATL's Josh Smith should breakout as well. Aldridge will certainly be given the chance to do something in Portland, but he will have to stay healthy. I think Deron Williams should already be considered a star after his performance in the playoffs and the U.S. National Team.

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Bowling Green, Ohio: I think a team that could surprise the East a lot is Milwaukee. When you look at that roster there is a lot of talent, if they can stay healthy, they could sneak in there as an 8 seed.

PG - Mo Williams, Charlie Bell

SG - Michael Redd, Yi Jianlian

SF - Bobby Simmons, Desmond Mason

PF - Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Villanueva

C - Andrew Bogut

I know "if they're healthy" is the key with them, but when you look at that roster, they have a lot of 20 PPG type guys, plus Redd who can fill it up. You gotta like there chances.

Ivan Carter: I love Redd and like Mo (especially when he plays the Wiz. Dude looks like MJ against the Wiz) but to me, that team has question marks all over the place. I saw Yi in SL in Vegas and while I liked his athletic ability, he didn't do very much. Bogut should be better but he hasn't exactly dominated. Simmons is always hurt. They lost Ruben Patterson, they're best defender, and while I like Charlie V, he had a rough season.

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Washington, D.C.: Now that the Capitals have switched back to the RED White and Blue will the Wizards please change back to those colors too. Bring back the Bullets! Or we can call them The Washington WMD to be P.C.

Michael Lee: I like. I like - colors and the name Bullets. Wizards has always sounded silly to me, even after all of these years of writing about them. But no to WMD. Where are the WMD?

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Laurel, Md.: Can Gilbert become half as devoted to playing defense as playing offense? To me the Wizards' success depends on the answer to that question.

Ivan Carter: I agree with you 100 percent on the question. However, I have no idea whether Gilby is going to buy into the concept of playing real defense. My guess is that neither does he ar any of those coaches.

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Fairfax, Va.: Haven't heard much about Michael Ruffin leaving the Wiz for the Bucks. Why did he leave and do you think the Wizards will miss his toughness?

Michael Lee: The Wizards made up their mind that they didn't want or need Ruffin anymore. They were looking to play more skilled players at his position. Yes, he provided toughness and hustle, but the Wizards are going in a different direction.

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DC: All the best to Etan, but I got to say that I love the idea of Blatche at center. He is seven feet tall, and can actually rebound (by rebound, I don't mean catch the ball when it comes to you, anyone can do that, including Brendan and Etan). But Blatche can go get that ball. Having a big guy who can rebound and yet still run the floor is a key to the small ball that the Wiz have so hopelessly tried the past couple of years (Jamison and Ruffin at C... what a disaster).

Ivan Carter: Andray had flashes of brilliance last season. I particularly remember a game at Milwaukee when he had something like eight rebounds in seven minutes and the game against Kevin Garnett when he went toe to toe with his hero. His skills are ideal for playing the 5 in Eddie's style of offense because he can rebound, score, pass and handle plus, his long arms make him a nice weak side shot blocker. Obviously, you are not going to put him on the Shaqs, Tim Duncans or Yao Mings of the world but against smaller centers (how many are there, really?) he could be a real matchup headache. Potentially.

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San Diego: Carter/Lee,

Why does Isaiah keep getting premium front office jobs? As great as he was as a player, he's been a flop everywhere he's been in a management capacity, single-handedly destroying the CBA and this latest fiasco.

Michael Lee: Isiah's a smooth guy. He talks an excellent game. He can charm people with his warm smile and infectious laugh. That explains why he was able to fail in Toronto, Indiana, the CBA and the Knicks. He charmed MSG chairman James Dolan to the point that he is the one of the few remaining Thomas loyalists in New York who don't currently play for the Knicks. I mean, Dolan gave him an extension because the Knicks spent 24 hours in eight place - in the East!

But once - or rather if - Dolan gives up on him, you can best believe that this is his last run as a top executive with an NBA team. Not only does he put bad teams on the floor, but he is found guilty of sexual harassment. Most sensible organizations would fire someone over this. The Knicks obviously aren't the most sensible organization.

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Suns' Fan: I know you called me whiny when I complained about the Game 5 suspensions in the Suns-Spurs series, but after the Tim Donaghy scandal do you still feel that the Suns were treated fairly by the refs or the league in that series.

Michael Lee: You know, I think I've already beat to death the issue of Game 5. But once again, let me say that the league was not a fault for the suspensions. Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were at fault.

As for Donaghy refereeing Game 3, it's still hard to put a finger on which calls he made that changed the course of that game. I know everybody has theories, but it's hard to find actual proof. Sad thing with Donaghy is that we may never know what he did to alter the results in games until he writes his book.

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Michael Lee: Alright, folks. I've got to get to working on this Isiah Thomas verdict. It's been fun. It would've been better if my computer hadn't crashed during this chat, but we'll have these issues worked out before we tip off for real. Peace.

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