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Wizards/NBA

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Feb. 6 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: I know I've said not much surprises me anymore, but I cannot comprehend this possible Shaq-Marion trade. I'm still dazed and confused, and I will remain so for as long as Shaq continues to play basketball. Okay, so much for an intro. You guys know that it has been a crazy week. We have a lot to talk about. So let's go. . .

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Washington, D.C.: Is Caron Butler willing to sit out the All Star game to get his hip right? He just doesn't look like the same Caron out there right now, and just re injured himself.

If he does sit out, who do you think would get the nod as a reserve?

Ivan Carter: That is going to be an interesting situation. I didn't feel that Caron was himself during the Lakers game and he tweaked that hip flexor again last night so it's going to be interesting to see how he and the team handles it. He still has some time to sit out a few games, return before the break and play in the all-star game if it isn't too serious. If he can't go, my guess is that Hedo Turkoglu would get the invite or perhaps Josh Smith.

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Phoenix: I am wondering what the Suns see left in Shaq to make this move. I understand the size he would bring, but can Shaq still run to fit in with Phoenix? I see him clogging the lane stalling Nash's penetration. Does he still have enough game in him to fit?

Is this a panicked response to the Lakers getting Pau Gasol?

Michael Lee: I know there is a lot of concern about how Shaq will fit into the Suns's system. He won't. The system will have to change some. The beauty of the Suns was that so much of what they did was unscripted and improvised by Nash. Marion could score without plays called for him - and he was usually god for about 15-20 points a game. Shaq will make them more of a halfcourt team, which doesn't seem to work well with the pick-and-roll, two-man game between Nash and Stoudemire.

The real issue I have with the deal is not whether Shaq can run anymore, it's if he can stay on the floor, period. He turns 36 next month and has spent a good part of the past four seasons injured. He had that one season when he first arrived in Miami, but other than that, it's been a hip, a quad, a knee, an ankle and so on. Shaq is huge, but he's also quite fragile at this stage in his career.

This is clearly a panic move after the Lakers got Gasol.

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Boston: So do you think Marion plays tonight against the Hornets?

Michael Lee: Not if Shaq passes the physical - which isn't a given, with his past medical problems - and the trade goes through.

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Anonymous: I am not a fan of Euro ball players for the most part, they tend to play soft or choke (Dirk). I love the South American players that just tend to ball and hustle. Despite not liking Pau Gasol, this is an ideal situation for him. He no longer has to carry a team and would be a great addition if he consistently provided 16-20 points a night. Then Kobe can be himself, but truly the team's deadly assassin.

Michael Lee: I love the deal that the Lakers pulled off. No matter how good European players have gotten, none still has been able to carry a team to a title. Dirk took Dallas to the Finals, but he needed an assassin to seal the deal. This is a great situation for Pau, being paired with Kobe, but it will be interesting to see how he fares on this stage, how he handles the pressure playing for the biggest team in Los Angeles (after the Dodgers), and being under the spotlight of tinsle town. This isn't Memphis anymore. And, he got booed out of Memphis.

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Bethesda, Md.: If the 'Zards go 0-4 on their road trip, which is possible since CB and AD are hurting, is it possible that their playoff hopes are in trouble?

Ivan Carter: No. Look at the teams behind them in the East: Atlanta, Chicago, New Jersey, Charlotte, Miami etc. None of those teams are playing anything close to good ball of late so it would take an epic collapse to knock the Wiz out of the picture.

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Baltimore: Any word on when Etan can participate in practice and take contact?

Ivan Carter: The word is that he's steadily doing more and more but as of yet, he has not been cleared for contact work and he hasn't even traveled for road games so we'll see. If he makes this long trip out west tomorrow, that would be telling.

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Will from Rockville: So...how much longer until Gilbert's return?

Ivan Carter: He's consistently said he'll be back at some point after the all-star break (Feb. 14-18) and he made his first road trip for the Philly game last night so that's a good sign. My best guess would be March 2.

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New York: The Shaq trade is ridic, I'll give you that. But there is a Wiz angle on it. Allegedly, Miami wants an ironclad assurance from Matrix that he will opt out of his contract next year, so the Heat can use the cap space to go after Zero. Thoughts?

Michael Lee: I haven't heard about some ironclad assurance. I don't know if it's fair to expect Marion to walk away from $17 million when there isn't a team in the league that will be willing to give him that kind of money. If he opts out, that would make this deal even zanier. But the possibility remains that he does, and that the Heat can go after Gilbert or Elton Brand or any other big name free agents this summer. Personally, I think Marion would be an ideal running mate for Dwyane Wade. He is a really good player. A lot of people don't notice that because he plays in Phoenix. But Steve Nash didn't create him. He was an all-star before Nash arrived. I like Marion's game. I think Phoenix is making a mistake.

But back to Gilbert, the Wizards can still offer more years and more money than any other team on the market. They want to wrap him up. I don't see him walking. But who knows?

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Saratoga, N.Y.: With some of the big-name trades either happening or in the works right now, do you see the Wizards making a move before the trade deadline? Perhaps for a point guard, either Jason Kidd or bringing Gary Payton out of retirement. The Wizards are near the bottom of the league in assists and could use some much-needed help.

Ivan Carter: The Wiz are pretty much locked in because they are right up against the luxury tax threshold and I don't see Abe Polling giving the clearance to go over unless it is for the kind of player who could make them a legit championship contender. Also, this team does not have very many tradeable pieces. Nobody is going to touch Etan's contract, Antawn is going to be a free agent next summer, Daniels is needed if this team wants to do anything and Blatche/Pesh/Young are the future.

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Washington, D.C.: Why aren't the Wizards trying to trade Jamison? After the season he is having, he'll want top dollar and we know that Abe is not willing to spend it. They need to get something for Jamison now, since this season they probably aren't going anywhere (other than a first-round playoff exit) anyway.

Ivan Carter: Why not get Gilbert back and let the Big 3 see what they can do. They were a couple of LeBron James travels away from doing something serious two seasons back and last season, we didn't see what they could do because of the injuries to Butler and Arenas. Besides, Jamison is going to be a free agent and is making $16 million. Who is going to make that move? Also, he wants to be here next year so the "top dollar" argument doesn't fly.

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Phoenix: I agree the Shaq trade was clearly a panic move and I've heard that Dallas was interested in him as well. This move is also partly to keep away from other Western Conference teams as well.

I still think they could have gone after another guy (Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter?) that was available AND more healthy to stay competitive.

Michael Lee: They are playing a $40 million game of keep away? That is ridiculous to me - especially when you have to give up a player the caliber of Marion. As someone who has watched Shaq closely over the years, I know he isn't worth max money anymore, he isn't all that motivated right now. If It would've been better for the Suns to push harder about getting Andrei Kirilenko if you want to get rid of Marion. But to make a deal to keep Shaq from other teams? Let them have him? Aren't the Heat 9-37? How much did Shaq help this season. Shaq cannot dominate anymore. If he had gone to Dallas, which is more of a halfcourt team, it may have worked better for them. But the Suns have to change some of who they are to make this work. I don't like it.

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Rockville, Md.: Do you think the Wiz should call the Suns to see what they can fleece out of them?

Michael Lee: Yeah, maybe they can get Leandro Barbosa and a future first-round pick for Dominic McGuire.

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Frederick, MD: Hideous loss for the Wiz last night. It was a perfect example of why the Wizards need Gilbert back. In the 4th, no one was willing to drive the lane to try to get a foul called. They settled for 3s with little time on the shot clock that only produced long rebounds that the Sixers turned into layups or dunks.

Come back soon Gilbert. I could see the losing streak going to 10 games given the opponents and the West Coast trip...especially if Caron is out for any length of time.

Ivan Carter: It could get very brutal and I predicted it was coming before the home win over Toronto. This is an exhausted team right now. Caron is hurt, Daniels is hurting and the young kids have been wildly inconsistent. This team needs it right now from Haywood, Blatche, Songaila, Mason and Young. It wouldn't hurt if Pecherov could bang home some threes either. The all-star break can't come quickly enough.

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Columbia, Md.: Wow, that was one heck of a collapse by the Wizards last night. I love Jamison, but a lot of games it seems like he can't carry them in the fourth, and we end up with Steven shooting bad threes and Daniels trying to make plays just a bit beyond him. Who did they miss more last night, Butler or Gil?

Ivan Carter: Both. Seriously. They needed Gilbert to break that pressure and they needed Caron to put his head down, get to the paint and draw some fouls to slow the game down. Remember, when you don't have those two, you don't have two guys who can consistently drive, draw fouls and make free throws.

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Alexandria, Va.: Isn't it funny Juan Carlos wanted to go to Memphis so badly instead of here, and now Grizzlies are in last and his buddy Pau is gone??

Michael Lee: I heard that Pau really felt bad about leaving his friend since he did so much behind the scenes work to get him to come to Memphis. The good thing for Navarro? He's a restricted free agent next summer and he can bounce. I'm sure Memphis wouldn't mind seeing him go since they have eighteen point guards on their roster.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Has any thought been given to sending Dominic Macguire to the NBDL for awhile? He was so impressive during the summer league but rarely gets any consistent minutes.

Ivan Carter: The problem is that with Caron banged up, Dominic is needed both for games and so Eddie can run a decent practice. This team is working with limited bodies to begin with because Abe doesn't want to touch the luxury tax.

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Bartlett, Ill.: What is the status of Caron Butler for tonight's game?

Ivan Carter: I would be shocked if he played. He was really limping last night and, as I said before, he wasn't right when he came back on Sunday either so we'll see.

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San Antonio: Um, a certain PG named Parker was named Finals MVP last year, and last time I checked, France was in Europe.

Michael Lee: Um, Tony Parker plays with a pretty good player. His name is, uh, help me out here, it slips the mind - Tim Duncan! C'mon San Antonio. You've watched the Spurs over the last 11 years, right? Did you forget the reason why that team is considered a dynasty? You don't think having Tim Duncan around helped out Parker in any way? That was my point, you have to pair a Euro with somebody who is lethal. Duncan is as lethal as they come.

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Chinatown, DC: What's wrong with Nick Young? His shot was so smooth early on and now we hold our breath every time he touches the ball.

Ivan Carter: In the last few games, he's had some bad luck: shots going in and out on him, fouls are being called on him etc. It's normal rookie stuff but this team is going to need him on this upcoming trip if Caron can't go.

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Washington, D.C.: Jamison is an expiring contract. There is a ton of value there. I'm sure there are some teams out there looking for an expiring contract in the $16 million range. It doesn't hurt to see what is there. Besides, when Arenas comes back, he will be a shadow of himself and really won't get back to form until next season.

Ivan Carter: That's one way of looking at it and believe me, Ernie Grunfeld has gauged the interest in all of his guys and I'm sure that some trade possibilities have graced his desk.

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Washington, D.C.: I keep hearing that the Suns expect Shaq to help them defensively and with rebounding, but doesn't the fact that they had to give up Marion (their best defender and rebounder) actually make them worse? And can you argue that with Amare and Shaq, the Suns are as bad defensively at the 4 and 5 as NYK with Randolph and Curry?

Michael Lee: Ha ha! I don't know about all this talk about Shaq helping them defensively. If I'm not mistaken, Pat Riley relied heavily on Alonzo Mourning because Shaq was such a liability on defense. Shaq picked up so many bad fouls because he couldn't move. I don't know if Shaq and Stoudemire are as bad as Randolph and Curry because at least Shaq and Stoudemire can rebound and block shots on occasion. Randolph can't block shots and Curry refuses to jump.

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Alexandria, Va.: Every time I watch Darius Songaila on the floor these days, he looks to be a step or two slower than he was, and he never was quick. Is the back still bothering him? He has that knee wrapped pretty good, is it that? Or is he just slowing down? It bothers me because I believe he has three more years on his contract after this year, and he may be untradeable if this continues.

Thanks for all you do. You guys are great!

Ivan Carter: Coming into the season, I expected Songaila to help this team a great deal more. He played pretty well last night (8 points on 3 of 4 shooting with 3 rebounds but he also had 3 turnovers and when the game got super fast, he looked more than two or three steps behind. He appears to be healthy and nobody has said a thing about injuries so I don't know what is going on.

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Bristow, Va.: WOW the Wiz looked awful against the full court press with AD on the bench. Why haven't more team done this against the Wiz considering our lack of a true back-up PG? Do you think we will see this more once teams see the tape?

Ivan Carter: Very few teams are equipped to press like that in this league. Philly is filled with young, super-athletic guys. How many teams have that kind of personnel? Most team press here and there but either start fouling or start giving up wide open threes, lay-ups etc.

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New York: The Pau Gasol trade still stupifies me- it may be the worst trade I can recall. Do you think Memphis had any incentives to help LA here, say a residual Jerry West influence of some kind?

Michael Lee: Yeah, people are joking that West has surpassed Kevin McHale (who gift-wrapped Kevin Garnett to his former team)for executive of the year. Jerry isn't the GM, but he had a say in the hiring of the coach and GM of the Grizzlies. But the Gasol trade stupifies you more than this Shaq-to-Phoenix deal? Memphis is cutting salary, period. They probably could've done better from a talent perspective than Javaris Crittenden and Kwame Brown, but if the goal is to save money and start over, it makes sense.

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Washington, D.C.: Phil Jackson said Kwame actually has game? I actually was one of the only ones holding out hope for Kwame Brown. Jackson mentioned injuries hurting his game. Granted injuries have their effect, but I think it is purely basketball I.Q. The guy was almost cat quick as a 6-10 rookie. He still looks just as lost (or disinterested) today as he did then. What do you think Kwame has left to offer the league other than being 6-10 260 pounds.?

Michael Lee: Well, he's actually 7-feet and 270 pounds. So there. The problem with Kwame is that he is hurt way too much, he still hasn't developed a consistent post move and looks rushed and hurried every time he touches the ball.

He needs to be in a system where he doesn't have to do much more than run the floor and rebound. His game is a power game. He's very physical and he can keep his man out of the paint. It might not make you worthy of the No. 1 overall selection, but NBA teams always need size.

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Washington D.C.: Hi Ivan and Michael - thanks for the chats. Why isn't Andray Blatche more consistent? You've quoted him as saying he spends more time getting ready when he knows he's starting - and sometimes that shows. But other nights, off the bench, you never know what to expect. And, speaking of the bench, why isn't Darius a much stronger force?

Ivan Carter: To me, it comes down to: inexperience, a lack of excellent conditioning and preparation. I asked Eddie Jordan the same question you asked before the game last night and here is what his diplomatic answer is (read between the lines with this one): "It's concentration level. His work ethic is improving and needs to improve some more. It's the focus of getting through life in the NBA and not just on the court. He's learning to take the game home with him, to work on his body as well as his game. He's still a little bit youthful in those departments."

Translation: He needs to figure out whether he wants to be a real impact NBA player or just have a real impact NBA lifestyle. There is a huge difference.

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D.C.: Can you recall any deal in league history that was much maligned based on face value that actually turned out to be a good move?

In other words, is there a chance this could work out well for Phoenix?

Michael Lee: You know what's funny? When the Suns signed Steve Nash, a number of people thought it was a terrible move because Nash was getting old and was expected to slow down after he turned 30. Mark Cuban had no problem letting him walk. I think after two MVPs, we can pretty much say it was a great move.

As for this Shaq deal, it could work. Amare might feel more comfortable back at his natural power forward position, Nash could get more fired up about playing again. Shaq could come back and spoil the Lakers in the playoffs.

But this feels more like the Bulls overpaying to get Ben Wallace, who was expected to lose his athleticism and energy as he got older. Yes, the Bulls won a playoff round for the first time since Michael Jordan, but look at them now. Look at him now.

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Washington, D.C.: What's our cap situation going to be like next year? If Gil gets max money, how much will be left to sign Jamison or another big-time player?

Ivan Carter: Assuming that Gilbert opts out and he has never said he won't, the Wiz will have around $41 million committed to contracts for next season. Gilbert, Jamison and Roger Mason will be free agents. Keep in mind that the luxury tax threshold for this season is $67.86 million and it will rise somewhat next season.

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Rochester, N.Y.: I happened to attend the Jazz-Hornets game in Salt Lake on Monday and was impressed by the way the Jazz completely shut down New Orleans (and especially CP3). Most striking was the play of Ashton Kutcher.

Can this Jazz team compete for the title in a crazy West?

Michael Lee: The great thing about this season - anything can happen out West. There is so much depth and talent, it may take 48-50 wins just to get in the playoffs. But the Jazz is incredibly deep. It has a low post presence in Carlos Boozer, a great young point guard in Deron Williams, shooters in Mehmet Okur and Ashton, um, Kyle Korver. I like that squad. The Jazz can definitely compete with any team in the West. It made it to the conference finals last year, and you have to assume that those guys got better because of the experience. But the West is wide open now. You can't just point to Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix and expect one of them to get to the Finals anymore.

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Memphis: Hey, we have 18 point guards AND Kwame Brown. At least we have that going for us.

Michael Lee: Happy times. Stay positive out in Memphis.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: What do you think about our bench compared to last season? Do you like what we've got in place with the rooks Young, McGuire, Pech & Blatche compared to last season with Ruffin, Hayes and Booth? Do you think those guys get buried when Arenas and Etan return?

Ivan Carter: Last season, the Wiz had one of the least productive benches in the league. Some of that was due to the fact that injuries to Butler, Jamison and Arenas made bench guys starters. Also, Songaila missed half the season. Still, the bench is better this season. Blatche is better. I would argue that Mason is an improvement over Jarvis Hayes. And Nick Young, though raw, has done some good things. The true test will come now as this team hits a brutal stretch starting with tonight's game against the Spurs and the four game roadie.

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DC: I demand to get an answer from the real experts: Obama or Clinton?

Ivan Carter: Obama baby

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Washington, D.C.: Who is the worst GM who used to be the guy that hit wide-open 3's off passes from Michael Jordan: John Paxson or Steve Kerr?

Michael Lee: The jury is still out. It's way to soon to judge Kerr, this is his first season at the helm. He's still learning. Paxson has worked wonders in making the Bulls relevant again in the post-Michael Jordan era. They've made the playoffs in each of the past three years. He changed the culture there and gave fans in Chicago something to excited about. However, in the past few years, he's made some major blunders - trading Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge, and failing to make a deal for Pau Gasol or even Kevin Garnett when he had the assets to do so. It's interesting, but too early to say.

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DC: I'm Steve Kerr. I have a 60 win team, so what do I do? I break it up! I sell my draft picks even though I'm adding $10 million in salary.

Michael Lee: Ouch. People are really upset with Kerr, huh?

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Arlington, Va.: Steve Kerr has lost it.

Michael Lee: We'll see. Right now, I won't argue with you.

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Lanham, Md.: Rebounding is the most underrated statistic in basketball. Agree or disagree?

Michael Lee: I don't know. I think people appreciate rebounders. Offense excites the masses, though. You can't rebound if you don't have missed shots. But if you can make shots - well.

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Michael Lee: Okay. That was fun. We'll be back next week. Maybe by then, the Mavericks will sign Patrick Ewing or the Rockets will add Hakeem Olajuwon to counter the Suns and Shaq. It should be fun from here until Feb. 21. Peace.

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