Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2 p.m. ET

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 30, 2008; 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Jan. 30 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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Michael Lee: Hey, everybody. Sorry I skipped out on you guys last week, but I was busy working on a story and couldn't get here. But I'm back and ready to talk about everything that's going on in this wacky league. From the shaky Spurs, the hopping Hornets, the horrible Heat, Jason Kidd's trade demand, Chris Webber's reunion with Nellie, and of course, the players the coaches had better chosen for the all-star game. I'm ready. So, let's go. . .

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New York City: I am looking to switch teams, tell me, what can the Wizards offer that the Knicks can't?

Michael Lee: What are you into?

Do you like coaches/team presidents who hit on the female staff and lose $11 million sexual harassment lawsuits? You won't find it here.

Do you like point guards who go AWOL when they are told they are coming off the bench? This might not be your team.

Do you like a team full of overpaid bums already counting down to the end of the season? This isn't your crew.

Do you like 300-pound centers who don't jump? Thirty-million backups who never play? The Wizards aren't for you.

Do you like constant friction and bickering between the players and coaches played out in the media? Aside from some minor incidents with Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, or Brendan and Eddie Jordan or even Gilbert Arenas and Eddie. . .you know what, you might find it here, just not this year, and not as much as New York.

But, seriously, the Wizards have one of the best locker rooms in sports. They have some awesome personalities, aspiring comedians and some all-around, good guys who take a professional attitude into each game.

And, they win - if you're into that sort of thing.

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Ivan Carter: Hey folks. Just arrived here in freezing Toronto where it's eight below. Nice! Let's get to it.

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19th and L: Michael, how is it possible that the Nets could be interested in trading Vince Carter when they just signed him to an extension this off-season? Especially considering there was little interest for him then, when he could be had without giving up players?

Michael Lee: Have you seen Vince play this season? He's been so inconsistent. He drifts from game to game. He has no desire to attack the basket, no desire to dunk. He just tosses up weak fadeaways and calls it a day. It's driving Jason Kidd crazy, if you haven't noticed.

But I heard that Nets ownership, not basketball operations, pushed to keep him at that $62 million price tag. If you had to choose between Kidd and Carter (Vince, not Ivan), you'd rather have Kidd, right? You know he's going to bring it every night . . . that he doesn't have a migraine.

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Lexington, Va.: I desperately want to watch more of the Hornets this season, but their games are never nationally televised. Tell me something about them I didn't know from watching SportsCenter clips.

Michael Lee: They almost got into the playoffs the past two seasons, splitting time in Oklahoma City because Chris Paul is the real deal, a modern day Isiah (from his glory days with the Pistons, the gory days with the Knicks). They have one of the most humble, hardworking and efficient big men in the league in David West; a rebounding, shot-blocking dynamo in Tyson Chandler; a sharpshooter in Peja Stojakovic, who is healthy this season (he played just 13 games last season); and one of the most exciting sparkplugs off the bench in "Mucho" Jannero Pargo. They have won nine in a row and have been hammering teams lately - all but one of those victories were decided by at least 14 points.

New Orleans is really good, but not very deep. If they have on problem, it's that they need another scorer off the bench. But Byron Scott has done a great job with that bunch.

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Washington, D.C.: Injury updates on Caron, Gil and Etan, por favor?

Ivan Carter: I chatted with Caron as he walked/limped out last night. He didn't make the trip to Toronto with the team and will undergo rehab today and tomorrow back in DC with the hope of playing Friday against Utah. It's too early to know but he was limping and it would be bad to push that and have it turn into a lingering injury. Nothing new with Gilbert or Etan. Gil is still aiming for after the all-star break with March 1 is a potential target date. He's coming along well I hear. Etan still hasn't been cleared by doctors for contact work and there is no timetable.

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Fairfax, Va.: Is Chris Paul this year's MVP?

If Steve Nash can win back-to-back MVPs, then Paul more than deserves this award. In terms of teammates, Paul is doing it with less than what Nash had in Phoenix. He's averaging 20 and 10 and leading the Hornets (THE HORNETS!!) to the top of the Western Conference over the Spurs, Mavs and Suns. He'll be the best PG for the next 10 years.

Michael Lee: He is certainly in the discussion of MVP. I got a chance to see him up close last week in New Orleans and he knows how and when to take over a game, either with a steal, a jump shot or a no-look pass. He's playing the point guard position better than anyone else right now - Nash included - because he's doing it on both ends. He dishing it out and leads the league in steals. It will interesting to see how Paul and Utah's Deron Williams develop over the next 10 years. Those guys are so good.

If I had to select an MVP now, my top five would be:

1. Kevin Garnett

2. LeBron James

3. Kobe Bryant

4. Chris Paul

5. Steve Nash

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Virginia Beach, Va.: What if, any adjustments do you think the Raptors and the Wizards will make for the game tonight? Do teams ever make drastic changes between home and homes or just minor tweaks?

Ivan Carter: The main thing the Wiz had better be prepared for is Toronto being extra aggressive on the boards. The Wiz dominated the rebounding last night (57-44) and had a 23-8 edge in second chance points as a result. Sam Mitchell was irate after the game. I also felt that the Wiz were very effective at mixing zone with man-to-man defenses and I would expect the Raptors to counter that. The zone helps take away Jose Calderon's effectiveness on the pick-and-roll but the danger is that it leaves shooters open for 3's and no team in the league shoots it better from long-range than the Raps. Should be interesting.

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Washington, D.C.: The officiating at the Wizards-Raptors game was a primer for a bad referee. Watching Bosh push off on every drive, travel, mug opposing players and give out shots to the groin was disgusting. I know he is a star and gets the star treatment, but Jordan didn't get that much slack! I guess they got what they wanted a close game and the right spread. Stern should take another look at his refs.

Ivan Carter: Actually, I thought the reffing was way worse in Milwaukee. Both ways.

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The District: Michael, there are several teams that aren't doing as well as hoped this year (Hawks, Bobcats to name two) and yet have some attractive pieces. Do you see a Josh Smith or someone like that being traded?

Michael Lee: I see somebody getting fired in Atlanta before I see Josh Smith getting moved. He is on the verge of superstardom and has nothing to make you want to give up on him (no matter what has been said about his attitude). You just don't find players like Smith - someone who is capable of getting you 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals in one game - all the time. He's an incredible athlete and he's just 22. Why would you trade him?

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Laurel, Md.: Do you think this is the time Eddie Jordan should be trusting the bench a little more? I mean every year after the All-Star break our starters seem to be worn out. Caron Butler seems to be feeling the effects of it. I just think losing a couple of games is worth it to keep or key guys healthy and our bench/rookies keyed up.

Ivan Carter: Really? If Eddie drastically cuts minutes for Antawn, Caron, Daniels and Stevenson and the Wiz lose four of five, folks will be hitting my blog calling for Eddie's head. The fact is that the bench has two trusty vets in Roger Mason Jr. and Darius Songaila but neither of them are dominant and the then a bunch of young guys still figuring out what the heck they are doing. Blatche was terrific last night but has been quiet for weeks. That's just how it's going to be. The big stars in this league play big minutes. Kobe. LeBron. Iverson. Garnett. That's the way you win.

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Washington, D.C.: Who is the real Jason Kidd? The thoughtful, mentoring, classy basketball player we see in interviews, or the franchise back-stabbing (Dallas, Phoenix, and now Nets), coach back-stabbing(re: Byron Scott), it's-all-about-me person?

Michael Lee: He's both. I've always enjoyed talking to Kidd, but you don't get to be that good without a little ego.

It is surprising that someone so unselfish on the court can come off as a selfish egomaniac off of it. But the one thing you learn in life is that everything and everyone cannot be judged in black and white. Sometimes there are shades of gray. With Kidd, he wants to win, but he prefers that it is done his way. When it isn't, that's when problems develop.

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Washington, D.C.: Any update on Haywood? I read he left the game with flu-like symptoms?

Ivan Carter: He wasn't feeling well but played just under 26 minutes. I heard it might have been bad food. The bigger issue was matchups. The Raps used a smaller lineup with Bosh a the main post guy and Eddie wanted to match up with Blatche and at times, Songaila.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: ROY Candidates -- I already like Kevin Durant. Any others?

Michael Lee: Not with Greg Oden out for the season, Yi Jianlian slamming into the rookie wall, and Al Horford's Hawks slowly sliding out of contention. I know Kevin has been struggling lately, but when you hit game-winners against the Spurs, you have ROY locked up in my opinion.

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Alexandria, Va.: Wow! What a game last night. We see glimpses of what Andray Blatche can do, it is scary to see the upside he has. I think this is his third year; shouldn't we see this on a consistent basis by now?

Ivan Carter: Good point. The key was that Andray approached the game with a high level of concentration and played with major energy because he started. Getting him to bring that every night when he's coming off the bench has been an issue. Defensively, he's been pretty consistent but offensively, he was far more assertive last night. It will be interesting to see how he brings it tonight on the back end of a back-to-back.

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Fairfax, Va.: Great article yesterday on Dave Hopla. Bringing in Hopla and Randy Ayers have really paid off for the Wizards this year. What's the status with their contracts? I think another couple years in Ayers' defense along with the improved free throw shooting will really help them in the playoffs down the line.

Ivan Carter: Yes, Hopla and Ayers have made a difference. That's obvious by the way the players talk about them. I think the fresh voices helped and Hopla clearly knows what he's talking about when it comes to shooting. As far as contracts, the details have never been made known but since Eddie's other assistants all signed one-year extensions last summer, I can't imagine that either Hopla or Ayers received more.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Since the Wizards just won a game, how many fools are asking if they're better without Caron?

Ivan Carter: Now that's funny.

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Alexandria, Va.: Is there any chance the wizards pick up Damon Stoudamire? If not, are there any other potential buy-out players for Grunfeld to consider?

Ivan Carter: No chance of the Wiz signing mighty mouse or another free agents. They are right up against the luxury tax. Outside of clearing cap room through a trade, which would be tough because salaries must match, the other move they can make would be signing a player to a 10-day contract.

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Washington, D.C.: Which remaining Wizard's home game are you most looking forward to seeing?

Ivan Carter: How about Sunday when Kobe and Kwame come to town? If that's not fun, I don't know what is.

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Belfast, Northern Ireland: Miami couldn't beat Boston without KG and Allen? Are you kidding me?

Michael Lee: No, the Heat has officially decided to tank it. That was an embarrassment last night. The top four scorers for the Celtics combined to outscore the Heat, 88-87 - and none of them were named Paul Pierce. Pat Riley should be ashamed that the team he assembled allowed Leon Powe to go for 25 and 11 on them. Not to slight Powe, but that's a disgrace.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm a Wizards fan, but I don't know if Antawn is an All-Star player. Yes, he can fill up the stat sheet, but teams don't really scheme against him, and while I don't watch all the games, I'm not sure he's had many clutch, memorable shots or defensive plays this season.

Is he kind of like a Chris Webber with much better leadership skills? Can fill up the stat sheet but in crunch time, not the go to guy on offense or defense? Does Antawn really scare anyone?

Ivan Carter: He certainly made THE clutch play last night by slithering through the Raps and tipping in that Roger Mason miss to give the Wiz a 106-101 lead with 9.9 seconds left in OT. His defensive rebounding has also been huge in several close wins this season. I see your point in a way. I mean, A Jamison 20 and 10 is not the same as a KG 20 and 10 because KG is such a dominant forced on defense. Then again, Jamison's ability to shoot the long ball draws a big man away from the basket, he's durable and there is no doubt about his competitive fire: the guy brings it. As for his all-star credentials, consider this: the last guy to average 20 and 10 on a team with a winning record at the break and not make the all-star team was Derrick Coleman in the early 90's. He should be there.

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Washington, DC: When you have two teams playing each other on consecutive days, all else being equal, do you think one team has the advantage in the second game? Obviously, one team's coming off a win (and the other a loss), so I could see the confidence/revenge factor going either way. Thoughts?

Ivan Carter: I've been to a number of games up here in Toronto over the years and really like the energy the fans bring (and the eye candy). It's a tough place to play. I think that gives the Raps an edge in a back-to-back like this. Also, Jamison played over 51 minutes last night so it's going to be tough to bring the same energy. We'll see.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Have either of you seen many of Portland's games this season? Are they for real or just peaking too early?

Michael Lee: Yeah, I've seen Portland a few times. I don't think they are peaking too early. When you start the season 5-12, you definitely aren't peaking to early. They came on at the right time. They'll be in the playoff race for the rest of the season because they play hard and they together. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge don't play like second-year players, and they have a really nice 10-man rotation, with Travis Outlaw, James Jones and Jarrett Jack providing offense off the bench. I think Utah or Denver will eventually win the division, but Portland will keep hanging on. You'll see a story on them in the Post real soon.

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Re: Josh Smith: Easy there Michael. Your love for Josh Smith is a little much - 5 assists (he's at 3 now), 5 steals (he averages under 2). And his defense is a major weakness. Even he admitted that he loves blocking people from behind, meaning (to his own admission) that he often goes for the glorious block instead of playing good D (and letting his own man drive by him in hopes to make such a selfish-highlight worthy block).

Michael Lee: I didn't say Josh averages those numbers. I said he is capable of having those kind of games. He is capable. He's like a pre-Boozer Andrei Kirilenko or Shawn Marion - an undersized four man who can fill a stat sheet. I'm not calling him Tim Duncan, but when you're 6-9, how else do you defend Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Bosh, Boozer, Dirk Nowtizki or anybody like that. You can't really stuff them straight up.

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Fairfax, Va.: Lately, LeBron has outplayed Kobe when their teams have played each other. Most players, including LeBron himself, still say that Kobe is the best player in the league. If you could pick either LeBron or Kobe (right now)to be your franchise player, who would you go with?

Michael Lee: I'm rolling with LeBron. He is winning with less talent in my opinion and he has managed to inspire his teammates by getting them involved and encouraging them. He's leading the league in scoring, but also rebounding and getting assists. He led his team to the NBA Finals last year with a group of unheralded players and he never sold out of his teammates or demanded a trade. And oh, yeah, he's 23.

I've been in the Kobe camp for a few years. He's a much better shooter than LeBron. He's always had that killer mentality that LeBron is starting to develop.

Kobe is 29 and he still hasn't won a playoff series without Shaq. Is that a knock on him? Not entirely. But I'm not sure if he handled playing with inferior teammates the past few years as well as LeBron.

Kobe might get the MVP this season if the Lakers can remain among the elite in the West without Andrew Bynum, but LeBron will only get better and he's already proving to be Mr. Fourth Quarter this season.

That Lakers-Cavs game Sunday was a big statement for the could-be King. He's making and taking tough shots. Can you leave him alone to shoot from the perimeter? Yes, you still can. But he's working at it. He's also getting better on the defensive end.

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Bethesda: Any chance Grunfeld inquires about the price for Kidd? I know it's far-fetched, but if he could had for a reasonable price, its interesting to at least consider. Kidd at point and move Arenas to the off guard spot when he gets back. Although the salary cap ramifications likely shoot down this idea from the start...

Ivan Carter: The only way you could even think about making a deal to get Kidd would be to give up Gilbert and I don't see Ernie doing that. Eddie? Different story.

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Michael Lee: That USC selection was a joke, I hope you know. But I forgot to mention Arizona (Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson and Andre Iguodala) and North Carolina (Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Raymond Felton?) I don't know. I'd still have to go with Wake Forest.

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Alexandria, Va.: Who is going to be the next owner of the Wizards? Is Ted Leonis still involved with the ownership?

Ivan Carter: Ted will have an option to buy if/when Abe Pollin decides to sell.

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Michael Lee: That was fun. But I've got to run. I can't wait to chat with you guys again next week. Peace.

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Washington, DC: Does anyone really have a sense of what's going to happen this summer with Gilbert? He says he wants to play for a winner, well the Wizards have shown they are pretty good even without him. I'm wondering, given Jamison's situation, which is the first piece, Jamison getting figured out or Arenas?

Ivan Carter: To me, it all starts with Arenas because he's going to eat up the largest chunk of cap space. Once he gets done, Antawn is next but first, Antawn will have a chance go gauge his worth on the open market. Right now, it's going up.

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NoVa: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time:

I got the last question in last week, but there was no answer - to follow-up, what do you think will be the biggest storyline in the second half of the season? Do you see J. Kidd making the jump to Dallas or Denver? What kind of impact do you anticipate C-Webb having with Nellie's Kids?

Oh, and what's the mood of the team heading into tonight's rematch with the Raps. Kinda feels like we stole one at home yesterday...

Ivan Carter: Actually, the mood in the lockeroom was that they earned it last night by rebounding the way they did and hitting the shots they hit. Now in Milwaukee - that would've been a steal given the large comeback.

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

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