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Wizards/NBA

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2007 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Washington Wizards this season and what stories to follow from around the NBA.

From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Ivan Carter: Ivan here from lovely Charlotte for tonight's game. Let's get to it.

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Richmond, Va.: Rap out our questions? Sounds strange but hey, it's your chat. So here it goes:

The Wiz are playing great

As we can plainly see.

How does that affect the time line

For resting Gilbert's knee?

Ivan Carter: Nice little rhyme. I asked Gilbert about that last night and while he obviously wants to be out there, he's also happy that they've won five straight and said that as long as they can win, he'll look to rest. He didn't say a specific number of games and I guess it's possible that he could go as soon as Friday night if he's feeling right but there's no question that the winning has allowed him to consider taking some extra days. If this team were 2-8 right now, I think he'd feel a ton more pressure to be out there.

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Annapolis, Md.: How long before Nick Young replaces Stevenson at SG? Deshawn had a great game last night, but it's obvious, even this early on, that Young has tons more potential. He can create his own shot, something DS cannot do, and can really take it to the hole. Once he gets more comfortable on D, you've gotta think it's only a matter of time before DS ends up being a backup, which is what he really should be anyway.

Ivan Carter: I'm not sure about that. I agree that Nick Young has some real offensive skill, especially when it comes to getting his own shot off, but DeShawn is a good defender and when he can make open jumpers as he did last night and in Atlanta last week, this team is better. It's early but according to www.82games.com, DeShawn has the second highest plus/minus on the team (he's plus 51 and Caron Butler leads at plus 60). Now, if Gilbert is out for a few games, I do think that Eddie will give Nick more minutes because, as you said, he can flat out put the ball in the hole.

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Michael Lee: Sorry for being late, everybody. I've been experiencing some technical difficulties. I won't bore you with an into. I'm ready to get into it. Let's go. . .

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D.C.: Can you give us an update on Haywood's ankle?

Will he play tonight?

Ivan Carter: I don't have an update at this point. I talked to him after the game last night and he said that he'd know more when he woke up this morning/started moving around today. I'll know something when I get to the arena and the lockeroom opens at 5:30. I'll put an update up on the blog asap.

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Westminster, Md.: Ivan,

There's been a ferocious debate on your blog about Haywood. One faction (folks like me) think he's always produced when he's gotten consistent minutes (like last year when Etan was hurt, and this year). The feeling is that he didn't develop confidence because Eddie never showed any confidence in him (call it the "Kwame treatment").

Now that Eddie has no choice, we're seeing what BTH can do, but it's been primarily bad coaching that's kept him from doing what he's doing now.

The other side believes that he didn't get the minutes previously because he didn't earn them, with a poor attitude, lazy workout habits, surliness whenever he got benched, etc.

Where do you come down on this question? Whatever the answer, we're all happy he's doing it this year, but it's still a hot topic.

Ivan Carter: I think both sides have valid points, I really do. However, I think the "debate" is more complicated than some make it sound and that is because it revolves around Brendan's personality. When he's playing a ton, as he is this season, he's happy. When he comes out of games, he gets ticked off, sulks and that affects his future performance. Once it became official that Etan would not be able to go, I think it sort of relaxed Brendan and his quotes about the subject have reflected that. He knows he's going to start, he knows he's going to carry heavy minutes as long as he's not in foul trouble and he's responded by playing excellent ball. He's done so for stretches in the past but issues with PT/Etan/Eddie Jordan always seemed to get in the way.

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Boston: I watched Isiah's post Knicks loss press conference last night and couldn't help but notice that his eyes were blinking Morse code for "fire me, please". What a sad franchise right in the middle of the media capital of the U.S.

Michael Lee: Yeah. Isiah has really been a dead man walking this season. If he hadn't burned so many people throughout his career you might feel sorry for him, but it seems like only a matter of time before he is canned or simply resigns. After that odd Stephon Marbury battle, which Marbury has cleary won, it looks like he's completely lost his team, which was the one thing you could count on the past two years. They look like they've quit on him, which is the worst sin in sports. Jim Dolan is a stubborn man, but even he has to see the error of his ways. That is really a miserable franchise right now.

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wiz fan at Ohio State : My friend at Georgia Tech who was at the Hawks game last night said the other 10 (just joking) people in attendance are calling for Mike Woodson's job. You think he's in trouble?

Michael Lee: Yes. He's in the final year of a four-year deal and there were some expectations that this group to be a playoff team in the East. A lot of the problems were not Woodson's doing - the Hawks seem to be in eternal rebuilding mode - and they still haven't addressed their primary problems. They still lack a healthy, consistent point guard and they have no veterans who can still play. Like I said, it's not all Woodson's fault, but the coach is usually the first thing to go. I don't think it will be immediate, though. Hawks management has been extremely patient through this process. Too patient for those 10 Hawks fans out there.

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Potomac, Md.: I heard some fans at the game last night muttering that Gilbert may be done for the season and the need to continually drain fluid from the knee is a bigger issue than is being revealed by the team and media. Any need to be concerned about this?

Ivan Carter: I haven't heard anything about that. I know that he's had the knee drained twice and that an MRI taken last week revealed no further damage. However, he did say that something didn't feel right after the game in Minnesota on Friday and he's taking a few days to see how the knee responds. Another issue is the talk he had with Jason Kidd in New Jersey back on Nov. 8. Kidd was very emphatic in telling Arenas that he needed to take it slowly in coming b ack off an knee injury (Kidd had one a few years back himself) and Gilbert respects Kidd's opinions about everything.

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Washington, DC: Call me a heretic, but I like the way the Wiz play ball without Arenas. We move the ball around more, and Eddie's Princeton O really shines without Gilbert jacking up Js on every possession. I admit that I think Gil is overrated anyway -- low FG%, lousy D, a 2 guard in the 1 spot, lack of leadership skills -- but have you heard a similar assessment about the way the Wiz play without him these last two games?

Ivan Carter: They have looked very good but remember, the wins came against Portland and Philadelphia. The Blazers at least play hard but they're young and were on a road trip. The Sixers simply laid down. Also, they were moving the ball very well when Gilbert was in there for wins at Atlanta and Minnesota as well. So yes, it's a different team, but I think we need more than a two game slice to draw larger conclusions.

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Albany, NY: When can Knicks fans hope to see some relief from this catastrophe? Right now, they are in the same situation as the Titanic right after hitting the iceberg, dead in the water, they can be saved, but time is running out

Michael Lee: Relief is coming. It looks like it's around the corner. The situation there is toxic and it sounds like Isiah is depressed and despondent. Not good. The only way they can be saved is with some new energy.

This is worse than that stinky period before Scott Layden was canned in 2003. But remember how Isiah came in, riding that white horse of promise in December of that year. It might be coming again soon - I mean, with someone coming in to clean up the mess Isiah made of Layden's mess. I think Isiah has brought some decent talent to New York, he's just not the guy to lead that group, unfortunately.

If Jim Dolan were smart - and we know the answer to that when it comes to basketball - he would rid the organization of Isiah and Marbury. It might be the only way to win back the fans.

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Baltimore: Hey guys!

Do any scouts think that Andre Blatch has the chance to be a superstar in a Garnett sort of way?

Ivan Carter: I haven't spoken with any scouts who have compared Blatche to Garnett - that would be a reach - but I have spoken with scouts who love his tools. The kid obviously has real talent as we saw last night. The big question has always been about his work ethic and decision making. That's something no one ever questioned about Garnett. (I know because I watched him break in with the Wolves and he played exactly like he does now back then).

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College Park, Md.: Considering Gilbert is coming off surgery, why was he playing 40 minutes per night?

Ivan Carter: Eddie and Gilbert were asked that question a ton and the answer was always along the lines of "the doctors say he's fine, he wants to play heavy minutes and as long as the doctors and Gilbert are okay with it, we'll play him." Also, once they got off to a bad start, I think Gilbert felt pressure to stay out there - he's like that anyway. That's why I think this rest will be good for him.

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Rockville, Md.: I'm still trying to figure out how much hope to put into the 5-game win streak. On one hand, those five teams stunk. On the other, Eddie apparently has discarded small ball and embraced tall ball, and the players have embraced passing (wow!) and playing defense (holy cow!).

Your take?

Ivan Carter: I chalk it up to a combination of factors 1) The opponents have been lousy (a combined 15-35). 2) The Wiz have been sharing the ball, have cut back on turnovers and guys are making shots they were missing in the five losses. 3) The defense has been solid for long stretches at a time. The good news for the Wizards is that there are a lot of mediocre teams in this league right now and they have vets who should be able to take care of the ball, share the ball, make shots and play defense.

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Washington, DC: Why does the East stink so bad? The Wizards have the conference's 6th best record.

On a related note: The Heat and Bulls, down for the count, or in a temporary lull?

Michael Lee: The Heat looks like its in a temporary lull. I don't want to fully judge them until Dwyane Wade is 100 percent. I think he has the talent to rescue them and turn it around. The Heat nearly beat Boston on Friday, so it could be doing better. Pat Riley also seems capable of making a shrewd trade to inject some life in that stale roster.

As for the Bulls, they really look pathetic. I think they can turn it around. I know they've been playing the past few games without Luol Deng, but they do not look like a good team with him. I've really been disappointed in that team. I know everybody is down on Shaq this season, but Ben Wallace looks completely finished. He has three game with 10 rebounds this season. Raise your hand if you thought that Brendan Haywood would have more than twice as many double digit rebound games as Ben Wallace after 10 games? I tried to watch the Bulls against Denver last night, but they are not competing. They don't look like the Bulls team in past years - with the exception of starting off slow.

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Washington, DC: Ivan,

When Pecherov and Etan (should he recover fully) come back later on this season and the team is at full strength, how will that affect the Wizards rotation? I hope Eddie Jordan finds more playing time for Dominic McGuire. Your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: I'm hearing that Etan Thomas is likely done for the season. The team hasn't made it official but that's what I'm hearing. Pecherov is still at least two or three weeks away from being cleared to practice and then he's going to need need at least a week or two of work to get back up to speed so I don't see him getting a look in the rotation anytime before late December or early January. Eddie did say that he likes him though and he does give them another 7-footer.

As for McGuire, Eddie and the coaching staff like him to but after that 0-5 start, the decision was made to trim the rotation and McGuire was the odd man out. I still think Eddie will find spots to use him. In fact, you may see him tonight if Gerald Wallace starts doing what he always does against the Wiz: dominate.

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Straight Up Bama: I was flabbergasted by the stat that the Wiz have already held 5 teams to 90 pts or less this year (5 all of last year). What is the biggest reason for this? Players' newly found commitment to defense? Randy Ayers? The (lack of) competition? Is this team actually better defensively now?

Ivan Carter: I go back to when we were in Atlanta before they won their first game and Eddie said something along the lines of: "We made a decision to preach defense in camp and the preseason and we've stuck to it. We've struggled so far, but we really believe that it's going to pay off." It has. That said, the Wiz have played some bad teams. But they should get credit for doing what they are supposed to do against such teams: lock them up and beat them down. As for judging stats, I always feel that you need at least 20-25 games to really make a read. Still too early.

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Alaska: Mike, who do you think is early candidate for ROY?

Michael Lee: An early candidate or favorite? Either way, Kevin Durant should already be dusting off space on his mantel for the award. There really isn't much competition. Yi Jianlian had a nice four-game run, but Durant is averaging 19 a game.

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20165: Twenty minutes into the Chat (thanks, as always), and no questions about Andray Blatche?! It's still early in the season, and Portland and Philly don't have a lot to offer in the way of resistance, but the last couple of game had to have been good for Blatche's confidence, right? He was BALLIN' last night.

BTW, you guys do awesome work. Much thanks from hoops fans.

Ivan Carter: I said before the season that Andray would be the x-factor on this team. If he comes along the way he has the potential to come along, that bench could be really difficult to deal with. He could see a ton of duty tonight if Brendan is out or slowed down by that sore ankle. And that raises a good challenge for a young player coming off a great game: Can you put two together? Three? We'll see.

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Washington, DC: Juan Carlos Navarro -- Great player, or greatest player ever?

Ivan Carter: He's averaging 8 points on 42.4 percent shooting in 17.8 minutes per. Not too bad. Then again, he can't guard me. He's a good fit for Memphis.

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Quiet Day in the Office: Gents,

Yesterday was the first time this season I actually watched the Wiz and was very impressed with the starters, and Blatche. However, when the bench came in, it was a little sketchy. This was also the first time I've really seen Nick Young play. He made several bonehead plays and had a few TO's. Should I chalk this up to rookie mistakes, or does he have a gun-slinging, me-first, no-D mentality? To me, he seems to be a talented offensive player, but not a great team player, similar to a Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, et. al.

Ivan Carter: Before the season began I described Nick to a Wiz fan friend of mine this way: There will be plays (and nights) when he makes you get up out of your chair and say "Wow, did you see that?" and there will be plays (and nights) when he makes you chuck a beer can at the television and say: "What is he doing?" Yes, he's a scorer and there is a smoothness and explosiveness to his game that can make him a very good player in this league. At the same time, he's still learning.

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DC: What's wrong with Cleveland? Gee. I bet Ferry thought because this team won 50 games last year and went to the Finals, they didn't have any need to add players, when clearly everyone in the East (including the Wizards) got better.

Michael Lee: I think the situation for Ferry was more complicated than that. Ferry realized the Cavs needed help. He tried to make a deal for Mike Bibby and Luis Scola this summer, but it fell through. He wanted to re-sign his top two free agents, but they held out (Anderson Varejao is still holding out).

Ferry is aware that the Cavs can't expect LeBron to carry them to the Finals by himself, but he has learned from the summer of 2005 when he threw way too much money at Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones. The Cavs cap situation is terrible and he doesn't want to damage further flexibility with more bad moves.

Cleveland, though, isn't that bad. They've had a really rough schedule to start the season and they've already been out West. They'll still be in the mix late in the season. LeBron is too good for it to be any other way.

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Lanham, MD: Why has Eddie abandoned smallball this year? It's something we blog fans were calling for all last year; if us non-coaches can see it, why couldn't Eddie? Why did it take so long for him to see the light?

Related: have we seen the end, or near end, of smallball, barring injury? Does Eddie finally realize that it's a losing strategy, and tallball wins?

Ivan Carter: The development of Andray Blatche and the lack of Etan Thomas has led Eddie to go with bigger lineups this season. Those are the biggest factors. Also, you have to remember that Songaila missed the first 45 games last season.

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Washington, DC: Was it a good idea for the team to go with just 13 players? Twelve, if you don't count Etan Thomas. I realize Abe Pollin doesn't want to pay the luxury tax.

If 3 or more players get injured, how do the Wizards cobble together 10 bodies to even practice? Do some of the coaches fill in? Any plans to bring Donnell Taylor and Mike Hall back?

Ivan Carter: You are right: the luxury tax was the reason behind the decision to keep 13. Etan is out. Pesh is out for a few more weeks. That leaves 10 healthy bodies but Gilbert is out for tonight and maybe Friday night if not longer and Brendan rolled an ankle last night. It's getting thin. They may have to do eat the extra dough just to cobble together enough bodies.

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Washington, DC: Any chance Etan gets moved before the end of the season? Obviously his value is way down, but perhaps some team just wants to get rid of a guy.

Ivan Carter: Etan has three years and $21 million remaining on his contract plus he's coming off of open-heart surgery. Not going to be easy to trade a player like that. The Wiz could apply for an injury exception and trade that but NBA medical folks would have to sign off.

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Kensington, MD: Apologies if you've fielded this one before, but given all that you guys have written about Jarvis Hayes taking two years to fully recover -- physically and mentally -- from knee surgery, what makes Gil's situation different? Even if his surgery was less serious than Hayes', you gotta think it's going to be at least a few months minimum before Gil is 100% confident in knee.

Ivan Carter: Exactly. I've never covered or been around an athlete would didn't swear that were "back" one year after a knee injury and I've never covered or been around one who didn't later on admit that it took two years to be 100 percent "back."

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Durant: Durant is averaging 19 a game but he is also shooting just 37% from the field and averaging less than 4 rebounds a game.

Michael Lee: Your point being? Allen Iverson and LeBron James both shot less than 42 percent their rookie seasons. Jason Kidd shot less than 39 percent. Durant is a rookie.

He will struggle, especially when he is on a bad team and is already the primary scorer on the team. Defenses are focused on him every night and he is still producing. Are you saying that he won't get better? C'mon.

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Washington DC: It seems that the Wizards have a simple formula for wins... at least a 2 to 1 ratio of Assists to Turnovers....

Your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: Perhaps the biggest factor in the 0-5 start - other than horrible shooting - was the bad assist-to-turnover ratio. Through five games, the Wiz had 94 turnovers and 76 assists. Through 10 games, they have 159 turnovers and 200 assists. Big difference.

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GWU: Who is most likely to be traded at the deadline?

Michael Lee: Maybe not the big name people you'd expect. I think Sacramento is hoping to move Ron Artest, Mike Bibby or both. The Heat will try to use Jason Williams' expiring contract to find some help at point guard. I wonder how long Andre Miller accepts playing for a lousy team in Philly before the 76ers decide to give him his freedom. Those are the names that I think are most likely to get moved, but there are always surprises.

When the season began, a lot of people thought the Lakers would make a move before December. Nobody knew they'd be trading Brian Cook and Maurice Evans for Trevor Ariza, though.

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Washington D.C.: It really seems like there's been an unusual (for this team) emphasis on defense during the winning streak. Is this mainly due to Ayers? Does Eddie let him coach during games, even letting him dictate lineups sometimes? Seems like the Wiz are going tall much, much more often than in the past, and that's been the main factor; but even Gil and Antawn seem to be trying much harder than previously. What accounts for the change? And do you see it being temporary, or more permanent?

Ivan Carter: The main key is overall activity. They've been active with their hands, digging at and slapping at the ball to cause deflections, Brendan and Blatche are long so they are protecting the rim and the guards have done a better job of limiting penetration. They've also played some poor teams that fell apart once the Wiz got rolling offensively. That brings me back to one thing I've always said about this particularly group of players: they feed off of offense. When they are moving the ball around and making shots, they are inspired to play energetic defense. When they have bad possessions and are missing shots, their defense lags. It's who they are.

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Washington, D.C.: Did the Wizards' 0-5 start kill the Smallball Strategy? R.I.P. Smallball?

Or will it reappear like Freddie Krueger?

Ivan Carter: If Andray Blatche keeps playing like he did last night, you can bury "smallball" forever.

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Fairfax, Va.: What is your assessment of Shaquille O'Neal and Ben Wallace so far this season?? Can this be the season Dwight Howard assumes command for good in the East...

Michael Lee: Fairfax, Dwight Howard is already assuming command in the East. He is being a dominant force in the paint, drawing double teams and getting open looks galore for Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Howard is blowing up right now, giving Orlando its best big man since Shaquille O'Neal skipped town on them.

I touched on Wallace earlier. He has been rebounding better of late, but his overall energy is not there. Maybe Scott Skiles should take back the headband.

Shaq is in the midst of a rapid decline. He cannot move anymore. He used to be so quick and nimble off of his feet. Now he looks like his feet are stapled to the floor. When D-Wade rounds into shape, he should be able to make life easier for Shaq by drawing the defense and getting him some easy looks. But you know what? Even at his age, Shaq is still producing at level most centers in the NBA would envy (15 and 7 is not bad if you ignore what O'Neal has done in the past). He had 18 points the other night, so like I said, Wade will help his numbers get better. I can't say much for his lack of mobility.

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Virginia Beach, VA: Ivan,

I may have missed it, but I don't remember seeing exactly how the Navarro trade with Memphis works out. How does the pick protection breakdown?

Ivan Carter: The pick is top-19 protected in 2008, top-16 protected in 2009, top-14 (lottery) protected from 2010-2012, top-12 protected in 2013 or a second-round pick and cash considerations if they have not received a pick by 2013.

I heard that Ernie Grunfeld tried to package the Navarro rights and Etan Thomas all summer but no teams bit and in the end, that was the best deal he could get.

After signing Stevenson and Blatche, the Wiz were out of money and couldn't sign Navarro, who really wanted to be in Memphis with his boy, Pau Gasol, anyway.

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Estonia, Estonia: My question is a follow-up to one of the previous answers. You mentioned that Etan is likely done for the season. If so and it was made official the Wizards should get cap relief for the season if I am not mistaken. Would we be able to go after someone to fill in for the season? I think we'd still be over the cap, but clearly under the luxury tax limit. What would our options be should that happen?

Ivan Carter: They had the option of applying for the exception but the money they could have used to sign another player (around $3 million) would have counted against the luxury tax. They weren't going over that tax.

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Manassas, VA: Gerald Wallace had his third straight game of at least 27 points the other night against the Blazers and helped Charlotte win 2 in a row...

How can we make sure that doesn't happens here in DC??

Ivan Carter: Good question. He always kills the Wizards. Wallace dropped 40 on the Wiz in a game last season and averaged 27 in four games against the blue and white. Andray Blatche gives the Wiz the kind of athlete who should be able to match up.

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Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping in folks. Gotta run and get ready for tonight's game. Keep checking out the blog and we'll keep you updated.

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Wonderment, Va.: can someone tell my WHY All-Star balloting has already started? Three weeks into the season is all they need to put people on the ballot??

I mean, they have Larry Hughes on the ballot!?

Michael Lee: When should people vote for all-stars? The first week of February? There is no better time than right now.

And, what is your problem with Larry Hughes being on the ballot? He's hurt and having a horrible season, but for most of his career, he's been a good player.

I think the craziest part of the ballot is that Tim Duncan is listed as a center and Antoine Walker is listed as a guard in the West. I know Walker was done because they needed to replace Ricky Davis. And, it's harmless. Who is going to vote for those guys anyway.

As for Duncan, he knows that he will never start as long as Yao Ming is around. I don't think he cares anyway.

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Tampa: I saw the Lakers box score last night and 8 players scored in double figures in a blow-out win. It looks to me as if that team is improving and Phil Jackson's coaching can squeeze a little extra out of the younger players. The return of D Fisher seems to have steadied the point guard position and Odom is back from injury and stuffing the stat-line. It's obvious they don't want to trade Kobe. Does he stay now?

Michael Lee: Through all the rumors, I had a hard time seeing the Lakers actually trading Kobe. They really had no desire to move him, which explains why they asked for a teams three best players and the solar system in exchange for him. I think he still wants to leave because he really can't take back what he said, but I never really thought the Lakers were that bad. I know they aren't an elite team in the West, but they were 30-19 before injuries caused a late season collapse last year. That team has some talent - and a pretty good coach. The Lakers should be okay.

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Boston: is Jermaine O'Neal just one of those players that may never win? Really, the Pacers looked impressive the first game against the Wiz, and I believe went 3-0 to start. They get O'Neal and promptly go 0-3 or more.

Michael Lee: Well, the Pacers didn't have O'Neal for one game this season - the opener against Washington. They won two games with him. Indiana just isn't very good. It won 35 games and Larry Bird hired Jim O'Brien and the team added Kareem Rush and Travis Diener. What do you expect?

If O'Neal stays in Indiana, he can definitely forget about winning. The Pacers blew their best opportunity in 2004 and they have never recovered from the brawl. It's been one bad move after another with that organization. At least they aren't the Knicks.

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Michael Lee: That's it? I was just getting started. Oh well, I've got to go. I hope you all have a great Turkey day. I know I will. I'm headed to kitchen right now. I have some work to do. All right. Peace.

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