Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2 p.m. ET

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Dec. 19 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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Arlington, Va.: Does Pecherov have any decent chance of contributing in a meaningful way this year? I've never heard of a player being "two to three weeks away" for two months before. It's starting to feel like a lost season for him.

Ivan Carter: This is my third season covering an NBA team as a beat writer and the main thing I've learned is that the 82-game schedule is really, really, really long. So yes, Pecherov has a chance to get healthy and make some kind of contribution. What happened was, the ankle didn't heal as quickly as he hoped and the timeline for his possible return was extended. The good news of late is that he finally has that walking boot off and can do some shooting. He's getting closer and once he gets his legs under him with a couple of weeks of practices, shootarounds and pre-game workouts, I wouldn't be shocked if Eddie Jordan looked for chances to play him.

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Anonymous: Ivan man, there is a real rumor going around that Arenas will not return in March, with this last surgery the is out for the year. Is that true and tell me how is Agent Zero?

Ivan Carter: You are right in saying that rumors are floating around. They always do. I'll just remind you and everyone else of the fact as they stand: the team set a loose timeline of three months dating from the day of surgery (Nov. 21) but that was only a guideline for his possible return to basketball related activity. Around two weeks ago, Gilbert told me himself that he has not set timeline. He said he will come back when the knee "feels right" whether that's "February, March or next October."

The good news is that he appears to be listening to team doctors and athletic trainers and understands that he can't rush back by working harder. That's what he did last summer and he obviously wasn't right at the start of the season. Bottom line: I think there is a decent chance that he won't play again this season but that will depend on a bunch of factors that are impossible to evaluate right now.

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Oakton, Va.: Just how many people need to get injured before the Wizards stop worrying about going over the salary cap? Fiscal responsibility is one thing, but at some point don't you also need to field a basketball team?

Ivan Carter: The luxury tax issue is hanging over this team right now, no question. The Wiz did add Mike Wilks today but he'll likely be gone by Jan. 10 because contracts become guaranteed for the season that day and that would put them over which is something they would prefer not to do. So, barring another rash of injuries, I see them waiting for Daniels and Pecherov to come back and roll with what they have. Teams can also sign guys to 10-days starting on Jan. 5 and that could be an option as well. Call 'em cheap if you want but that's what the plan is.

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Horse Country, Va.: In Gil's absence, Caron is setting the tone for the Wiz. Does it seem to you that the Wiz have transformed from a "finesse" team to one that plays with plenty of tuff juice?

Ivan Carter: I've been asked those kinds of questions for awhile now and here's how I read this recent surge : 1) Several guys, including Butler, Jamison, Haywood, Blatche and Mason Jr., are playing the best ball of their career. (You can count Nick Young as well because he's a rookie). 2) Antonio Daniels was playing some real solid point guard and his style blended perfectly with his teammates. 3) The schedule has featured more home games, fewer back-to-backs and some quirky breaks such as tonight, when the Bulls are on the back end of a back-to-back while the Wiz haven't played since Saturday night. All of those factors plus one heck of coaching job by Eddie Jordan are the reasons why this team is in good shape.

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Good Counsel Representing!: Would you agree that Roger Mason, Jr. is one of the more deceptively athletic ballers on the team? He appears very unathletic with his oddly shaped torso, skinny calves and sleepy expression, but in actuality he's pretty darn smooth and athletic. The elevation of his play has been great for the Wiz. He seems like a good guy, too.

Ivan Carter: Great guy. One of my favorites. And yes, he has a smooth, unrushed way of playing that is kind of old-school as Eddie Jordan pointed out when I asked him about Roger last week. He's just really, really calm out there and I think that throws defenders off. The other factor is that he gets that shot off quickly and the threat of that has opened up opportunities off the dribble. He's been a real nice piece to this thing so far.

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Bethesda, Md.: I read Gil's blog on the whole contract extension issue as opposed to getting a max contract deal and I agree with many of his points. All you have to see is video footage of Shawn Livingston to understand what Gil is talking about. I can also understand why Luol Deng and Ben Gordon responded the way they did to his comments but they'd be foolish not to see consider the points Gil made. Your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: If I were wearing the shoes of Deng, Gordon, Okafor or any other young player facing a tough contract decision, I would appreciate reading/hearing the point of view of someone like Gilbert because A) he's been through it before and B) he's faced injury and understands the risk/reward factors. I've always found Gilbert's takes on these kinds of things to be refreshing because he really puts time into thinking about them. Believe me, he knows what every player in the league makes, who their agent is/was and whether or not they got fair value. He pays attention to that stuff.

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Michael Lee: Yo. Sorry I'm running late. I just got off the plane from Chicago. I'm ready. So, let's go. . .

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A-Town, Va.: Thought the Wiz made a terrible mistake giving DeShawn his contract and trading Juan Carlos Navarro, especially after he dropped 30 on them. But he has really stepped it up since Gilbert went down and I am happy he is still on the Wiz, hopefully he can keep it up.

Ivan Carter: I though re-signing DeShaw and trading Navarro made sense for two reasons: 1) Keeping DeShawn provided this team with some much-needed continuity after changing shooting guards each of the previous two seasons. It takes time for a new guy to blend in, carve out a role and learn Eddie's system. 2) DeShawn is a better defender and showed last season - until the last 10 games and the playoffs - that he can knock down those open shots that are available in this system. He's doing that right now and playing good defense. I think Ernie Grunfeld made the right decision.

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Vienna, Va.: I am of the mindset that Eddie Jordan is a better coach when Gilbert's not playing (or he is hurt). I think Eddie and the team tend to defer to Gilbert far too often when he is on the court instead of running the offense and getting everybody else involved.

If you agree with this theory, what can Eddie and the team do to make sure they continue to play team ball when Gilbert returns?

Ivan Carter: I think that folks are kind of forgetting that Gilbert was in the process of changing how he played before the injury at Minnesota on Nov. 16. If you include that game when he had 27 points and eight assists abnd took over during a key stretch of the fourth quarter, his assists were going up, his shot attempts were going down and he was playing more and more of a traditional point guard type of role. Had the injury not have taken place, I'm convinced that this team would be on the same kind of role that it is on right now if not better.

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Washington, D.C.: Everyone is impressed at how the Wizards have stepped as a team, especially with Gilbert's absence. But besides well-balanced scoring, the team also seems to be playing with more defensive intensity.

Among the players and staff, how much of this is credited to Randy Ayers? Within the organization, is this improvement tied to what he has brought to the team?

Ivan Carter: Eddie Jordan, Randy Ayers and the coaching staff certainly deserve credit but I think that two other factors have led to better defense as well 1) Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche are far more effective than they were last season. Their length, solid positional defense in the post and shot-blocking have been huge keys. 2) I don't see guys leaking out as quickly to change ends. That especially goes for Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler but also the guards who have been rebounding themselves. They are playing through the end of possessions more.

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Boston: I read The Post piece on Doc Rivers with interest. So where do you guys come down on what should get the most credit: coaching or talent? Think of the best coaches of all time in each sport -- who were the best players they coached and how much of the coaches "success" was do to the talent he had on his team? Lombardi/Belichick, Scotty Bowman, Joe Torre, Auerbach/Phil Jackson. Does Jackson win any championships without Jordan or Shaq (two of the most dominating players in the history of the game)? Coming back to Doc, how good of a coach is he?

Michael Lee: I think this is when we see how good of a coach Doc Rivers is. From conversations that I've had with him over the past few months, he's been dying for the opportunity to coach a legitimate team. He's dealt with young players and overachievers for a long time. He's never had a real chance.

Now he has talent with Garnett, Pierce and Allen. If he can win, advance to the NBA Finals or whatever, then he can change his legacy.

I find it interesting, though, that Jackson hasn't won a PLAYOFF SERIES since Shaq left. Did he forget how to coach? No. He proved that he is a great coach when he was still able to win with the Bulls without MJ. It's just harder to get over that hump without superior talent.

As for the NFL, Bill Belichik was not considered a genius before Tom Brady landed in his lap. His record without Brady is horrendous.

You cannot win in this league without talent. There is a reason Tim Duncan has grabbed four rings, why Shaq and Kobe grabbed three, why Jordan snared six.

You're right. Jackson probably won't win any championships without Jordan or Shaq. Red Auerbach doesn't win nine rings without Bill Russell. It really goes hand in hand.

It does, however, make me give more props to Larry Brown for winning a ring in Detroit without a real superstar. That was really impressive.

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Washington, D.C.: Should we be concerned with the excessive number of minutes Caron Butler is playing? Why does Eddie have him on the floor late in the fourth quarter of many games, when they are clearly out of reach and they can easily preserve the win without him?

Ivan Carter: Players have to play. I'll probably get ripped for this but I've never understood why people think it's a bad thing for a great player who is in his prime and also in great condition to play heavy minutes. That's what they're paid for. Yes, Caron is clocking 40.7 per but look at the guys who are right behind him: Joe Johnson, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwight Howard etc. Players play.

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Cristchurch, New Zealand: What's your take on Brandon Roy? Cheers.

Michael Lee: I had to pick this up. Wow. New Zealand? Are you serious?

I have been up and down with Roy. Part of me wonders what his ceiling is. Is he going to be much better than he is today? He's averaging about 19 points, but can he become a 25-point scorer? I don't know. I don't know if he has to with LaMarcus Aldridge down low and Greg Oden joining the squad next year.

But I have been thoroughly impressed with his toughness and his ability to lift the Blazers right now. He was rookie of the year and he's growing as a leader. I'm a fan. I'm just not a really big fan yet. I need to see him more, see if he can play 70, 80 games in a season before I'm ready to really fawn over him.

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Chicago: Looks like Roger was pretty smart to take a one-year deal. My question is, what do you think will happen this offseason? Re-sign him to a larger deal or will they let him go elsewhere?

Ivan Carter: Too early to tell. Way too early. In fact, he probably wouldn't earn big money unless he does something significant in the playoffs. That's when GMs starting pulling out check books.

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Cambridge, Mass.: What can you tell us about the new point guard's skill set? Has he looked good in practice? can he play defense? Do you think he's capable of a good assist to turnover ratio?

Ivan Carter: The book on Milk Wilks: Great guy. Solid ball handler and decent decision maker. Has played for eight teams for five years so picking up a new system quickly probably won't be a problem. In short, he's one of those guys who is always good enough to get a look but hasn't been enough or lucky enough to stick for very long.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey I follow your articles pretty religiously and really admire your hard work and professionalism when dealing with the Wizards. My question is whether or not you believe that Gilbert Arenas is a good teammate and is a part of the Wizards' future. To me it seems as if he just creates a lot of controversy, especially right now with what he said about other players contracts. That's not any of his business. Right now it seems that Caron can just as easily step into that role and be the No. 1 guy. Its not as if we have lost anything with Gilbert out.

Ivan Carter: Again, I think folks are going overboard thinking that this team is somehow better without Gilbert. Now, it may be better without an injured, not-quite Gilbert Gilbert but that's a different matter. Again, this team was starting to turns things around before he got hurt.

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Bethesda, Md.: Are you surprised how much the Miami Heat have declined in the last 18 months? It's hard to believe a year ago they were the defending champs.

Michael Lee: Not at all. I think Pat Riley put too much faith in Dwyane Wade carrying the team for an entire season the way he did during the NBA Finals. Riley has needed to upgrade that roster since they won the championship. Instead, the talent surrounding Wade and Shaq has gotten worse, while Shaq continues to decline. You need superstars to win in this league, but they cannot do it by themselves.

Shaq and Kobe had Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher and other great role players.

Jordan and Pippen had Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman and other great role players.

Shaq and Wade have . . . Udonis Haslem? Ricky Davis? Chris Quinn. Um, no offense to those guys, but that isn't going to get it done.

Riles needs to make a trade, seriously. Shaq is too old and Wade might wear himself out before he enters his prime.

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Will from Rockville: Is there any chance Mike Wilks will get an extension if he performs well or is he just a short rent?

Ivan Carter: Think of Mike Wilks as a short term insurance policy.

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N.C.: I'm really impressed with the way the Wizards have responded to all the injuries. Everyone seems to be contributing to get the job done.

What's the story on the new point guard? What kind of stats did he have previously? When will Antonio Daniels be back?

Ivan Carter: I've touched on Wilks. As for Daniels, the team set a 2-4 week timetable for his return but he tends to think that he'll be back sooner than that. So, let's say that it will be three weeks until he's cleared to practice. That would be Thursday, Jan. 3. Now, I would assume that he would need at least a three or four days of practice before being cleared to play so, my guess is that he'll miss around nine games and possibly be back for the Jan.6 game against Seattle.

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Great Falls, Va.: Re: Arenas and Jamison re-signings

Can't Ernie Grunfeld sit down with Arenas and Jamison and work out extensions for both to keep the team together? I know Arenas has a player option and all that, but Gilbert has time on his hands now and Jamison should clearly be re-signed as well. I know Jamison has a big number and I'm thinking that number has to go down some. In any case, Gil makes points on his blog about just getting it done when you can. I agree on Gil and Jamison.

Ivan Carter: That will all depend on how this season plays out. Obviously, Gil's situation well be determined in part by the status of his knee. As for Antawn, he may want to wait and see how the free agent market shapes up.

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Reston, Va.: Are the Celtics peaking a little too early? Can they keep up that pace all year? I can see a repeat of the 1994 Sonics vs. Nuggets series happening with these guys. Things are going just a little too smooth for everyone in Boston right now. (It's not fair!)

Michael Lee: The Celtics aren't peaking early; they are benefitting from a very favorable schedule and incredible adrenaline. I spoke with Kobe Bryant yesterday and he said nobody has been able to figure them out yet. That is a lethal mix with Garnett, Allen and Pierce, and those guys are fired up to be in this situation. They've also gotten some solid performances from Rajon Rondo, James Posey and Eddie House.

They will not keep up this pace because they still have yet to travel west of the Mississippi River and play some more dangerous teams. Right now it's been an East Coast cake walk. It'll even out in a few months. But this team is good. I don't see it crumbling in the first round unless somebody gets seriously hurt. But I'm also not sold on the Celtics yet. If they can beat San Antonio, Phoenix or Dallas on the road, then maybe I'll come around. Tonight's game against the Pistons is their first real test to me.

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Washington, D.C.: Let's say a popular sportwriter for a leading sports website hypothetically ranks players' trade values, and says that an Arenas-for-Billups deal makes sense for the Wizards. Any logic to this lunacy?

Ivan Carter: It's fun to talk about that kind of thing but it will never happen. Why would Joe Dumars even think about moving Chauncey Billups for a player coming off a knee injury when his team has a chance to go to the NBA Finals? That said, both general managers would at least have to think about and that was Bill's point in that piece.

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dc: what do you think is going through kobe's head when he see that caron just dropped like 27 on someone and he turns around and see's kwame walk through the door

Ivan Carter: Probably the same thing he thought when the authorities contacted him about that incident in Colorado.

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Anonymous: You asked us to:

Abe Pollin is cheap. Always has been, always will. Oh, wait...except when it's giant telescreen paid for from the DC general fund. Then he'll spend!

Ivan Carter: I've heard that before.

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Oakton, Va.: Ivan and Michael,

With Brendon Haywood playing solid and really producing, what are the team's plans for Etan Thomas? Wouldn't bringing Thomas back really mess up Haywood's mental state with the team? I would think it would be worth it to trade him to any taker (although his contract is prohibitive along with his new heart condition). What do you think the Wizards will do with Etan Thomas now that Haywood is playing lights out and Blatche coming on strong too -- I would think this spells then end of the Poet's career in Chinatown -- agree?

Ivan Carter: Assuming that Etan Thomas will continue to play and right now I have no reason to think otherwise, the team's option are very limited. He's got three years and $20 million left on his contract (that includes this season) so that makes it hard to move him and as you pointed out, the play of Haywood and the development of Blatche will make it difficult for him to carve out a significant role.

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Fairfax, Va.: I liked your thoughts on the Bulls/Kobe affair. But who's been the bigger disappointment of the season so far? The Bulls or Heat? I think the Bulls will eventually get it together. The Heat's struggles aren't that surprising with D-Wade's injuries, but who would have thought Shaq's fall from grace would be this bad? It's hard to believe they won a championship only 2 years ago. Are they DONE?!

Michael Lee: The Bulls have been a bigger disappointment because they were expected to take the leap this year. They swept the Heat in the playoffs and the roster was pretty much intact, but Chicago is still a young team and its best players are dealing with major issues for the first time (contracts, trade rumors). The Bulls haven't been able to handle it.

A lot of people didn't think the Heat would make the playoffs this season because that roster is horrific. I don't know if Shaq's fall has been that steep. He's been slowing down since the NBA Finals - and his numbers are still better than most centers in the league. Not Shaq numbers, but not bad numbers. But Pat Riley has to realize that Shaq isn't going to get better. He and Wade need help. I won't say the Heat is are DONE until Riley tells me he loves that team and doesn't plan on making any changes.

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DC: I don't think Portland can maintain this run. What I do think is this team will be sick in a couple of years when Oden comes back. Scary team.

Michael Lee: I'm with you. But it's fun to watch Portland right now. They are beating some legit teams and gaining confidence. When Oden joins the team, the foundation will be set.

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Tampa: Hi guys. Every type of All-Star voting across the four major sports is a complete joke. It's all a popularity contest with very little regard to how players actually perform. But, to make this even more absurd, the NBA players are already being voted on having only played like 20 something games. All-Stars should be selected at the end of the year, and no game should be played. The recognition should be enough and no one even watches the games, and the players don't want to play them. Also, selection should be based on sports writers, just like the HOF, not misinformed and biased fans in large markets. Thoughts?

Ivan Carter: I hate all star games, all star voting and all star debates. I mean, who cares? It's about winning games as a team. Who really remembers any all star event from year to year. It's stupid. In fact, I'm praying that the Post doesn't send me to New Orleans for this year's "event." Other than the dunk contest, there is no reason to pay attention any of if. And that goes for football and baseball as well.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Ivan,

More of a journalism question... do you guys cooperate with the other Wizards beat writers on story ideas? I notice there are frequently days where The Post and the Times have nearly identical takes on a topic of the day (e.g. the 'Haywood playing with passion' stories). Or is it just coincidence and lack of storylines? Not a criticism, just curious.

Ivan Carter: We don't coordinate or cooperate in any way but we do tend to write about similar topics. Some of that stems from the way seasons evolve. If a guy has three straight great games and there is a two-day gap between games, you can bet that said player will be the subject of a stories in every paper covering that team. That's just how it works sometimes.

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Fairfax, Va.: Nick Young certainly has a lot of talent and I'm excited about his future. But I notice that when Young gets off to slow starts (picking up quick fouls, shotting struggles), you could see in his face how discouraged he gets and it seems to affect him for the rest of the game. Is this just the immaturity of a rookie and do you see him being a major contributer in the next couple of years? He reminds me of a Jason Richardson type player. An athletic scorer who can be a streaky shooter and can get to the basket. What do you think his future holds?

Ivan Carter: Nick Young is simply going through what talented rookies go through. He's going to be a big time scorer in this league, no question. Right now, he's learning to play defense without fouling and trying to figure out when to go for his without dominating the ball too much and ticking off veteran teammates. He's coming along pretty nicely.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Denver can't seem to break through and become an elite team, assuming that they play at this level the rest of the year, what team is the best fit for Allen Iverson to finally win a title?

Michael Lee: No team is the best fit for Iverson to win a title until he realizes that he has to take a secondary role on the team. He cannot take a team to the championship anymore. He had his chance, he got there but couldn't finish.

He has to realize that the Nuggets will only go as far as Carmelo Anthony will take them. Right now, Anthony is struggling watching Iverson going on these overdribbling scoring binges. It is ridiculous that Iverson is leading that team in scoring. Taking nothing from Iverson, I just don't see him winning a championship. At least Denver gives him a chance to be competitive every night. He didn't have that his previous few seasons in Philadelphia.

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Wellsville, Pa.: Any thoughts on the retirement of David Dupree of USA Today? He's a champ, started chatting today at noon and still is answering questions.

Michael Lee: I really hate to see it. I have a lot of respect for David Dupree. He's a great guy and I really wish him well. Actually, I really wish he was still doing his thing at USA Today. Him and Roscoe Nance. I don't know what's going on at USA Today, but it makes me a little afraid about the future of this business, unfortunately.

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Bethesda, Md.: Ivan - who do you like in the Sunday nighter ... Skins or Vikes?

Ivan Carter: Purple Jesus, Purple Jesus, Purple Jesus....

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Bryans Road: What are you guys thoughts on the direction that the Wiz may go after the season as it pertains to free agency? What do both of you think about who the Wiz would look at if it is not possible for Twan to come back? I appears to me that Etan has no place on the roster (I know he is a good guy and all). If they can clear his salary off the books then it looks like there would be room to give Gil and Twan what they are looking for.

Ivan Carter: If Gilbert's knee comes around, I would do my best to lock him and Antawn up and hope those three stay healthy so we can all finally see whether this team can make a serious run at winning the East.

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Colorado Springs, Colo.: Has Gilbert mentioned having second thoughts on taking that extension since the injury? It seems as if his value may take a hit, especially if he doesn't come back this season. Also, is the extension still on the table for him to take if he were to decide to take the money now? Although he talked about other player contracts, I'm very curious about his current thoughts concerning his own contract. What do you guys think?

Ivan Carter: Nobody knows what he's thinking from day-to-day and that probably includes Gilbert himself. But you are right, he does have the option of not opting out.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael, my friends and I were chattering about teams that--with one lucky break--would be viewed totally differently; say, the Webber-led Kings (who were a few minutes away from the Finals) or the Ewing-led Knicks, who saw their '97 playoffs ruined by the brawl with Miami. Any thoughts on the "What if?" teams of the past decade or so?

Michael Lee: Ping pong balls keeping Tim Duncan from the Boston Celtics in 1997.

Duncan's knee injury in 2000, which kept the defending champion Spurs from facing a dominant Lakers team with Shaq in his prime.

Derek Fisher's shot with 0.4 seconds keeping the Spurs from repeating in 2004. Sam Cassell's hamstring possibly costing Kevin Garnett a championship that same season.

Robert Horry's hip check last summer.

Dwyane Wade's phantom foul calls against Dallas two years ago.

I could go on, but I want to answer a few more questions.

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Washington: Re: Anonymous -- Anonymous is an idiot! Abe Pollin is a smart businessman who refuses to throw good money at bad talent. People that are cheap don't build their own arenas, send thousand of poor kids to college, rescue synagogues, contribute every day to public schools, lend their arena to the public for events, etc. ... Abe Pollin is the best citizen in Washington and I am proud that he is the Wizards' owner, because he cares about more than the team. We had a owner of the local football team who never spent a cent on anyone but himself, but I hear him praised all the time. That says a lot about local fans.

Ivan Carter: Another view of Abe Pollin.

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David Dupree: The Ladies Man of sports journalism. Sorry to see him go. Maybe we'll catch him on local TV more often now.

Ivan Carter: Wait a minute, I thought I was the ladies man of sports journalism?

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Regarding the Future of this Business: TV and the Internet. Both of you better learn how to scream at each other a la Jay Mariotti, Steven A. Smith, Woody Paige, etc., etc. Or maybe both of you could go the David Halberstam or Ralph Wiley (RIP) route. You both certainly have the writing chops to go there. Keep up the great work, and don't change. Don't ever change.

Ivan Carter: Thanks. A lot of different ways to go in this business but I'll take the classy David Dupree, David Aldridge, Michael Wilbon approach.

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Washington: Ivan, who'd make a better quarterback -- Tarvaris Jackson or Antonio Daniels?

Ivan Carter: Ouch.

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Washington: How can anyone call Abe Pollin cheap when he built the Verizon center on his own dime? How does the previous poster equate that with cheapness, and can he name any other owners who have done the same?

Ivan Carter: Yet more thoughts on Abe Pollin.

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D.C.: Kobe should be thanking management they didn't trade Bynum when Kobe wanted them to. He's going to be dominating for the next 10 years, and he's only what...20?

Michael Lee: I think so. But mostly because of the guy they were looking to trade him for. I love Jason Kidd. I'm a huge fan of his game, but he would NOT have made much of a difference for the Los Angeles Lakers last season - especially if Odom and Bynum were included. I don't think the Lakers beat the Suns with Kobe and Kidd, either.

But Bynum is really coming around. I still don't know if he'll be a dominant center. He'll be good. I don't know about dominating - especially with Dwight Howard around and Greg Oden joining the fold next season.

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Oakton, Va.: Ivan and Michael, if doctors continue to rule against Etan Thomas returning, do the Wizards still have to pay him? I know NBA contracts are guranteed, but isn't there some language in most NBA contracts that deals with this sort of sitaution to protect NBA teams? It seems like it is a little unfair to the Wizards or any NBA team to keep paying someone $6 million a year or whatever the contract dictates if they do nothing. Also, if Etan is forced to retire, do the Wizards get some sort of salary cap relief?

Ivan Carter: There is a provision in the CBA that would allow the Wiz to get relief but to do that, doctors must determine that Etan can no longer player and from what the doctors said after his surgery, that is not the case. They expect that like Ronny Turiaf, he will be able to resume playing ball once he heals up from the surgery.

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Falls Church, Va.: Kobe Bryant or Jason Kidd -- who is more likely to get traded before the deadline?

Michael Lee: Kidd. The Nets have to blow that thing up. They lost at home to the Kings, one of the worst road teams in the NBA? It isn't working anymore. Kidd had a nice run, but his time in Jersey really is done. My man is getting headaches and stuff. Rod Thorn has to make some moves. Send him to Dallas. The Mavericks need him.

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Sterling, Va.: Since Gil pays close to attention to contracts, what other teams pay out and whatnot, there's little doubt in my mind that Gil believes he is a max-contract player. I tend to agree, but I am skeptical that Ernie will make an initial offer of a max contract -- but another team (or teams) is sure to fall all over itself to offer Gil a max deal.

I know right now most teams won't be able to fit a max contract under their cap, but a lot of trades can happen between now and the start of free agency that will allow a team to offer Gil a max deal. Long story a bit longer, I am afraid Gil will not be a Wizard this time next year, and that's sad, because he is a fan favorite and a joy to follow and root for.

Ivan Carter: I wouldn't be shocked by any scenario involving Gilbert Arenas. He may take max money here, he may take less money to stay here, he may take max money elsewhere or he may take less money elsewhere so he can be on a title contender. It's all up in the air as far as I see it.

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Los Angeles: How is Dominic McGuire coming along in practice? He hasn't had a chance to play much yet.

Ivan Carter: Dominic will continue to see some action during this stretch coming up. From what I hear, he's working hard in practice.

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Ivan Carter: I have to run and get ready for tonight's game. Thanks for stopping in.

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Washington: To an outsider, it looks like the Wiz have a pretty clear leadership structure on court, with Butler and Jamison showing why they were named captains. How important is that structure to the team's current streak, and is that what sets them apart from a team like the Bulls, who seem to have no clear "general/leader" figure?

Michael Lee: That's the one thing people are missing in the whole "Are the Wizards better off without Gilbert?" debate that has been mentioned around the league. What people don't realize is that the Wizards lost their best player, but not their leader when Arenas went down. Butler and Jamison are leaders. They bring it every night. Even if they play poorly, you can't question their effort because they demand their teammates to be accountable and do their best to lift them.

The Bulls don't have a leader, which explains why they have been struggling. Losing a veteran like P.J. Brown is really having an impact on that young team. Unfortunately, they have no calming influence. Ben Wallace certainly isn't it.

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Owings mill, Md.: Six months later I have to say Stephen A. Smith was right about the Bobcats' deal for Jason Richardson -- they still stink and they know the have to pay that man $48 million for the next four years. M.J. is just a bad exec.

Michael Lee: I'm still not ready to call that move for Richardson a bad deal yet. He is a good player. The Bobcats are a bad team, but they have been dealt some major blows this season - losing Sean May and Adam Morrison for the year. I think Richardson has proven that he can score, and the Bobcats needed another weapon. Yes, he has struggled but he can turn it around.

The move that is most baffling to me is dealing Primoz Brezec and Fabio to Detroit for Nazr Mohammed. That deal looks great for the Pistons. They clear cap space and get some pretty good players, at least to me, in the process. Adding Mohammed's contract seems odd to me.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Michael, in your blog on the Blazers you said that they think they can sign Chris Paul from the Hornets once his deal runs out. Out of curiousity, what makes them so sure?

Michael Lee: They are just hoping that the instability in New Orleans will make him unsure about resigning with the team. It might be crazy for Paul to pass up the big-time guaranteed money from the team that drafted him and the situation with the city might improve down there - not from a basketball perspective but a hurrican recovery and support standpoint.

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Bowie, Md.: I common theme this year is that almost every team is either hard-up against the salary cap or over the cap, with very few with any breathing room. With the way contracts are structured in the NBA right now (a team still can be paying for someone who has been gone for three years), is there a sense in one of the upcoming seasons that decent to good players will fail to get contracts because the teams just can't fit them under the cap? This season there seems to be quite a bit of mediocre talent available, which is actually a step up from years past.

Michael Lee: It's already happening. That's why a number of players, like Mike Bibby, didn't opt out of deals last summer, because they know they can't get more money elsewhere. The economic situation in the NBA is not sweet right now. Teams don't have any more money and general managers have learned from past mistakes. They don't just throw insane contracts at players (Rashard Lewis's deal in Orlando notwithstanding).

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Washington: Michael, in your time covering the league, any moments that stand out where you especially felt for the players -- not as a journalist or fan, but on a personal level? Watching someone get injured, or miss a crucial shot, etc. I'm sure when you've seen it all and it gets routine, but these human moments must be mixed in, too.

Michael Lee: It's happened on a number of occasions. Most recently, it has been with Larry Hughes. The first time was after his brother died during the playoffs two years ago and again during the NBA Finals, when Hughes had to shut it down.

There have been many others, I'm sure, but that's what stands out off the top of my head.

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It's too perfect...: PLEASE tell me Ron Artest is going to the Knicks.

Michael Lee: Perfect for whom? You think Artest goes to New York and stabilizes things? Or do you just want him there for purely entertainment purposes? If you want to have that back page filled with more crazy stuff, I'm with you. But Isiah had trouble dealing with Artest in Indiana. I don't see him attempting to coach him again when he is already dealing with a group of players who seem to have quit on him.

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Michael Lee: Whew. That was major. I'm tired guys. I have to go. But we'll be back again next week. Great questions. Keep them coming. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them.

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


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