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Wednesday, March 19, 2 p.m. ET

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Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, March 19 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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Ivan Carter: Hello from sunny Orlando where the Wizards and Magic will meet tonight in a possible playoff preview. Let's get to it......

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Nokesville, Va.: Does it bother anyone that Gilbert is more worried about money than his team making a run in the playoffs?

Someone needs to remind him hes making almost 12 MILLION dollars this year. If Gil had half the heart Caron does he would have been back by now

Ivan Carter: A ton of questions about Gilbert today and this summarizes how some folks feel. I don't think it's accurate to say that Gilbert cares more about money than the team making a run this year.

After two surgeries in an 8-month span, he's concerned about whether his knee is going to allow him to play like he knows he can and he's concerned about going out and getting hurt again.

Given the fact that the same doctors who are now treating him "cleared" him to play in the fall after his first surgery, that's understandable. Then, he's weighing the issue of what is going to happen this summer and he's got a lot of people in his ear pulling him in different directions. It's a complicated situation all the way around.

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Michael Lee: I won't be able to chat long today. I'm heading up to Philadelphia to watch the return of Iverson. But I'll take a few questions before I hit the road. Let's go. . .

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

Despite Gilbert Arenas' best intentions, do you agree with me that unless Gil's knee is virtually 100 percent healed, he should just sit out the rest of the season and get fully ready for next season? (Hopefully after re-signing with the Wizards!)

Ivan Carter: Here is another view on the Arenas situation. And it raises an a good point: right now, as I write this, the knee is healing but it is not 100 percent and that is obviously an issue with Arenas given the fact that he went out there under similar circumstances earlier this season and re-injured himself. The thing to keep in mind in all of this is that the doctors have not yet cleared him to play.

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Washington, D.C.: Why doesn't Gilbert just pick up his player option and play out the year? There's a reason why players have options, if you stink it up, you can still pick your option up. Look at Brand, won't play at all this year, will most likely pick up his $17 million option. Why does Gilbert have to make this difficult? I understand he wants to get paid, but he's 25 years old. He has 2 max contract years in him, at least.

Ivan Carter: Good point. I asked him that very question on Sunday and he told me that he's not even considering playing out his contract (through next season). He wants to sign the long-term max deal this summer. The question is whether Abe Pollin and Ernie Grunfeld are willing to offer that much to a guy who has played eight games since the end of last season. What is his value if he comes back and isn't his normal self verses if he doesn't come back at all?

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Dupont Circle again: I hope you guys are all ears, tracking rumors on possible curfew breakers.

Dish. You know these guys. Hypotehetically, who'd be most likely to break curfew? Haywood? Blatche?

Ivan Carter: I'd put your entire next paycheck on Blatche and Stevenson.

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Houston Rockets : Shouldn't the Rockets ask Aretha Franklin permission to adopt R-E-S-P-E-C-T as their theme song?

With the travel NBA teams have to endure, an off-night would be expected after winning 22 in a row.

While you could argue the Rockets were lucky facing the Mavericks without Novitski and others, could anyone argue the Rockets are better without Yao Ming?

I know I'm in the minority but I think the Rockets could still make noise in May. This winning streak has to instill some confidence.

With one superstar in McGrady, haven't the Rockets learned how to play as a team? And, despite the focus on NBA stars, basketball is still a team game.

Michael Lee: Basketball is still a team game, yes. But it has been proven time and time again that stars get it done. There is a reason why Detroit is the only team to crack the "superstar model" and win a championship in the past 28, 29 years.

That being said, what the Rockets did was phenomenal, the most impressive streak since the 1972 Lakers. This isn't a way to discredit them by any means, but I think will history will show that this Rockets team simply got hot. It was a magical run, but there was no way it was going to last.

They still have prove it now, because there is no let up in the West. Think about it, they won 22 in a row and still haven't clinched a playoff spot. Portland won 17 of 18 earlier this season -- and is going to miss the playoffs. The Rockets won't get what Aretha asked for until they when in April and May. The streak was awesome. I won't take anything away from that, but I haven't seen anything to make me think they will. And no, they are NOT better without Yao.

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Mt St Joseph High School, Baltimore Maryland: All the talk of the teams in the West grows tiresome. The two best teams in the NBA are clearly in the East. Why no love for the Pistons?

Michael Lee: The Pistons have been doing the same old thing for a long time. We always gravitate to what's new and hot. The Pistons are not. I agree that the two best teams are in the East, and there is a good chance that Boston or Detroit wins the title after the teams in the West finish clubbing each other, but the West is incredible. It is crazy that the Nuggets are 13 games over .500 and could miss the playoffs -- but they'd have homecourt advantage if they were in the East. I really wish that team was in the East -- or at least its players. Can you imagine how much fun the playoffs would be?

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Bonifay, Fla.: With 4 sets of back to backs in the next 4 weeks, any reasonable warm body might be welcome either to rest a starter or fill in for an injury. That said, how much can Etan or a PASSIVE Gil actually contribute if activated? Perhaps Gil might get going in the second round of the playoffs, but the Wiz don't have a much more realistic chance of getting there than the Heat.

Sign and trade question -- Gil and Etan for Odom (one more year on contract) and Bynum -- toss in extras on either side?

Ivan Carter: The thing about the Arenas situation is so up in the air, I can't even venture an educated guess about how effective he can be. I need to see him in a full-court, full-speed situation before I can intelligently answer that question. At best, you would think that he'd be no further along than he was at the start of the season when he averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 assists on 39 percent shooting. His last three games were his best three games and that was the real shame in the re-injury. I thought the real Gilbert Arenas was starting to emerge.

As for Etan, he's not even practicing with contact right now after experiencing a setback a couple of weeks ago. It's getting hard to imagine him playing at all but we'll see. They haven't ruled it out. As for your trade scenario, I don't see the Lakers parting with Bynum even though he is coming off a knee injury. Big men are way too valuable.

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McLean, Va.: Hi,

I was just thinking about that "overrated" comment by Deshawn regarding Lebron and had a question for you.

Obviously, BronBron is one of the best players in the league but I was wondering what players think of him personally. We know Kobe is considered an egomaniac by the players but does Lebron also fall in this category.

Just from my own personal observations, Lebron is very talented player but I just don't like him. He seems to carry that enormous ego the way Kobe does, very unappealing.

Michael Lee: I just want to make it clear, 99.9 percent of the players in the league have some sort of ego, otherwise they wouldn't be in the league.

That being said, there are a lot of guys in the NBA that don't like each other, even if they hug and kiss each other before games. Yes, there are some players who don't like LeBron and yes, there are some players who are jealous of Kobe and D-Wade. It's like that in every industry.

It's a bit more magnified in the NBA because there is SO MUCH money at stake, in terms of endorsements and contracts. If players said what they really felt about each other all the time, they might never be able to play the games.

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DC: Why is it that the Wizards constantly play to the level of their opponents? They would have roughly 40 wins right now. A couple of losses to Milwaukee, a couple of losses to Philadelphia, a couple of losses to Atlanta. It adds up.

Ivan Carter: DC, teams that are missing two all-stars (Butler just got back) and rely heavily on rookies and/or developing players like Andray Blatche, generally don't even get to .500.

To me, up and down play and the periodic loss to a bad team is to be expected. They are what they are. Take Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen off of the Celtics and you have, wait for it, last year's Celtics, who were in the lottery.

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Rockville, Md.: How is the injury status for the other guys not named Gilbert. Is Caron good to go the rest of the season or is the hip thing going to be a concern the rest of the way? How about Jamison, he was playing through a sore back. I understand that at this point no one is going to be 100 percent, but is there any chance these two miss any games down the stretch?

Ivan Carter: Caron's hip seems to be fine. The issue with him is his left wrist which has a chipped bone in it. He's been wearing some padding on it but it has been affecting his ability to handle the ball with his left hand. Jamison's back appears to be feeling much better though that could be tested with the flurry of games coming up. Antonio Daniels has a bad left wrist as well but says he can play with it.

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Naptown, Md.: Hi guys,

Sam Smith said on the radio this morning that the Wiz should do a sign and trade Gilbert for Elton Brand. Man, this stuff is just depressing.

He added that Gilbert is not a good team player, and that the Wiz have plenty of perimeter players. Gil doesn't give up the rock and doesn't play defense.

Sigh. I want Gilbert to play and get healthy.

Michael Lee: I like Elton Brand, but I don't know how that deal really helps Washington. Both players are coming back from serious injuries, command big paper (money) and carry a similar risk. The thing is, we really won't know how much this time away has had any affect on Gilbert and his playing style until he hits the floor again. The man has to deal with a number of issues - both physical and mental, with the mental probably most important. We just have to see him play.

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Dupont Circle: Hi guys! Wow, Roger Mason was -amazing- during that last game in the second quarter. 12 points -- often getting to the paint through, let's face it, a surprisingly good Hawks defense.

Why not leave him in for the third quarter? Coach Eddie, whom I revere, only put him in for the last 2 minutes of the third quarter.

Why not leave Roger in? Please renew my faith in the bestest coach in the NBA and answer this question, which I shouted from my cheap seat through most of the third quarter (the scariest quarter for us Wizards fans).

Ivan Carter: I was asking the same thing after Roger got off to such a good start. Eddie decided to go with Stevenson and Daniels as his backcourt combo in the second and my best guess is that he wanted Stevenson (who scored eight points in the period) to defend Joe Johnson.

In the big picture, Jordan has been juggling how to best use the steady Mason and the streaky Nick Young. He appears to basically go by whatever feeling he has on a given night. The other night, Roger got it going early and wound up playing 27 minutes. Nick played just over 13. In the game against the Clippers, they essentially split minutes and both finished with 10 points. It's sort of a toss up.

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Stevensville, Md.: Looked in my sports page this morning and saw ex-Wizard Michael Ruffin with 14 points and 16 rebounds with the Bucks. Isn't serious playing time what makes a good pro? Roger Mason played well when given playing time while J.J. Redick sits the bench on a Magic team with mediocre guards. Thus, Mason is the more valuable than Redick as a NBA player right now.

Michael Lee: I'm glad to see that Ruffin got some run, but he was playing the Miami Heat. Who plays for Miami anymore?

It takes more than playing time to be a pro, although most player agents will say different. Most of the time, there is a reason that a player isn't getting playing time - that has nothing to do with what a coach thinks about him. Think about what you just wrote: "J.J. Redick sits on the bench on a Magic team with mediocre guards." That says it all to me.

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1900 L St: Ivan, in a recent blog post you said Arenas wasn't going anywhere, that the Wizards could offer the most money and the other teams with cap space sucked to begin with.

My question then is whats your best guess on how this plays out? Does he get max money from the Wizards and thats it? Or does Arenas have to settle for less thanks to the knee injuries.

Ivan Carter: My best guess is that Arenas is back here with a new contract next season but I have no idea whether Abe Pollin and Ernie Grunfeld are going to cough up the max. The market is thin but few teams have money and Arenas is coming off of two knee injuries. The big question is this: if less than the max is offered, how will Gilbert react? My gut tells me: not well. He has a number in his head and he feels he's worth that number. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Philly: With the playoffs right around the corner I can understand Gil's desire to get back on the court. Teams bust their butts all year just to get into the playoffs where literally anything can happen, especially in the East. In fact, I'm not sure Arenas has it in him to sit this one out (unless absolutely necessary, and i'm certainly not knocking the guy here!).

Is there any reason why Arenas can't ease his way back in? Maybe playing 15-20 mins a game initially and then increasing playing time bit by bit? Such a cautionary approach so far has seemed completely foreign to the Wizards organization, but does it really need to be all or nothing? A Daniels/Arenas (or reverse that) rotation might not be a bad one to exploit. I bet both could benefit from more moderate playing time at this point in the season.

Ivan Carter: That would be a very logical approach and when Arenas returns (if he returns) that is how I see him being used. He's already stated that he's comfortable with the idea of coming off the bench at first and, he knows that he's not going to come out and be the old Gilbert right away.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Will there be an Andray Blatche sighting tonight - meaning will he actually play more than 10 minutes?

Ivan Carter: NBA coaches are funny. When a talented guy comes out, plays with energy and rebounds and plays defense, they tend to play a lot of minutes.

When they don't do that and they aren't a particularly great outside shooter or provide a great post presence, they tend to be asked to sit on the bench next to their coach.

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Dumfries, Va.: Who is your MVP right now and why?

Michael Lee: Oh my gosh. This is so hard. I move back and forth with this every week. One week it's Kevin Garnett, next it's Kobe, then it's LeBron, lately I've been leaning toward Chris Paul. It really is way to close to call right now - I know that's weak, but this race is so fluid. I really want to see what Kobe can do without Gasol and Bynum. This will do a lot for his case if he can find a way to get some victories without him because Paul and LeBron have inferior supporting casts than Kobe when his team is at full strength. Now, that he's back from his abdominal injury and leading the Cs to victories over the Spurs and Rockets, Garnett is right back in the mix. Too tough.

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Michael Lee: I'm sorry guys. I really have to run. Otherwise, I'm going to be really, really late. I'll be back next week. I'll even stick around longer. Peace.

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Minneapolis: With all this drama surrounding Gilbert Arenas, which he seems to attract and enjoy, why has nobody called him on his past comments of not wanting to hamper a franchise (Wiz) by demanding a max contract? I guess we should just never believe anything the guy says?

Ivan Carter: According to Gilbert, the injury changed that stance quickly. That and fatherhood.

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Washington, D.C.: So, how bad is it to have a chip in a bone in your wrist? Is that something where the bone heals and replaces itself, or does it just kind of "heal over" and stop hurting so much after a while? Any idea what the time-frame is for healing? And is healing time affected by whether you're out there playing basketball rather than resting it?

Thanks!

Ivan Carter: I'll have to get more detail but Caron described it as a "floating" bone or bones. He did say that surgery was not required and that with some protection, he can keep playing.

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Washington, D.C.: The Wiz are just four games behind Cleveland for 4th place in the East. Any chance they catch them, could be interesting with them at 4th and Cleveland at 5th with Washington holding the home court

Ivan Carter: With this upcoming stretch and the uncertain status of Arenas, I don't see that happening. The Wiz would do very well to stay in sixth or move up to fifth. But just in case: what is the weather like in Detroit this time of year?

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Baltimore: Is Gilbert obsessed with his contract? Thats all he talks about. God, it's like he doesn't even care about basketball anymore, it's max, this max that. Jeez, Antawn barely even talks about his situation....can't he just concentrate on getting better?

Ivan Carter: You do bring up a good point about Jamison and it's one of the reasons why the guy is so interesting. He hasn't missed a game all year, puts up at least 20 and 10 just about every night and never makes noise about the fact the he is going to be a free agent this summer. He has really raised his value and that's something Ernie Grunfeld has to ponder as he decides what to do about Arenas. Antawn will never say because it's not his style but I'd love to know what he really thinks about all of this.

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DC: Speaking of not getting along, how are TMac and Bobby Jackson getting along on the same team? I recall a while ago, they got into it on teh court when TMac threw a ball off his head, but that was when they were on separate teams.

Which two players hate each other the most in the NBA?

Ivan Carter: How about Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas? That's a joke. Kind of. But seriously, how much can you really hate someone when you make millions to play basketball? Besides, all of these guys know that they could wind up as teammates each summer anyway.

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Baltimore: Guys, I love the effort Brendan Haywood is putting forth this year. Having said that, I believe he'd be an even larger force if he could just handle tough passes a little better. It seems like he has the hardest hands in the league. I know Hopla has put in a lot of time with him on shooting but do they run any drills in practice that could help BTH hold on to the ball a little better? How about strapping a weighted ball to his hands for a week straight?

Ivan Carter: I played wide receiver in college and spent many an afternoon catching footballs off of a "jugs" machine. I've always wondered why basketball players don't use such a device to train their hands and eyes. It's really not that difficult.

And the great thing about a football is that you can train your eyes to concentrate on the tip where the four points come together. I used to write the numbers 1-4 on each of the four points and shout out the last number I saw when the ball hit my hands. The drill forced me to watch the ball all the way in. The concept is the same in basketball right?

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Baltimore: Ivan,

Let's assume the team stays intact this summer and Gilbert re-signs. Put yourself in Grunfeld's shoes for a day. What do you do to improve this team for next season?

Ivan Carter: That is a great question and if Jamison and Arenas are brought back, Ernie is going to have very little wiggle room. He'd love to move Etan's contract but found no takers last summer and it's hard to imagine that changing now. And unless Abe Pollin suddenly gets generous and gives Ernie the clearance to go over the luxury tax, it's going to be difficult to make a major addition. The easiest path to improvement will be the development of Nick Young, Andray Blatche, Oleksiy Pecherov and Dominic McGuire and from Arenas getting fully healthy.

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Anonymous: Hi all-- can you let me know what Brendan's contract looks like? How much longer do the Wiz have his services?

Ivan Carter: Haywood is on the hook for $5.5 million next season and $6.0 million the following season.

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DC: What is Deshawn's response to Lebron calling him Soulja Boy, thus implying that he's way beneath him.

Ivan Carter: Haven't had a chance to ask him yet. I'll do so tonight.

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DC: Buzzerbeater. All of a sudden Eddie has imposed a curfew on the team. Blatche has lost his starting job and has had his minutes cut. Are these things related?

Ivan Carter: That's hard to say. The curfew thing came out of nowhere to me. As far as I know, he's never done it before and he made a point of talking about it in his post-game presser. I know the Wiz have some guys who like to get out and about (like their beat reporter) but as far I know, it's not out of control or anything. Maybe Eddie was just looking for a little something different to tweak this team.

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Baltimore: Gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to do this chat!

Last week, I think it was against the Bucks, AD and NY went strong to the hole many times. Was this a gameplan, or did these guys take it upon themselves to go to the rack hard. If the latter, Ivan, can you ask them to bring it again tonight against the Magic?

Ivan Carter: That's an excellent point. The aggression they showed against Milwaukee was nowhere to be found against Atlanta. (Josh Smith tends to do that). And I agree, they'll need it to have a chance tonight. Orlando is playing great ball.

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Luray, Va.: I'd put your entire next paycheck on Blatche and Stevenson. I notice you said YOUR. Very funny. At least it's not $7,000

Now for my question. What is up with Andre Blatche. He seems to have no energy. He's not playing defense. He's making way too many mistakes (trying to be a guard) - and it looks like Eddie is cutting down on his minutes as a result.

Is there something going on there? Is it that he's hit a wall and is tired?

Ivan Carter: Blatche had a pretty solid game against Milwaukee (15 points and 7 rebounds) and he helped get the win at Toronto (12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks not to mention two clutch free throws down the stretch) but as usual with him, it's a matter of consistency. Consistency of performance, consistency of effort and consistency of attitude. He's a good dude, don't get me wrong, but the coaching staff is still waiting to see whether he'll develop that night in, night out hunger it takes to be a very good player rather than an occassionally good player.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: For the past two decades the Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan has produced consistent winners. Why don't the Wizards go after him?

Ivan Carter: Why doesn't every team in the league not named the San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Lakers go after him? That's the better question.

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Alexandria, Va.: following up on earlier questions today, how are the Wizards generally perceived by others?

I imagine most opposing GMs don't consider the Wiz a threat to go to the finals, but does anybody "fear" the Wizards?

Also, the guys on the team seem to be a great bunch of guys, do you get any sense of real rivalries or brewing hatred between Wizards players and other teams (it seemed like a rivalry with Chicago was happening a few years ago, now it seems like the Cavs, especially DeShawn and LeBron)

Ivan Carter: I can promise that the Boston Celtics would take a first-round series with the Wizards very seriously. They know what this team can do because they saw it.

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Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping by folks. I hope we got to most of your burning questions. Check out the blog later for any updates from Orlando.

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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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