Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007 2:00 PM
Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss what to expect from the Washington Wizards this season and what stories to follow as the NBA regular season begins.
From The Post:
The transcript follows.
Michael Lee: Good afternoon, everybody. That new Jay-Z song, "Roc Boys" is playing in my head. "We in the house, house, house. . ." It's been a wild, wild first week of the NBA season. The Pacers, Clippers and Hornets are undefeated. The Bulls, Heat and Wizards are a combined 0-10. The Celtics are off and running. Larry Hughes is already hurt. The Nuggets and Knicks play ball instead of box. Shaquille O'Neal looks done - again. And, we still haven't had a Kobe trade. I'm ready for some questions. Ivan has the Wiz covered. I've got the other 29, so let's go.
Woodbridge, VA: With the bad start by the Wiz, do either of you see any more urgency to blow this thing up and start the rebuilding process? I know EG keeps things close to his vest, but AJ for Marion or AK47 is tempting. Zero for Kobe is still a rumor...we need someone to play some defense!
Michael Lee: Calm down, Woodbridge. It's just been three games! Let's get through the first month of the season before we start trading people. And, the Wizards' defense really hasn't been the problem this season. They are holding teams to just 44 percent shooting, which is 12th in the league and better than San Antonio. The problem for the Wizards has been the offense. They rank last in the NBA in FG percentage (35.5) and 24th in scoring (91.7 points). Who woulda thunk it?
DC: Maybe it's just me, but Larry Hughes has a "I wish I had never left DC" vibe. He looks miserable.
Michael Lee: Hughes has had that look ever since he started playing in Cleveland. He has shared with those close to him that he'd love to be back in DC, and the Cavaliers would love to get rid of that contract. Unfortunately, they are stuck. It's been a bad marriage and nothing has gone right for Hughes there. He lost his brother, has battled numerous injuries and even when the team got to the Finals, he has to sit out because of a bum wheel. Money doesn't buy happiness.
For one, the Wizards are currently the worst shooting team in the NBA. Two, the star of the team is also struggling to overcome an injury (probably more than the public knows).
Considering these factors, how much blame can really be placed on the shoulders of Eddie Jordan?
And if Gil struggles with his knee all season, how do you think it will affect him opting out of his contract?
Ivan Carter: Gilbert had that left knee drained of excess fluid this morning and did not practice for the third straight day but did tell Antawn Jamison that he plans on playing tomorrow night. Thing is, this team has three games in four days and I don't see how he can play heavy minutes with that kind of grind. It may be time to pace him a little bit. He averaged 41 minutes in the first three games. As for Eddie, I'll put it like this: His star player is shooting 33.3 percent, another of his big guns (Antawn Jamison) is shooting 29.5 percent and Caron Butler has 17 turnovers. DeShawn Stevenson's struggles from late last season and the playoffs have continued. Not sure what he's supposed to do. It's early.
Alexandria, Va.: Is it jut me or do the Rockets look like the best team in the West thus far? Moreover, they look like the best team on paper.
Michael Lee: You think the Rockets are better than Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio? Last night's impressive win over the Spurs notwithstanding, I still think Houston has a lot more to prove before I make that kind of statement. The Rockets have two major building blocks in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady and they added some great pieces in Mike James and Luis Scola, but you know like I know: Paper can get shredded. You have to play the games.
NYC : What's up with Caron Butler? His game seems way off and I don't get the impression it's just because it's the beginning of the season.
Ivan Carter: I think Caron's turnover issues have been the product of the team's overall issues offensively. When Gilbert is missing shots like he is and Antawn is missing shots like he is, Caron tends to get into a super-aggressive, "I have to make it happen" mode and that's where some of his problems have come. Right off the top of my head, I can recall two instances where he's driven baseline, been cut off and then jumped in the air and wound up throwing it away. It goes back to the overall lack of flow in this offense right now. Guys are taking quick shots after one or two passes and they aren't making them. It's sort of snowballs from there.
D.C.: Yeah, the Bulls are 0-4 and that's without Kobe. Think Paxson wouldn't mind having LeMarcus Aldridge or Garnett right now? I admire Paxson for trying to have a nice young nucleus, but at some point, he has to figure out that this is probably as far as he's gonna get with this team. As a Wizards fan, I wouldn't mind seeing him fork over close to $110 million to Gordon and Deng.
Michael Lee: I think if Paxson could take back three moves, he would keep Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge and let Ben Wallace stay in Detroit. Wallace has been a free agent disappointment and he seems to have lost his athleticism. I like Tyrus Thomas, but Aldridge looks like he can have more of an impact on offense, especially in the low block. We already know that Chandler has emerged as a real game changer on defense since he moved to New Orleans. It's even worse when you consider that the Bulls have nothing - and I mean nothing but some lousy second round picks - to show for that deal.
Washington, D.C.: Can you please explain to me what Eddie Jordan was thinking during the Celtics blowout? They're literally running us out of the gym, and he does nothing. Nothing. Yes, I understand that our bench isn't amazing, but when you're getting beat that badly, why not throw a totally different 5 out there and see what happens? I was shocked that he just sat there and let that debacle go on as long as it did.
Ivan Carter: The Wizards got run off the floor - in the second quarter. Every other period of that game was tight. And, it was a move Eddie did make that helped contribute to what happened in the second quarter. He put Andray Blatche on Paul Pierce at the start of the second and Pierce promptly ran off eight points. The C's outscored the Wiz 37-18 in the period and that was that. Again, it comes down to shooting. The Wiz were 0-16 from three-point range in that game. You can't win like that, I don't care who is coach.
The Future of the Big Three: Hi Ivan and Mike,
Everyone is freakin' out about the Wizards 0-3 start, but I'm not worried since they are historically slow out of the gate. My question is about the impending free agency of Jamison and Arenas. Lets say the Wiz pull it out and have a successful playoff run. If Ernie wants to bring back the core, will the Wiz be able to resign both of them? Jamison gets $16 million plus this year. Is Jamison worth Shawn Marion money? Arenas wants a max contract ($18 million?). Does Gilbert deserve more money than Tony Parker or Steve Nash?
Ivan Carter: What happens next summer totally depends on how this season plays out. Antawn will not command a salary anywhere near his current $16 million because A) he's not a max player and B) very few teams will have money and those that do won't be looking to break the bank for AJ. My guess is tha he'll right himself and wind up commanding a far more reasonable deal (something in the $7 or $8 million range). As for Gilbert, is he really a max contract player? That's a question only Ernie Grunfeld can answer. I do know that a lot of teams have gotten themselves into trouble giving out max money to non-max players. The danger would be reading too much into what Gilbert does this season because he's clearly not right on that knee and most guys usually need two years to get right. That would be next year when he could come out and tear up the league again.
Washington, D.C.: Toronto looks like a really tough team and Boston also looks like they are for real. Which teams are going to make the playoffs that did not make it last year? This question might require both of you to adjust your preseason picks.
Michael Lee: Really? I had Boston and Toronto making the playoffs (Toronto, after all, was the third seed in the East last year). I still think they are playoff teams. I picked New Orleans to be in the playoffs, too. I'm not ready to backtrack on my predictions after one week, but I have been impressed by what I've seen out of the Knicks and the Hawks (yes, the Hawks are 1-2, but they could easily be unbeaten). They might surprise some folks.
D.C.: Golden State is 0-4. Last year was a fluke. You mean to tell me they don't miss Richardson on the wing? Kudos to Nellie for cashing in on last year's success though. He played Mullin badly here.
Michael Lee: I said this last week, but it bears repeating. The Warriors certainly miss J-Rich, but Stephen Jackson will have to miss three more games because of his suspension. He might be a crazy choice for team captain, but Golden State misses his leadership and energy right now. I wouldn't judge them fully until he returns. I'm with you on Nellie, though. He milked that playoff run for big bucks. I'm not mad at him.
St. Croix, Virgin Islands: Never thought I would like basketball as much now that I am older. Is it me or are young coaches playing younger players sooner... Further, along those lines, are the Wiz going to play their young folks some?
Ivan Carter: The Wiz have played the young guys some and they've been schooled for the most part. Eddie put Blatche on Pierce and got ripped up. He put McGuire on Hedo Turkoglu the other night and got ripped up. Point is, this team needs to win some games and the young guys, while talented, are still figuring out what the heck they are doing. I do feel that Eddie will play Andray some more but he has to pick his spots with the rookies.
20005: Hey guys -- lets forget about the other LA team...What about those Clips? I was really impressed by the way they played last night. I know it was only one game, but it's refreshing to watch them play. With all these disparate parts and no real stars, I was thinking 35 wins was the best-case scenario. Now I can set my sights higher.
I like how Brevin calms the squad down and it looks like Corey and Tim Thomas aren't chucking the ball every chance they get. They defend well, make good decisions, and Kaman is a beast down there.
I really don't know if the Clips can sustain this (esp. with Cassell losing time by the boatloads), but the outlook is pretty positive. If the Clips make the playoffs, Dunleavy is the man.
What, if anything, have you heard about the Clips from NBA insiders?
Michael Lee: I watched the Clippers knock off the Bulls last night in Chicago. Cuttino Mobley was ridiculous last night (33 points, 13 of 17 shooting), and the Clips have a lot of talent with Corey Maggette, Tim Thomas and Chris Kaman, who is bouncing back from an awful season last year. He's averaging about 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Am I ready to jump on the Clips bandwagon? Nope. This is early. I remember Allen Iverson and the 76ers started the season 3-0 last season and the Mavericks started the year 0-4. How'd that turn out?
Washington, DC: What has happened to Larry Hughes? Was Gilbert correct in saying that both Hughes and Jeffries are miserable with their new teams? I assume Gilbert's impression will weight heavily in his own free agency decisions this summer.
Michael Lee: I addressed Hughes's problems earlier. But there is some truth to what Gilbert said about Hughes and Jeffries. They signed to the highest bidder, which is what they should do. But they also are in systems that don't match their skills. You have to consider if the team you sign with is the best fit. I'm Gilbert will ask himself, is there a team that will give me the type of freedom that I have in Washington?
Philly: Can you please comment on the productivity (or lack thereof) of Jordan's use of the off-season. Why are we still in "mini-camp" during week 2 of the season? Why do we start from scratch on new defensive schemes/substitution patterns/player combos when veteran continuity and a rock-solid core of starters is clearly this team's strength?
Also, if you get a chance, can you comment on why, when he's prime for a breakout season, Blatche is still associated with the rookies?
Ivan Carter: Let's look at Saturday night: Fourth quarter. Wiz up three. Gilbert is clearly dragging so Eddie runs a ton of offense through Caron Butler, who shoots 1 of 6 in the fourth, and Jamison, who shoots 0-3. Roger Mason goes 0-4. Daniels, who missed two lay ups on the night, goes 0-2 and Songaila caps a rough night by missing his only shot.
My point is that it is the highly-paid, experienced vets who have struggled in these first three games, especially in key situations. As for Andray, it's pretty simple: Eddie planned on using him as Brendan's backup but because Brendan has been playing so well, he's been getting a ton of minutes. I would look for Eddie to play Andray more at the four in tandem with Brendan.
Alternate jerseys: Guys,
Will the Wizards be wearing their alternate black-and-gold jerseys again this season?
Ivan Carter: They haven't announced anything but I would assume that they will.
Baltimore : My prediction in about 7 months Eddie Jordan is one of the hottest offensive assistants prospects out there and Mike Brown will be feeling the pressure in Cleveland to hire him to help that laughable offense
Michael Lee: Alright Baltimore. I want you come back here on this chat in seven months and tell us how that turned out, okay?
Washington, D.C.: What happened to our beloved Brenda Haywood? She was replaced by Brendan this year.
Ivan Carter: Brendan is playing as well as he has as a pro. Now, let's see if he can keep it up. He just seems far more relaxed about his role because he knows that he's going to get minutes on a consistent basis. In the past, Eddie was either looking for a reason to start Etan Thomas or he had a quick hook on Brendan. Now, he's got no other choice so Brendan is playing heavy minutes and he's happy. It's purely psychological with him.
Bowie, Md.: Gilbert needs Larry just as much as Larry wants to come back here. Since Larry left, Gilbert hasn't sniffed the second round of the playoffs.
Michael Lee: Gilbert sniffed the second round two years ago, he just couldn't touch it. The Wizards came within two LeBron travels and two missed free throws of getting there. Last year, he was on crutches, so what could he do?
Oakland, Calif.: I thought the point of keeping DeShawn was to have continuity, etc. But when you look at the offense, it seems like they've never played together before? They're not just missing shots, they're running NO offense. What's the deal? What has happened to the vaunted Princeton offense? Why no movement?
Ivan Carter: That has been the biggest surprise. Having the top eight or nine guys back was supposed to be an advantage and at the very least, you would figure that the offense would flow but they have looked like a bunch of guys just tossed together for a pick up game. It goes back to shot selection. Far too often there is one or maybe two passes followed by a long range shot. When those shots don't fall, the other team gets to dictate the tempo. I've said this before: this particularly group of players is as reliant on momentum and flow as any I've ever seen. When shots are falling, the ball moves, they cut harder and they play better defense. When they aren't falling, they tend to look lost. That all begins with number zero.
Alexandria, Va.: Your thoughts on Durant thus far? I've heard some compare him to Gervin with less defensive ability -- if that's possible.
Michael Lee: I've been thoroughly impressed by Durant so far. He's averaging 24 points a game and playing less than 36 minutes. He's also shooting a pretty decent percentage for a perimeter guy (45 percent) and rebounding well (6.3) for a guy who looks like he was assembled with toothpicks.
The best thing about Durant is he's not scared to make mistakes. The Sonics know they will be bad, so they've given him all the freedom he needs. Durant is making the most of his opportunities. He still has a lot to learn on the defensive end, but the kid is 19. That's scary.
Washington, D.C.: Let me try to slip in two simple questions: (1) Is Gil's knee condition being seen right now as potentially serious or more the normal effects of the first intense stress put on it post-op? (2) If the Wiz's current terrible performances continue for another 5-10 games, would Eddie's job be in jeopardy seeing as how Ernie obviously has high expectations this year with this roster? (And I ask that as a Jordan supporter.) Thanks very much.
Ivan Carter: It's still too early to get a read on Gilbert's condition. It could be that he's simply working through the normal stiffness associated with playing hard on a surgically repaired knee or it could be that he went too hard on it this summer and it has not reacted well to the grind. I think we'll know more towards January and February. He looked fresh and played with bounce against Indiana and Boston but had tired legs against Orlando. That's somewhat normal for playing three games in four nights. All of those guys looked tired in the fourth on Saturday night. As for Eddie, it's way too early to speculate about job status. The Wiz are 0-3 but so is Miami and Chicago is 0-4. That said, I have no idea of what is really going through Ernie's mind. He plays his cards close to the vest. My best guess is that Ernie will see how this team looks after 20-25 games and evaluate everything: coaching, the roster etc. Remember, a lot can happen near the January trade deadline as well.
WDC: As a local guy I am glad to see Roger Mason in the league but I really think the Wizards need to put in Nick Young. When they needed some offense off the bench at home against Indiana I thought Young should have been called on. Thoughts?
Ivan Carter: Of the rookies (and I'm counting Oleksiy Pecherov, who will be out five more weeks with the foot injury), I see Nick as having the best shot of getting real rotation minutes as the season goes on because he can put the ball in the hole. The problem is that he's too often lost on defense. I see Eddie using him when he can "steal" minutes for him against a fellow rookie or backup SG. Roger's minutes will depend on that shooting stroke. He hit a couple of threes early the other night to help his cause.
Winchester Virginia: Ivan and Mike,
I am going to play "Wizards Coach" for a moment and I would like your response to my thoughts.
I think a big part of the Wizards problem is structural. Gilbert, Antwann, Caron and Deshawn have similar style games. They all start at the perimeter and look to drive to the basket - and if that does not happen they settle for jumps shots. Their opponents understand this and set their "D" accordingly.
I would consider starting Songaila and bringing Jamison in as the 6th man. Here is my reasoning
1. Keeps Brendan in low post were he can grab offensive rebounds and putbacks
2. Songalia plays the high post where he can set screens, run pick and roll, pass hit mid range jump shots
3. Gil, Caron and Deshawn all play off of those two with their slashing and perimeter jumpshot style
4. Antwann comes off the bench for either Songalia and Caron. He brings instant offense, leadership to the 2nd group and he does not have to cover the premier forwards when they are fresh. He can still get 30+ minutes a game and can be fresh during 4th quarter money time.
This seems like such a natural move to me, but I think Eddie is concerned about "demoting" Jamison - particularly during a contract year. This how the Spurs handle Manu and it seems to work well for them.
Michael Lee: You make an interesting case, but what makes you think that Antawn is no longer able to be a starter? Did you see that guy during the playoffs a few months ago? I have to disagree with you that four of the starters play similar games, they don't. Caron likes to do his work in the block. Gilbert lives to drive. Tawn likes to shoot from the outside. DeShawn gets the leftovers and stays out of the way most of the time. The Wizards just have to hit those shots that they've been missing finally start falling.
I know Eddie benched Antawn a few years ago and it turned around the season, but benching Antawn in November seems like a panic move to me.
Follow-up to Philly: Ivan, with all due respect, your explanation that Blatche is not playing because Haywood is doing well doesn't make sense. Haywood is playing 31 min/gm. That leaves 17 min for Blatche at C and more at PF. But he only played 14, 6, and 9 min in the first three games. Eddie didn't even put him in the first half against Orlando. Something more is going on. Don't let Eddie off the hook like that.
Ivan Carter: Solid point. However, you have to keep in mind that Eddie wants to use Songaila in a large role as well which is why he's averaging just over 23 minutes. At the same time, Antawn is logging huge minutes power forward. That's why I suggested playing Andray some more at the four and perhaps chopping a few minutes for those other two. To make that work, Andray has to go in and produce. In 28 total minutes so far, he's 2 of 6 from the field with three rebounds and two blocks. My guess is that his production will increase with more minutes because he did have a strong preseason. We'll see.
Washington, D.C.: Your thoughts on Stern allowing the refs to gamble?
Michael Lee: Well, he's allowing them to gamble but limiting what they can gamble on. They can't bet on the sports books, but they can shoot craps at the casinos. I think this was a situation, much like the microfiber composite ball, where Stern had to evaluate the rules and realize that this banishment of all gambling was ridiculous in an age when lotteries, riverboat gambling and casinos have become a way of life for some Americans. I don't have a big problem with it, especially since the NBA can't spend every hour monitoring every employee. He has to let them live a little.
Jeff (NYC): Ivan,
The way I see things is that Gil needs about 4 weeks to get his legs back. He does not have the unlimited range back yet that he is used too. In the meantime the Wizards are much improved in their defense and rebounding, but the lack of scoring right now takes the focus of the areas they have improved in. How do you think this team can stay afloat at around .500 until they can make a real push?
Ivan Carter: First of all, Antawn can't shoot 29.5 percent when he's taking them most shots on the team AND is a defensive liability at times. Also, Stevenson has to find a way to snap out of the funk he's been in since late last season. He's shooting 26.3 percent in three games after struggling so badly in the playoff. When this team was flowing last season, DeShawn was drilling that open outside jumper and making defenses pay for loading up on the big three.
Detroit: I know it's early, but Jarvis Hayes sure does look good as a Piston.
Michael Lee: Don't all ex-Wizards look like good Pistons? He looks like he's in great shape and looks a lot more nimble another year removed from knee surgery. The Wiz could surely use a perimeter scorer off the bench right now.
And no, I'm not talking about Antawn. First, it's trade him. Now, it's bench him. What has he done to deserve this?
Vienna, Va.: How realistic is a Jamison for Lamar Odom trade sometime before the deadline? Jamison's expiring contract would give the Lakers some room to sign someone next year with the hopes of keeping Kobe in town. The Wiz get a slightly younger player and much better defender out of Odom.
Ivan Carter: The Lakers already have a three-point shooting four in Vlad Radmanovic so why would they trade Odom for Jamison when Jamison could just walk next summer and leave them with jack?
Michael Lee: Alright, everybody. It's been fun, but I've got to go. Peace.
Virginia Beach, VA: Bringing Jason Terry off of the bench has worked well for the Mavericks. Has Eddie Jordan given any thought to using Jamison in a similar role?
Ivan Carter: It's way too early in the season to consider that and the only way I see that eventually happening is if Andray Blatche starts beasting off the bench and makes it an obvious move. AJ is a leader and a good attitude guy but he hated coming off the pine in Dallas and there is no way he's going to want to do that in this, a contract year.
Ivan Carter: I have to roll out and write a story. Thanks for stopping in.
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