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Wednesday, April 9, 2 p.m. ET

Wizards/NBA

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Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; 2:00 PM

Post staff writer Michael Lee was online Wednesday, April 9 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Washington Wizards and the NBA.

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From The Post:

Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

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Michael Lee: Hey, everybody. I'm back after missing out last week. I think I have the whole show today, so I'll take on all of the Wizards questions Ivan would usually field. We've got five games left. It's going to be a fun final week. Let's go. . .

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Washington, D.C.: Assuming the Wizards get the 4th or 5th seed and win the first round, how do you see them matching up with Boston? They have played them well and even beat them in back to back nights. What would the Wizards need to do to maintain that confidence from those wins and be successful against them?

Michael Lee: They match up with Boston better than most teams in the league. The reason being that Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are such difficult covers for Pierce and Garnett. Jamison takes power forwards out of their comfort zone because he isn't afraid to shoot from the outside, that keeps Garnett from the middle and away from rebounds. Butler just gets fired up whenever he plays Pierce.

I don't think the Wizards are short on confidence. If they can get a third win over Boston, I don't see why they should enter that series with any fear or doubt. I'm not saying that I don't think Boston would win, but the Wizards should be able to go in with the attitude of, "We can beat this team."

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Columbia, Md.: I have a problem with people saying that Gilbert's return might stunt the team's play. Granted, the team has become a playoff team without him, he's that missing piece that turns this team from a mediocre team to a team with a legitimate shot at making a run to the finals. Not to mention that no other team other than the Celtics and Pistons has legitimate No. 2 and 3 scoring options like the Wiz do (in the form of Caron and Antwan) this team could surprise people come playoff time.

Michael Lee: No one will really know the answer until the playoffs. It's too early to know if Gilbert's return will disrupt things, but these next five games will be important in helping the team establish some kind of chemistry before the playoffs. Gilbert, Caron and Antawn have played in what, 10 games together this season?

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McLean, Va.: Hi,

What is happening to Toronto? Their current free fall has been amazing. What are main factors contributing to their awful play - Bosh's injuries, perimeter team with no interior defense? Bosh has been back for a while now but they are still losing.

Michael Lee: I'm not sure if Toronto was ever really that good. I know that sounds crazy after what they were able to do last season, but what do they really have once you get past Bosh and Calderon. Bosh hasn't been 100 percent this season, and signing Kapono hasn't really helped much. They still need a consistent small forward or shooting guard. Bargnani hasn't progressed the way they would've hoped. T.J. Ford has been hit or miss. Before they lost back-to-back games against Charlotte and New Jersey, I attributed their troubles to really rough schedule. Now, I'm not so sure. I can't say that anyone there is necessarily underachieving. I just don't know what they really have to begin with, to be honest. Losing Garbajosa might have been something, too.

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Luray, Va.: I haven't been following the West coast teams as closely as I'd like -- what is the status of Bynum in LA? Will he be back before the playoffs?

Michael Lee: It doesn't sound like the Lakers are banking on him coming back this week. They might try to work him in the last two games of the season, they might just sit him out until he can play, period. I was in L.A. last week and I spoke with somebody who told me that the best thing about the first round is that games are spread out so far apart, they'll have plenty of time to practice with Bynum and work him back in the mix with Pau. The Lakers are being really coy about Bynum, though.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Gentleman,

Besides staying healthy what do the Wizards need to be considered finals contenders. What does Boston, Detroit or even Cleveland have that the Wizards lack. Thanks

Michael Lee: They need to prove they can get out of the first round - or be dominant in their remaining games. You look at those three teams in the East. What do they have in common?

Well, the Celtics have never won anything together, but Garnett, Pierce and Allen have all been to the conference finals before. Detroit has two championships and has been to the conference finals five years in a row. Cleveland is the defending conference champs. The Wizards, over the past four seasons, have one playoff series win and two first round exits. They aren't getting mentioned because none of the players on the team has the proven track record in the postseason.

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Washington, D.C.: Ernie Grunfeld has stated that the team intends to resign Gilbert and Antawn. What are the chances that there will be anything left over to resign Songaila and Mason?

Michael Lee: Songaila is signed for the next few years. Mason is another story. Before all of the injuries, I really didn't have a good read on what Mason could get on the open market, but he's made himself a nice little chunk of change this season. I haven't asked anyone about their plans with Mason, given that Nick Young will likely have a much larger role next season. Either way, Mason should get a nice deal somewhere this summer. The Wizards would obviously be his first choice. As with Gilbert, everything hinges on how much Jamison costs.

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Tonight's Game: How much do Garnett, Pierce and Allen play tonight?

Michael Lee: I'm expecting 30 apiece, but I don't know. Especially coming off a back-to-back. Maybe 25 apiece. It might be more if this game gets heated. But I get the feeling that Doc Rivers would like to save his guys before they hit the playoff grind -- especially since the folks in Boston expect to be playing into late May and June, and probably don't want to give the Wiz too much should they meet up again in the second round.

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D.C.: How big is Thursday's Golden State-Denver game...I can't remember a bigger game this late in the season.

Michael Lee: There are always big games like this late in the season, especially when teams are battling for playoff position. But given how both teams realy need that game, it is the biggest regular season game - until the Lakers and Hornets play on Friday and the Wizards and Sixers play on Saturday and the Lakers and Spurs play on Sunday. This time of year, every game is big. But I'm really excited about Warriors-Nuggets. What's over/under on that one? 300.

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DC: You said everything hinges on how much Jamison costs. Does that mean he's a bigger priority to sign then Gilbert?

Michael Lee: No. They are both high priorities, but his price tag could affect how much everybody else gets paid - and if the Wizards can add any other pieces.

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New Orleans, La.: As an NBA neophyte, what should I expect from the Hornets in the playoffs. That was some stink-bomb they laid last night against the Jazz.

Michael Lee: When it comes to the Hornets, it really comes down to matchups. I don't think they'd do as well in the first round if they had to get Dallas or Denver. I like their chances better against Golden State. In every playoff series out west, it really comes down to the opponent more than the seed. They just better hope they win a playoff series and hope that Utah stumbles in the first round (which it won't). I don't see them beating the Jazz in the second round. Deron Williams is like the bogeyman to Chris Paul. He's the only guy in the league who can keep Paul in check for some reason.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Man, it is so much fun watching Gilbert come off the bench. He completely changes the pace of the game, and makes the bench players like Blatche and Songaila so much more effective by getting them easy buckets. Do you think Eddie will stick with Gilbert coming off the bench in the playoffs, or will he be starting by then?

Michael Lee: Eddie told me this morning that he expects to have Gilbert coming off the bench during the playoffs. So, there you go. Barring anymore injuries (knock on wood, cross your fingers), he should be the most explosive sixth man this side of the Mississippi.

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Annapolis, MD: Hey guys,

Great job covering the Wiz and NBA this season. Now, it's on to the postseason.

I think Gilbert has a future in PR. What a stroke of genius! The fans are restless with the deception about coming back and putting yourself above the coach and team, and you decide to stop talking. Brilliant!

By the time he talks again, it will be too late for reporters to dwell on the events that transpired weeks earlier.

This guy is smart.

I'm just happy he's back on the court.

Michael Lee: Some Arenas love.

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Oakton, Va.: With the season nearly ended, and before we jump into the playoffs, could you offer your comments on what went wrong with the Bulls this year?

It would seem a combination of overrated talent, under appreciated coaching by Skiles, and a GM afraid to pull the trigger on trades all contributed to a disappointing season. (Would you say most disappointing of the year?)

Is this team a few tweaks away from contending in the East as "experts" predicted before the season (many of whom thought the Wizards would struggle to make the post-season).

Or is this a broken team with the wrong parts and young players that really aren't all that promising as previously thought?

I mean, people actually thought that the addition of Noah was going to take this team to the next level... you have to admit, in hindsight, that is just so funny.

Michael Lee: It is funny. So much went wrong with the Bulls. Scott Skiles couldn't lay off. Ben Wallace wasn't happy there. The team lacked leadership. They never got a star in town (uhem, Kobe anyone?).

I don't think the talent was overrated, but I do believe the team overachieved the past few years. When you have a team that overachieves and has little margin for error, little things like contract disputes and trade rumors can really disrupt things. The real problem for the Bulls -- and I've said it all year -- is that there is too little separation between the best player and the second best player. Who is the best player on the Bulls? Who knows? Nobody has established himself as the unquestioned top dog. Nobody has been an all-star. That causes a problem because everybody feels that he can be the hero.

The Bulls have been a huge disappointment. I thought that they'd have the best regular season record in the East. I thought they had grown out of those slow starts and that Luol Deng was ready to breakout. They've been terrible. It's even worse when the Bulls had the pieces to possibly get Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett and those guys are leading their teams to the top right now. You need stars to win in this league.

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Alexandria, Va.: If Antawn gets $10M and Zero gets max, IS there any left for "other pieces?"

Michael Lee: Yes. There should be plenty.

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International Square: Why do you say Nick Young will have a bigger role than Roger Mason next year? Is it just because of his scoring? Roger seems like a more complete player, but I know Nick is a rookie and will improve. I've heard this before, though, that Nick is going to get minutes over Roger, and I'm not sure I understand completely.

Michael Lee: Nick Young is a rookie. He should get better as time moves on. Most players tend to breakout their second or third season in the league. I think Nick has gained some valuable experience with all of the injuries and he should have a bigger role next season. I'm saying he will, but he should, if he works hard in the offseason, works on his defense and ball-handling. Finds out which spots on the floor belong to him. If the Wizards want to be really good next year, they'll need Nick to raise his game.

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Annapolis to Chinatown: What are the pitfalls of the Cleveland matchup? A banged up James, who was cleared to play today, and Z, who has to be set up to score, are the only real scoring threats they've got these days it would seem.

Michael Lee: Yeah, that trade really hasn't helped them much, huh? That was my main concern when they made that trade. Because for all of the grief Drew Gooden got, he was a legit third and sometimes second option for Cleveland. Larry Hughes can score, but he couldn't stay healthy. But right now, they aren't getting much production from the players they acquired in that deal outside of Joe Smith, which puts way too much pressure on LeBron to bail them out. The Cavaliers got much older and a lot less athletic with that deal, which is a reason why the Wizards want them this time around.

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Arlington, Va.: Wiz should trade Gilbert for the top pick, select Derrick Rose and make a run after big man on the free agent market with the cap space left from Gilbert.

Michael Lee: I love Rose, and if I'm a franchise that's in position to pick him, I'm taking Rose. If I get No. 1 or No. 2 - where Rose will surely go - I'm not trading that pick. That sounds nice for the Wizards longterm, but Washington is trying to win now. Rose would be a pick for the future, with any organization because he isn't a finished product. It's not like he'd come to Washington and lead them to the top right away. He'd be a rookie point guard, and rookie point guards tend to struggle their first year. And any team with such a high pick isn't trying to win now, which is what trading for Gilbert would imply.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you agree with the way Nick Young is being utilized in the Wizards rotation? Nick has shown he's capable of putting up 20 points a night when given adequate minutes and he's demonstrated more of an ability to create shots for his teammates than Roger Mason and arguably Antonio Daniels. Hard to argue that Nick deserves more time on the floor than Daniels, but it has become more apparent to me that Nick's ability to create shots for himself as well as his teammates makes him more effective than Roger Mason. Mason is a great 3 point shooter (sort of the spot up type who is golden if given the perfect pass) but he struggles with creating his shot and moving the ball around to create open shots for his teammates.

Michael Lee: Nick is a rookie. Like Eddie has said before, rookies are like rollercoasters. Mason and Daniels are veterans. They're like driving along I-70 through Kansas (for those who don't know what that means, the path is smooth and flat), you know what you're going to get with them).

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Rockville, Md.: How much of a threat are the Philadelphia Sixers in the playoffs?

Michael Lee: Not much. I love what they are doing right now, but they don't have much playoff experience on that roster. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any rotation players that have won a playoff series before. Andre Iguodala, Sam Dalembert and Andre Miller have been to the playoffs, but I don't recall them going anywhere. If they get Orlando, it would be an intriguing matchup, since both teams have limited playoff experience. However, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu have been been on teams that have advanced - and Dwight Howard will always be the best player on the floor in that series.

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Michael Lee: Okay, everybody. I've got to ready to go to the Verizon Center to cover the game tonight. Should be fun. Ivan will be back next week, so we should be able to answer more of your questions. Who know? By then, some of this stuff - MVP, the playoff races - might actually be figured out. Gotta go. Alright. Peace.

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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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