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Wednesday, March 12, 2 p.m. ET

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 12, 2008; 1:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, March 12 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Washington Wizards this season and what stories to follow from around the NBA.

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From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Tysons Corner, Va.: After Caron practiced Monday, he said he felt good, but that progress would depend on how he felt when he woke up the next day. After that, I never heard an update on how he felt, so how's the hip?

Ivan Carter: Actually, I wrote about it in today's paper. Ready the paper Tyson's! Just kidding. Anyway, he went through shootaround yesterday, practiced today and said that if he feels well tomorrow morning, he'll start against Cleveland tomorrow night. Today, Caron said he is feeling no symptoms and has been able to cut loose and go all out in practice the last couple of days. The only thing he's feeling is a little soreness in the groin that could be related to overcompensation. Other than that, he feels good and was in great spirits. Those are good signs.

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Fairfax, Va.: With Gilbert sitting out practice again due to a sore knee, how can he be expected to come back and play in the actual games with the playoffs just around the corner? I understand how badly he wants to play given his contract status, but realistically, do you think the team will shut him down for the season from his lack of progress?

Ivan Carter: Gilbert practiced today after sitting out of Monday's practice. That's normal for a guy cranking it up again after the slow rehab process. That's why neither the team nor Gilbert has set a firm timetable. It's all about how that knee feels. It's wide open right now.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: What's Pecherov's status as he was in a suit at last night's game against Milwaukee?

Ivan Carter: Pesh was on the court doing some shooting and said his left foot feels better. He told me that he will be available tomorrow night for the game against Cleveland.

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Fairfax, Va.: Ivan, You reported that Gilbert did not practice yesterday because his knee was sore... Is this a set back or will I realistically see Gilbert play on Saturday against the Clippers?

Question No. 2, are the Rockets for real? They are going for their 20th straight!!! Are they contenders in the Western Conference? Or are they one-and-done?

Ivan Carter: Barring some stunning development, you will not see Gilbert against the Clippers on Saturday. The Rockets are an amazing regular season story but it's hard to imagine them taking a series in that conference. In the East, they'd be legit. That said, I'm kind of pulling for McGrady to finally get out of the first round. He's too good a player to have that hanging over his head.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Do you think Ernie would be interested in drafting Sean Singletary from UVA in the upcoming draft? -- with Antonio Daniels in the last years of his contract -- the Wizards will have to start grooming someone to be Gilbert's backup and I think Sean is the perfect player to do so -- he is quick, can use either hand when driving to the basket, and has NBA 3 point range and has improved his defense this year -- his only knock is his size 5-11, but I think it would be fine for a backup PG.

Ivan Carter: It's going to be interesting to see where Singletary goes. He reminds a lot of Acie Law who went in the first round to the Hawks last summer. I can't say whether Ernie is interested but I'll ask him for a take on Singletary next time we chat. I know this: he's the kind of guy who could really help or hurt himself in the Orlando pre-draft camp or during individual workouts with teams. And I agree with you that the Wiz could use a backup PG but is Singletary a PG?

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Michael Lee: Alright, alright, alright. So much to talk about. Let's go. . .

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Baltimore: Hey Ivan, since you see them on a regular basis, what is your take on each of the Wizards three rookies?

Ivan Carter: As people, they are all characters. Really enjoyable to be around and deal with. As players, I think all three have come along about how I expected back in camp. Pesh had to overcome that early setback with the ankle injury but has shown the ability to make shots and rebound in spots. Nick, as we've seen in recent games, can flat out put the ball in the basket and he's super explosive. He's a little wild sometimes and tends to get into trouble when he tries to take on double teams but that's expected for a young guy. Dominic is super athletic, rugged and has shown a real nose for rebounding at both ends. I think he has the potential to be a real nasty defender in this league and when you can defend and rebound, you will find your way onto the court. That J needs some real work over the summer however. It will be a huge summer for all three guys and the good thing is that they'll be in Vegas for summer league playing together. Andray Blatche told me that he wants to play in summer league as well to work on his game. That's a good sign.

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Fairfax, Va.: The Rockets did something the Patriots couldn't do: win 19 straight. What they've done is very impressive but they don't have me convinced. Do you see them as a real threat in the playoffs without Yao? And is it finally time for T-Mac to get out of the first round?

Michael Lee: No, I do not see them as a real threat in the playoffs without Yao. They are rolling right now, because teams don't have a chance to prepare for what they're doing. They haven't adjusted to them yet, but they will. Teams will figure out how to slow down everyone else and let T-Mac run wild. Or they will find the holes. It usually happens in the playoffs when you have several days to prepare for someone. T-Mac will get out of the first round if they match up against a team like New Orleans. With or without Yao, they own the Hornets for some reason.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Haven't watched Philly much except from when they played us, so why are they winning all of a sudden?

Michael Lee: They are winning because they are running teams off the floor. That team is loaded with athletes (Andre Iguodala, Rodney Carney, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, Louis Williams) and they have the perfect maestro in Andre Miller. He is such an underrated point guard, but he has been the difference for them. He's proof that you can win with a quality point guard more than you can with a quality small forward or shooting guard.

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Fairfax, Va.: The injuries are just piling up for the Wiz with some of them having no choice but to play (Jamison, Stevenson, Daniels). Frankly, I'm shocked that this team is able to float around .500 with its current roster. Take the two best players off of any team, and its lottery time. EJ and the vets deserve a ton of credit. We all should ease up until Gil and Caron come back.

Ivan Carter: That's why I'm a little shocked at some of the rip jobs thrown Jordan's way on my blog. I mean, the guy has this team playing .500 ball without two all-stars and with a rotation that includes three rookies and a third-year guy (Blatche) who is younger than all three rookies.

Plus, with the injuries, and his owner's insistence on avoiding the luxury tax, Eddie's had to run practices with seven or eight healthy bodies for a large portion of the season.

There was a recent practice when radio man Glen Consor, a former college hooper, was brought in as a live body. I mean, this is the NBA right? Call me a homer if you want but I think Jordan and his staff have done an excellent job and they've had none of the knuckleheaded stuff that has gone on in Miami (Smush Parker), Chicago (Ben Wallace quitting, Duhon going AWOL, guys laughing on the bench late in a blowout) or Atlanta (Josh Smith cussing out his head coach during a game).

That's just my take.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hey, Mike, question for you.

I was thinking about how Nick Young is finally starting to show signs of genyoowine NBA competence, and what a steal he might turn out to be. So naturally I started thinking where he might actually fit if the draft was redone today. Do you have any idea of how this year's draft might have been different, knowing what we know now? Any obvious busts? Any pleasant surprises?

Michael Lee: It's way too early to think about who's a bust or not. I think the draft has worked out pretty well for the teams. Oden got hurt, but Kevin Durant is the best rookie, Al Horford is second best. Players like Al Thornton have been really good. I'm not sure if Minnesota would've taken Corey Brewer with the fifth pick if they had to do it over again, but you can't give up on him yet. Michael Conley's been hurt, but could pan out in Memphis before it's said and done. Thaddeus Young is having a great second half of the year for Philly. I don't know who Nick Young would jump at this point. Most of the guys taken ahead of him have had better seasons.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Ivan, how far is Gilbert from being in game shape? Has he gotten any of his explosiveness back yet? Your blog is great -- it's the first thing I read every day.

Ivan Carter: It's hard for me to really give you a solid feel for where Gilbert is because we see so little of practice. He's practiced three times now (including today). Now, when I saw him playing games of one-on-one before games or at the end of some practices in recent weeks, he didn't look like a guy ready for game action to me. I never saw him explode off of that left leg or even jump off of it. I saw a guy shooting a lot of jumpers and otherwise playing around a bad leg. Until I see more, it's hard to imagine that we are going to see the old Gil this season.

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San Diego: Carter/Lee,

A bit off topic, but how good is Michael Beasley? It says here that he's the best player to be entering the NBA since LeBron. Will Gary Williams ever be able to land one of the elite players that seem to grow in PG County, his home court?

Michael Lee: Michael Beasley is fabulous. That kid can flat out ball. He'll be the No. 1 pick - unless some team really, really needs Derrick Rose at point. If you haven't seen him play yet, check him out in the Big 12 Tournament. Watch him while you can because he'll be in the League next season.

I have no idea what's going on with Maryland. I have never dealt with the local college teams. I don't know who's in charge of recruiting there, but the Maryland-D.C. area has produced some great players over the past few years - Durant, Jeff Green, Rudy Gay, Carmelo, Beasley. I'm sure Terp fans would've been happy to land just one of them.

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Washington, D.C.: Why does it seem that Eddie Jordan is not getting recognized for what he has been able to do with this team this year given the injuries and an owner who does not want to bring in more players in order to not exceed the salary cap? I think he's done an excellent job working with rookies and players who probably wouldn't be starting on sixty percent of the other teams in this league. There have even been mumblings that his job is on the line if they don't get past the first round of the playoffs. Is the relationship between he and Ernie Grunfeld strained?

Ivan Carter: Some love for Eddie. The Eddie/Ernie relationship is a very interesting dynamic. Ernie didn't hire Eddie and there is no question that they've had differences (which is not uncommon between a GM and a coach in even ideal situations by the way). Where it goes from here is anyone's guess.

No matter how you slice it, Eddie and his staff have done a good job this season so if Ernie makes a change, it will be hard for him to blame performance.

Eddie is also still under contract and has enjoyed the support of owner Abe Pollin (who has handcuffed Ernie and Eddie with his policy of not wanting to touch the luxury tax, ironically).

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Mumbai, India: ESPN had an article a few days ago listing the top ten "What ifs". They never listed the Kwame Brown (or 1st overall pick) for Elton Brand trade. What would the "what if" be if that had happened?

Michael Lee: I really don't know. The problem with what-ifs is you never know what would've happened afterward. Ernie Grunfeld might not have come here. He wouldn't have been able to get Gilbert, possibly, with that cap space. Antawn and Caron would've been elsewhere. That's just too much to think about.

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Rockville, Md.: What you do you hear about Jamison's injury? You take away Gil and the team treads water. You take away Gil and Butler and the team stays afloat. But you take away Gil, Butler and Jamison and the fans better start looking towards the Nats opener.

Ivan Carter: Antawn did not practice today but that's not all that unusual because he's sat out a few practices since the back really started bothering him early last week. Jordan called him "probable" for tomorrow's game against Cleveland and that usually means that he'll play. It's monitoring however. As you said, this team can't afford to lose him just as it's trying to blend Caron back in. If he has to miss a couple of games, so be it. Blatche has played pretty well as a starter and Songaila has done some good things of late as well.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: This is probably way to early to know, but do you think that Shawn Marion will be back in Miami next year? If not, who will be some of his suitors?

Michael Lee: It looks like Miami is trying to force him out by shutting down Dwyane Wade, huh? They stunk with Wade. Without him? That might drive a grown man insane. If Marion hits the open market, I don't know where he would land because so few teams will have money. Would he go to Memphis? Maybe, if he was willing to leave Phoenix for Miami and the Grizzlies have a number of connections with the Suns - including coach Iavaroni. It'll be interesting, but I can't imagine that he'd walk from $17 million.

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Rockville, Md.: Any signs yet that bringing in Shaq is a good idea? Do you think the Suns are adjusting well and will continue to get better come playoff time or is it likely to remain 4 on 5.

Thanks

Michael Lee: The only way the Shaq trade can be judged fairly is in the playoffs. Right now, it doesn't look like a good move, but it doesn't matter what anyone thinks until then. If the Suns get to the finals, it was a great deal. And trust me, anything less than the finals and this was a terrible move. If they don't - better yet, if they don't even make the playoffs - then we know the answer. It could really go either way right now.

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Rockville, Md.: Fellas,

Nick was sick last night! That dunk caused me to shout "WHOA," at the television so loud that I woke up my 3 month old son who was sleeping in my arms. My wife was not happy with me, but I couldn't help it.

Do you see him consistently doing this, or was this an aberration that came at a good time with all these injuries?

Ivan Carter: Caron Butler as asked about Nick's dunk over Bogut today and his answer was revealing (Remember that Nick picked up a technical foul for getting a little too excited and jumping in Bogut's face - he got an elbow to the mouth for the trouble).

Caron: "I think that three years from now, you'll see him do that and he'll just run back down the court because he's going to be that type of player. He's going to be a guy who can go out and get you 20 points a night because he just knows how to score. I mean it's effortless. He knows how to score. He's got a knack for scoring. He did it at USC and now it's translating to the NBA."

The kid has sick talent but he's young and raw and is just learning how to channel it. The good news is that he's a good kid. I don't sense any knuckleheadedness. He's coachable and he appears to want it. It will be fun to watch him grow as a person and a player.

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Warwick, N.Y.: Gentlemen: A pleasure.

Despite following the Wizards daily through your reporting and NBA League Pass, I haven't heard much, if anything, regarding owner Abe Pollin. Is he well? Does he regularly attend practices and games? Is he in frequent contact with Ernie Grunfeld?

If so, what's the owner's take on the team this season and the job the staff is doing?

Thank you.

Ivan Carter: Abe has kept a very low profile the last couple of seasons. I've seen him in his box at a few games here and there but I haven't seen him at practice all season. I'll do some asking around about it and provide an update on the blog. Good idea.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Do you get the sense Kohl is going to end the Harris regime in Milwaukee and blow up that squad this summer?

Michael Lee: Yes. It seems like it. And after talking to a few of their players yesterday, it sounds like they are prepared for something crazy to happen this summer. Larry Harris has been on the job about five seasons, the Bucks have been to the playoffs twice, but they have yet to win more than 42 games. They are going backward now. It doesn't look good and the fine people of Milwaukee surely expect a little more by now.

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Washington, D.C.; : I find it hard to believe that Gil, months after having surgery and having been cleared by his doctors to play, is still feeling "soreness" in his knee. I understand playing it cautious, and I also understand the financial benefit of not being injured when he opts out of his contract at the end of the season. I smell a hold-out until his contract expires, don't you?

Ivan Carter: Wait a minute: You find it hard to believe that after undergoing two surgeries on the same knee, a guy is feeling some soreness? Really? Have you ever injured a knee? Is that serious?

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Chicago: Is Paxson going to blow up the Bulls this summer? It seems like the coach has lost many of the players.

Michael Lee: The coach is there on an interim basis -- and that's the problem. It really doesn't matter what the players think of him right now, most of them are under the assumption that a new guy is coming in the summer anyway.

I don't know how Paxson blows it up. He had opportunities to blow it up and get Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol and he held his cards way too long. It's come back to burn him.

Right now, you have to assume that Ben Gordon will be in another uniform next season. And thanks to his awful season, Luol Deng can be had for less money this summer.

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Arlington, Va.: Just have to give a huge, huge shoutout to Antawn for what he's done this year. If there is a more under-appreciated star in the NBA, I can't name him. The minutes, consistency and effort he shows every single game is amazing, and he's the oldest player on the team (although 31 is not old, at least I tell myself that).

I know the team is under the radar without big stars and a gaudy record, but man, that guy deserves way more recognition and accolades than he gets.

Michael Lee: I agree that Jamison might not get much recognition nationally, but what more accolades does he need than being the highest paid player on the team and a two-time all-star? He gets the respect he needs from the people that matter most -- the Wizards front office and his teammates.

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NW, DC: Mike - I for one thought the Rockets played a style to adapt to having Yao. I'll admit I have not seen a full game since the streak started, but just looking at their overall talent, they have decent athletes beyond just dumping it in to the post. I know everyone will say you got to go with a 7-6 big man, but I think they are a more dangerous team without playing a style to accommodate Yao. How do you view the Rockets without Yao (short/long term), better or worse? Or is this just a team catching folks off guard cause they expect the plodding Yao based rockets.

Michael Lee: I think the Rockets are definitely catching teams off guard right now. I'm not trying to diminish what they are doing - 19 in a row is incredible, no matter if you're playing pickup ball in the park. I just think that they are playing with a chip on their shoulders, people have counted them out and they are hungry. The only thing that makes them more dangerous without Yao is that you never know where the offense is coming from. Eventually teams will figure it out. With Atlanta tonight and Charlotte on Friday, they could extend this thing to 21. But the Rockets have a tough schedule after that with the Lakers, Celtics, Hornets, Warriors and Suns. If the Rockets win those five, and push this thing to 26, then I take back everything I said. This team will win the championship and they'll need to get rid of Yao. But I'm joking because that isn't going to happen.

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Luray, Va.: Something that's been bothering me lately. I notice that Brendan Haywood's minutes seem to be decreasing. His production does not seem to be down - on the contrary, he seems to be energized and ready to play every night (which you couldn't say about Brendan last year). He's in good condition, and seems to be healthy.

In the last 5 games, he's only averaging 24 minutes per game. I might understand only playing 21 minutes against Toronto when Bargnani was playing Center for the 2nd half (Haywood does not match up well against Bargnani). But last night is a perfect example. He only played 24 minutes.

Haywood was not in the game in the 3rd quarter and part of the 4th when Milwaukee closed the gap. There was a procession of Bucks going to the hoop against Jamison and Songaila. At some points, Eddie was playing 3 guards (Daniels, Young and Stevenson). Bogut had a big 4th quarter until Haywood came back in; and promptly got like 2-3 blocks and a few altered shots, and the Bucks lay-up parade stopped.

Seems like Haywood should be playing 30-35 minutes a game, given the production and efficiency he's provided this year. Mike Lee's nice article about Bogut says he should be in line to be an East All Star behind Dwight Howard. I contend, that with 35 minutes a game, Haywood would be the one considered the second best Center in the East.

Is there a reason Eddie Jordan is limiting Haywood's minutes? Is there an unreported injury? Is there still tension between the two?

Ivan Carter: I see your point about Haywood's minutes last night but, it wasn't as clear-cut as you make it sound. Songaila opened the fourth at center with Blatche, Young, Mason and Stevenson. The Wiz led 79-77. Songaila promptly got a steal that led to a Blatche dunk.

When Brendan checked back in for Songaila at the 2:57 mark, the Wizards had just capped a 12-2 run with a Roger Mason Jr. three-pointer to take a 98-90 lead.

Songaila, playing at center, was a big part of that push with a lay up, a free throw, assists on baskets to Jamison and Mason and two rebounds.

When he came in, Brendan helped ice the win with a block on Villanueva and some nice activity. I do agree with you that not having Haywood or Blatche in there for that stretch of the third contributed to the lay up fest but, that was also a product of the guards not containing Redd off the dribble.

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Richmond, Va.: Hey Mike I liked your blog post on D-Wade and the Heat but my question is even if they win the lottery how can they be much better next year they will have no cap room this summer and outside of Haslem I cannot see anyone wanting anybody on the roster....

Michael Lee: That roster is WHOORRRible. But I will give Riley some credit for assembling teams quickly. If they can get somebody like Beasley in the draft, they can be pretty good with a healthy Wade and Marion. Riley is creative. He's managed to get rid of players/contracts nobody thought he could (Antawn Walker, Eddie Jones, Brian Grant and Shaquille O'Neal). He's going to have to top himself with this rebuilding process. He doesn't have much to work with - and Wade doesn't have many more years to waste, since he could be a free agent in 2010.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi guys,

Where did Antonio Daniels and Darius Songaila come from last night? I swear they looked about 10-years younger. Each!

Have they discovered a new workout or something? Is it just that the Bucks were so slow on defense that it made them look fast? But I can't remember seeing Daniels dunk in, like, months. If not years.

Ivan Carter: Daniels said he was feeling pretty fresh last night after the two days between Saturday's game against Charlotte and last night's game. Songaila has played pretty well since he became a starter.

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Kensington, Md.: Hi guys,

Michael, which East teams might give the Wizards match-up problems in the playoffs? What are these problems? What East teams will have match-up problems with the Wizards? What are these problems? Thanks.

Michael Lee: Which teams give the Wizards matchup problems. Cleveland and Detroit, primarily. The Wizards haven't been able to solve LeBron the past two, three seasons. Detroit just has an edge over them in experience, savvy and confidence.

The Wizards have given Boston problems in the past because Caron makes Paul Pierce work on both ends of the floor, Antawn forces whoever's guarding him (Posey or KG or Kendrick Perkins) to step out on the perimeter, which hurts their rebounding. DeShawn defends Ray Allen well. I'm not sure how that will play out in the postseason, but the Wizards have done a great job against the Celtics this year.

Orlando is a mystery. They are young and inexperienced. I think the Wizards could beat them in a seven-game series, but they would have to find some way to stop Dwight Howard. And right now, they haven't been able to figure that out.

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Alexandria, Va.: Ivan,

Keep up the great work! God bless you.

My question is a bit subjective. But give me your take on the Wizards "locker room" atmosphere? It really seems like this team has a great group of guys. I see that teams like Chicago, Miami, etc have a bunch of young guys who are very arrogant, not mention unprofessional and flat jerks. But it seems Ernie and Eddie have really put together a nice mix of genuinely good guys. Some great veterans in Twan, Antonio and some talented yet respectful youngsters in Young, Blatche, Petche, etc. Maybe that's why they are in no rush to give up on this group. because chemistry is such a fickle thing and these guys seem to have it. your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: It's a very enjoyable locker room to deal with. A good mix of old pros like Jamison, Butler, Songaila, Stevenson, Daniels and Haywood (who is really a funny guy) and lively young guys like Young, Blatche, McGuire and Pecherov (a really good kid. Great personality.) Gilbert is Gilbert which is always interesting but always high maintenance. Etan Thomas hasn't been around much this season and is more of the quiet type anyway. As you point out, it's a good group that hasn't caused some of the problems you read about around the league.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: You guys like the trade of Larry Hughes to Chicago? Does he benefit from being out from under LeBron?

Michael Lee: It's good that Larry got out of Cleveland. Chicago may not have been the best spot because that team is dealing with so many other problems (bickering between players and coaches, players looking for contracts, etc.). It's a toxic mix that could work out for Larry if Paxson can clean up the mess this summer with either the right coach, the right trade or the right free agent signing.

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Michael Lee: Okay, folks. Gotta go. I'll talk to you later. Peace.

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Arlington, Va.: Predictions on the Wizards' record for the remaining games?

Ivan Carter: My best guess is that going 10-9 wraps up the sixth-seed. Anything less than that and things get iffy depending on how Philly is able to overcome a pretty rough schedule. Before the month is out, Philly has Detroit (tonight), San Antonio, Denver, Orlando, Boston, Cleveland and Phoenix.

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Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping in Wiz fans. See you next week.

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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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