Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2 p.m. ET


Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007; 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Nov. 28 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


D.C.: Is Pat Riley already sick of Smush? Wow that was fast.

Michael Lee: Are you surprised? Smush has left a trail of sick coaches almost everywhere he's been. I know Riley likes restoration projects, but that was one of the more baffling signings of the summer to me.

I found it funny that Pat Riley shook up his starting lineup last night, benching Ricky Davis and Jason Williams. But instead of starting Smush, Riley went with Chris Quinn as a starter. Shooting 31.5 percent will get you a few DNPs (Parker has had three in the past five games)


Michael Lee: Hey, everybody. I can completely understand if we get no questions today. I hope we get a lot, but I understand. I realize that most people are still reeling from the death of Sean Taylor. I never knew the guy, never met him, never came within 10 feet of him. I've been in the Redskins locker room before and have no idea if we even bumped into each other accidentally.

Still, something about his death had be shook. It may have been that he has become yet another statistic, a black male gunned down before age 25. It may have been because of his promise as a football player, although I'm not a big NFL guy. It could be a number of things. I just hate to see all of this senseless violence, whether it's some famous athlete most of us know only from what he does on the football field or some nameless kid in PG County or my hometown of Kansas City.

But again, we are here to talk basketball, NBA and the Wizards. There is a lot going on of the now seemingly trivial variety -- from the possible emergence of the sixth LeBron (MVP LeBron), the confusing Houston Rockets, the surprising Orlando Magic, the disappointing Chicago Bulls and on and on. So, let's go. . .


D.C.: As it looks now, Caron is the MVP of the team and is probably considered untouchable because he brings it on both ends of the court. Do you agree?

Ivan Carter: I would agree. Not only has Caron improved every season, but he is in his prime and he has a very reasonable contract when you consider that Ernie Grunfeld landed him for Kwame Brown and smartly locked him up long term that summer. That's looking like the steal of the century right about now. He's only getting better and the thing I respect about him is that he is always working on his game. The guy wants it.


Arlington, Va.: What do you guys think when people say the Wiz are better off without Arenas?

Michael Lee: Those people are idiots. The Wizards are better with Arenas (a healthy Arenas, not a hobbling one) and anyone who says anything different needs to be checked into an a rubber room wearing a white jumpsuit with straps.

Talent wins in this league. The more talent, the better. It's not like Arenas is a chemistry problem and he disrupts the action on the floor. He opens the floor so players can get better looks.

I think the Wizards are playing well now because Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison have been forced to carry bigger roles and they are delivering. There hasn't been any proof yet that they cannot do it over the long haul, but until they do, that question remains. We know Arenas can carry the team for months at a time.

The team also benefited from a favorable schedule of games that it could've won with or without Arenas (although the Dallas win was a pleasant surprise). Granted, the Princeton offense is run more now with Antonio Daniels at point and Arenas not improvising as much, but you cannot say that the Wizards didn't need Arenas in those losses against Golden State and Memphis; when the team needed someone who could create his own shot off the dribble and put some pressure on the opposing teams' guards.

The Wizards can tread water without Arenas, but they become a contender when he is healthy and in the lineup.


Vienna, Va.: I know talking about trading Arenas is against the rules, but the Wiz have been playing great without him. Why not trade him and try to bring in some help? Bill Simmons brought up a great trade idea: Arenas to the Clippers for Livingston (back in a couple months), Al Thornton, Sam Cassell's expiring contract, and the rights to Minnesota's No. 1 pick. That sounds like a no-brainer, especially since the pick would be a No. 1 or No. 2, and with the freshmen that will come out next year, the Wizards would have a superstar.

Ivan Carter: There are no rules. Kevin Garnett got traded. So, I repeat: there are no rules. But the trade Simmons proposed doesn't work for me. Livingston suffered a devastating injury and I have a hard time believing that he'll ever be the same. Sam's expiring contract is nice, Thornton might be a real player and first round picks are great but you are talking about a three-time all star who is in his prime. A guy who can regularly score 40 and hits game-winning shots like it's easy. Not many guys like that in the world right now. I wouldn't trade Gilbert. What I can't do is tell you what Ernie's thinking is. He plays his cards pretty close to the vest.


Silver Spring, Md. : Hey Mike, your blog on Jermaine O'Neal was a pretty interesting read. With the Pacers having a favorable record without him, could he be dealt by February?

Michael Lee: O'Neal's situation is different than Arenas because the Pacers' style of play is more suited to not having him on the floor. He and the team are not moving in the same direction. The complementary players do not complement him and vice versa. The Pacers like to run. He likes to play in a slow-it-down, grind-it-out offense. He doesn't fit.

The Pacers really want to move him (I've heard that they wouldn't be upset if he opts out this summer), but they cannot find any takers. They are stuck with each other because he makes a ton of money and no other team in the league is willing pay a fragile player franchise money. At least, I don't think so.


Woodbridge, Va.: Love the chat fellas! How long do you feel that Tuff Juice and AJ can keep up this scoring pace? Seems to me, they have to produce around 60 points and 20 rebounds a game in order for the Wiz to compete on a nightly basis. Juice has not been known as a high scorer, but I'm liking the way he's playing right now. Secondly, how long before Young, even with his defensive liabilities, replaces Stevenson as a starter?

Ivan Carter: Those two can continue scoring at a high rate because A) They are born scorers and B) With Gilbert gone and Daniels at the point, they are getting more touches and more plays called for them. Now, there will be nights when one or both of them is off and the Wiz need it from elsewhere but that's the case with every team in the league. As for Young replacing Stevenson, I don't see that happening. Stevenson is a very solid defender and his offensive game is coming around of late. At this point, Young gives you much needed scoring punch off that bench (as he did in Monday's win over Dallas during a key stretch that spanned the third and fourth quarters) and he's still finding his way in this league. This team has won seven of nine with the rotation Eddie has been using. Why fool with that?


Arlington, Va.: Ivan, been meaning to ask you this for a while -- have you talked to any scouts about their opinion on the Wiz three rookies: Pecherov, Young and McGuire

Ivan Carter: Actually, I had dinner and a couple of cold ones recently with a scout who works for a Western Conference team and he said something like this about Young: "He doesn't always look like he knows what he's doing but man, he sure does it fast. That kid is a born scorer." Young has the one thing you must have to survive in this league: he can create his own shot. Haven't asked anyone about McGuire or Pesh but I'll do so in coming weeks.


Bowie, Md.: So can the Wizards play .500 ball while Gilbert is out? Can they play better than that?

Ivan Carter: Barring further injuries, I do think that the Wiz can play .500 ball or better. Here's why: the pieces fit. AD has struggled some defending superquick point guards (as do many NBA pgs) but he runs the offense, doesn't turn it over, gets to the free throw line and gets guys shots. He's a little emotional at times and that can work against him in spots but he's rock solid. Caron and Antawn can flat out score. Haywood has been solid. Blatche is coming along nicely. Nick Young can score in bunches and I only see him getting better. Darius Songaila does a lot of the little things to help (like the excellent position defense he played on Dirk Nowitzki for stretches of Monday's game. He really made Dirk work to get to his spots) and Mason can shoot it. Everyone has sort of fallen into a designated role and that's huge in the NBA.


All-Stars Guys -- What are the chances of both Caron and Jamison being named to the All-Star team? That would be damned impressive. As of right now, they both deserve it!

Ivan Carter: That could happen but the Wiz better stack up a bunch of wins and get well above .500. Also, it's difficult to have two players from the same team who play the same position (forward as they are listed on the ballot) get into the same all star game. That said, Caron and Antawn are both playing at an all star level.


Germantown, MD: Do you think the Wizards will do anything on top the statements from players on Sean Taylor?

I'd think if this were a city like Pittsburgh. All the pro sports teams would be wearing a patch for that player. But, for DC, it just seems different.

Ivan Carter: I'm not sure. My guess is that there will be a moment of silence or something like that before Saturday's home game against Toronto.


Richmond, Va.: Do you guys think that Anderson Varejao will be playing in the NBA by Christmas with the Cavs or someone else?

Michael Lee: I really don't care. Varejao is a role player asking for big-time money. It's absolutely ridiculous. I usually root for players to get every penny they can because you can't play the game forever, but Varejao (or maybe his agent Dan Fegan) is delusional. He's too ignorant to realize that he looks good because he's playing with LeBron James. His teammates sound fed up with him, too, after his recent comments to I wouldn't be upset if he sits out the whole season and never gets another dime (I hope that doesn't happen, though). This holdout is stupid. Plain and simple.


Martinsville, NJ: The Wiz have shown a lot of game with Caron at 2-guard, Blatche at 4 and Haywood at center. That's when things started to turn around a few games ago. I think this line-up should be employed more, but it isn't. Why not?

Ivan Carter: In terms of pure plus/minus, the most effective five-man unit so far (not counting Arenas) has been Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison and Haywood. That unit is plus 20. Next up is Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison and Blatche. That unit is plus 16.

Of the five-man units that have Butler at shooting guard, the most effective has been: Daniels, Butler, Jamison, Blatche and Songaila (plus 1). One thing to keep in mind is that Stevenson has one of the team's best plus/minus ratings (the team has a net production of plus 4.8 when he's on the court and a net production of minus 4.1 when he's off). He's a solid defender and doesn't turn it over.


in the cube, Va.: Sorry to bother you with this, but can you reiterate the situation with salary cap and luxury tax? It seems a lot of folks think we can/should sign another player seeing how we're down to only 10 active right now. But from what I remember, it's basically not in the cards right now cuz it'll push us over the luxury tax (which no owner, not just Abe, wants to do).


Ivan Carter: The Wiz are right up against the luxury tax threshold ($67.86 million). Teams that go over must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax.

Also, the teams that stay under get to divide all of the money up from the tax-paying teams after the season. So, to even sign an end-of-the bench player who makes minimum money, the Wiz would go over the tax, essentially pay twice as much for that player AND forfeit the money that is redistributed from the tax paying teams (I believe that amount is somewhere in the $2 million to $3 million range but that depends on how far the other teams go over).

That's why I don't see Abe Pollin allowing Ernie Grunfeld to add another player or two. That's why staying healthy is THE key to how this season plays out.


Richmond, Va.: This somewhat tangential to the Taylor tragedy. But was there ever a resolution in the cases of the attack on Antoine Walker and the other NBA player (the name escapes me) that was held up at gunpoint and robbed. These incidents are on the rise and I am concerned because this is the sort of thing that has happened with famous soccer players in South American countries. In the case there, it is family members kidnapped and held for ransom.

Michael Lee: The other player was Eddy Curry. The last bit of information put out about those incidents had police linking the robberies of Curry and Walker this summer. The two men who allegedly committed the crimes face five counts of armed robbery, six counts of and aggravated kidnapping and one count of home invasion. They both pleaded not guilty in September.

I talked to Curry about it during training camp. The incident forced him to leave his home in suburban Chicago and take his family with him to New York for the rest of the offseason. You hate to go back in time because it won't help, but you kind of wish Taylor had taken his family to D.C. after that first attempted robbery on Nov. 18. It's just a sad situation.


Cap Hill: Does Grunfeld regret dumping Navarro for practically nothing yet? With Gil out- we can sure use him right about now. I would prefer him over Stevenson if it came down to it.

Ivan Carter: He probably thought twice about it when "LaBomba" was killing the Wizards the other night.

That said, Ernie didn't have enough money to re-sign Stevenson and Blatche, AND pay a first-round draft pick (Nick Young, who would have lost minutes and valuable learning time had Navarro been here) AND remain under the tax.

He tried to get what he could for Navarro, even went as far as to try and get Memphis to take a package that included Navarro and Etan Thomas, but that didn't happen. Navarro sure can play though. I like his game.


Adams Morgan: What's up with the Bulls this year? Hinrich looks like a disaster, and don't get me started on Ben Wallace. What would you do to save the situation?

Michael Lee: There have been a lot of reports that the Bulls players are tuning out Scott Skiles. His style can wear on players after awhile. Jason Kidd couldn't stand him before Skiles eventually resigned in Phoenix. They are a bunch of overachievers and right now they aren't playing with the same spunk. You can blame it on the fact their two best players - Ben Gordon and Luol Deng - failed to reach contract agreements when Ben Wallace and Kirk Hinrich are getting big dollars and failing to produce. The situation isn't good right now.

I never call for someone to get fired because I don't want to see people unemployed. But they might try to see if they can pry Pau Gasol from Memphis. I've been pushing for that deal for several months.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Juan Carlos Navarro is looking really good. If they could do it over, do you think the Wizards would sign him? I'm guessing not since it probably would've meant not resigning Stevenson.

Regardless of money issues though, who would the Wiz rather have as a bench scorer -- JCN or Young?

Ivan Carter: I just hit that but the point you bring up about Young is key. In the long run, I think that Nick Young is going to be a better player than Juan Carlos Navarro. Not sure whether that is the case right now but I guess we'll find out as the season goes along and Young shows what he can do. Come playoff time (when a guy like Navarro could really make a difference because he's a vet who has played in huge international games), we should have a true read.


Baltimore: Can the Wiz hold off Miami and win this division?

Michael Lee: Um, Baltimore. Have you been paying attention to Orlando? You might need to start. In case you don't know, the Magic happens to be in first place right now. That is the team you have to be worried about. Dwight Howard is a monster this season. Orlando looks good, dude. Everybody else has to catch those guys right now.


D.C.: Caron and Antawn are blowing up with Gilbert out of the lineup. This sort of counters Gilbert's statement that he's not a shoot-first point guard and that his play has directly resulted in the success of Caron and Antawn towards getting their 20-plus points per game. Success so far has shown that this team does not need an overpaid "franchise player."

Michael Lee: A team does not need an overpaid "franchise player" to have success. Detroit proved that when it won the championship in 2004. But I don't understand what you are getting at.

Gilbert never said his play directly resulted in the success of Caron and Antawn, he said he can get his numbers without taking away from what they do. He was pointing out how other pass-first point guards (Stephon Marbury, ) get their production at the expense of their teammates. Since Butler and Jamison have both made all-star appearances playing WITH Arenas, I don't see how you can argue with him.

Now that Arenas is gone, Coach Eddie Jordan is asking for more from those guys. This is not a fluke, either.

Nobody ever said Butler and Jamison couldn't play. They obviously can, but they make a better trio than a part-time duo.

We really need to stop making this a them-against-Gilbert thing. It's not. The Wizards are a team, when someone is gone, everybody else has to step up. That's it. Now, if the Wizards go 20-5 or something without Arenas, we can talk. Last I checked, they were 17-28 without him the past four seasons.


Butler: Hey guys,

Thanks for taking our questions.

Do you agree that the Kwame for Butler trade was the best one-sided deal ever done by the Wizards/Bullets? Could be the Elvin Hayes deal but I forgot who they gave up.

And one of the best ever within the NBA?

Ivan Carter: Not sure whether it makes up for giving Earl the Pearl away to the Knicks for Mike Riordan and Dave Stallworth in 1971 (ouch) but it's close. The Bullets did get Elvin Hayes from Houston for Jack Marin and "future considerations" in 1972. That worked out pretty well.


D.C.: Why did you guys bother to answer the question: "What do you guys think when people say the Wiz are better off without Arenas?"

Obviously, it's a loaded one. A proper question would be if the Wizards are better off without Arenas in a trade for a more complete pass-first guard like a Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Obviously, Ernie is not dumb enough to let Gilbert walk without compensation, so he might have to trade him while keeping the core intact, which is currently flourishing without him.

Ivan Carter: The question, as always, would be: could Ernie get equal value? And, what is equal value for a three-time all star just entering his prime who can light it up and hits huge shots when it counts? I go back to what happened last season: because of the injuries, we never got to see what this team could have been.


Baltimore: Recognizing that, as you've written, the Wizards won't be adding any players: Taking the Wizards current, healthy roster as is (i.e., no Agent Zero and no Etan), what type of player is this team missing? Maybe a bruising PF, which 90 percent of the league could use?

Watching them play over the last week, I've been surprised at how balanced this team has looked. It may not have enough overall talent/experience with Gil missing, but it does seem like it can do a lot of things, especially when the young guys play a little less young.

Ivan Carter: There are enough pieces here that barring injury, this team can play competitive ball and by that, I mean beat the bad teams, win the majority of its home games and steal a game here or there from the really good teams (like Dallas). That keeps you at or above .500 when/if Gilbert comes back strong late. Again, the key is that guys are buying into their roles. AJ and CB are the alpha males, Daniels is running the show and everyone else is falling in line. That's so huge in a league where so many guys are playing for contracts, believe they should be playing more or should be at a different position etc.


Silver Spring, Md.: So is Chicago done as a contender in the East?

Michael Lee: What month is this? We're in November, people.

The Bulls started the season 3-9 last year. They won 49.

You know what Toronto's record was after 21 games last season? 7-14. The Raptors won 47 games.

The problem with the Bulls isn't really chemistry or talent, it's effort. Last night, they played hard and blew the Hawks off the court. They are capable of better. I don't expect them to finish the season last in the Central Division. Do I still see them being one of the top four teams in the East at the end of the season? Maybe not.

But anything can happen. This team can get hot.


Washington, D.C.: As much as this year is still exciting and important and all, the Wiz have their biggest offseason in recent memory coming up. What's your sense on what this injury has done to Gilbert's thoughts on opting out? And do you think Antawn will be sticking around?

Ivan Carter: I have no idea what Gilbert is going to do and from what I've come to expect from him, he doesn't either. He doesn't have to opt-out but I think he will. At that point, the status of that knee will determine everything. If he's right, he'll get paid. As for Antawn, it's also too early to guess. His status will depend on Gilbert to a certain extent and on what direction wants to take this franchise next summer.


DC: Ivan, you site the +/- stats for a reason why the big lineup featuring Haywood, Blatche, Jamison and Butler hasn't been. You can't possibly believe that those numbers are the reason that EJ hasn't used that line-up, because if he paid any attention to those kinds of stats Brendan would have been playing 30+ minutes a night for the last 3 seasons, Michael Ruffin would never have seen the light of day and Etan Thomas would have been getting about 8 minutes a game as a back-up. So, what is the real reason in your opinion that EJ hasn't used a line-up that you yourself wrote about as being effective at the beginning of the season?

Ivan Carter: For one, Eddie clearly likes playing Blatche at center as a backup to Haywood. For another, Stevenson has been effective at shooting guard as has Young in spots and that has cut back on the minutes that would possibly go to Butler at that spot. Maybe Eddie's thinking something else entirely. I'll ask Eddie about this issue before tonight's game and write/blog an answer.


Philadelphia: Is there any word on if Etan is returning this season?

Ivan Carter: Etan has not been officially declared out but the team is preparing to play without him for the entire season. That's all we really know at this point.


Will from Rockville: With all that's happened during the season thus far with Stephon blackmailing Isiah Thomas and their hideous record, do they still have a chance of making the playoffs?

Michael Lee: Yes, they do. The East is really wide open. The Knicks have had a really tough schedule to start the season. They've played Denver twice, Phoenix, Cleveland, Orlando, Detroit and Utah. Going 4-9 should be expected with a schedule that rough.

But if Stephon can play like he did on Monday against Utah, not on the offensive end, necessarily, but the defensive end, then they can make a run. The Knicks usually find hope when times are dark - and completely collapse when Isiah Thomas is given a contract extension.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: With all their injuries, is there any chance the Wizards go after Varejao? He sounds desperate to play and might agree to a 1-year contract for not much money (through a sign-and-trade) so he can become a free agent next year.

Michael Lee: You talking this season? Fugeddabowtit.


Philadelphia: I know its early, but where do you think this teams stacks up in the East, with and without Gil?

Ivan Carter: Boston, Orlando, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, Milwaukee, the Wizards, New Jersey. That's how I would rank the top eight right now. I do think that Chicago will get it together at some point and get back to .500 at least. Not sure about Miami.


Rockville, Md.: With all the great frontline work by Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, backed by Heywood, Stevenson, Blatche, Songaila, and the young men off the bench, what happens to this club if Antonio Daniels goes down? He seems to be the only one who's a natural point guard with the standing and authority to run the club on the floor. Seems to me that allowing the luxury tax to prevent the purchase of an insurance player is really short-range defensive thinking, when compared to the potential of losing the chance to go deep into the playoffs. Even a penny-wise balance sheet would seem to call for having a stopgap point guard on the bench and in practice, learning the system and ready to come in for AD.

Ivan Carter: Daniels can't get hurt. It's that simple. If he does - even for a five to 10 game stretch - Abe is going to have to bite the bullet and at least allow Ernie to sign a back-up type point guard.


Ivan Carter: I'm outta here folks. Going to get ready for tonight's game. Thanks for stopping in and keep looking for updates on the blog.


Michael Lee: Alright everybody. I've got to go. It's been fun. I hope you have more questions next week. This might be the first time ever that we grabbed more than 98 percent of them. Oh well. Have a great weekend, and let's say a prayer for the families who have lost loved ones this season. Peace.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company