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Wednesday, April 30, 2 p.m. ET

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

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, April 30 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Washington Wizards and the NBA.

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Wizards Coverage

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive

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Ivan Carter: Good afternoon folks. I'm here in sunny, warm Cleveland and ready for Game 5 tonight. Let's get to it.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Given the fact that Arenas isn't close to his old self, why give him so much control over the ball? Why not have him just be a stand-up shooter who hangs around the 3-pt line all night. If he's covered he's good enough to kick it out to someone open.

Ivan Carter: Gilbert obviously has not been himself. That's clear. And, his performance has been uneven. Great for a stretch of Game 1 but then he faltered late when he lost is legs. He had a rough Game 2, didn't have to be a major factor in Game 3 and then was part of the problem in the first half of Game 4 before coming on strong in the second. To me, that's expected from a guy who missed 66 games and is playing on a bad knee. As for how he's been used, Gilbert is a point guard if somewhat of a non-traditional one. He needs to have the ball in his hands. He can push the ball and create an uptempto game. We saw that in Game 3 and Game 4.

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Washington, D.C.: About the talking from the Wizards this series -- I'm wondering what it says about the team. Jordan said on Comcast this morning that he is not going to ask his players to cut it out. Caron and Jamison seem annoyed about it, but as captains, they've either done nothing about it, or their teammates have ignored them.

So, are the team's elders not really bothered by the jawing, or do they have no sway on the team?

Ivan Carter: DeShawn said what he said and Gilbert blogged what he blogged. That's what they do. The other guys have not made outrageous statements. To me, what Brendan Haywood said about Mike Brown and LeBron James was spot on. The truth. As for the other guys, I feel that they are frustrated by the losing and know that the entire time is going to be thought of as having run its mouth and then not backed it up. I can understand that. But, any thoughtful breakdown of this series will produce two truths: 1. The Cavs are up 3-1 because they played better ball late in the two close games (1 and 4) and 2. None of the Wizards, and that includes the two all-stars Jamison and Butler, have grabbed a game by the shirt and taken it over as Joe Johnson did for the Hawks the other night. That is how you beat the Cavs.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Ivan and Michael,

If rebounding is critical for the Wizards to have a chance at winning tonight, why not give McGuire some minutes off the bench? Have him in there just to rebound, maybe help guard LeBron. McGuire seems to be one of the few Wizards who has a nose for the ball and the desire to rebound.

Ivan Carter: Don't be shocked if you see McGuire for a stretch if the Wiz are getting killed on the boards again. The key will be whether Eddie trusts having Songaila on the floor at center instead of Blatche when he sits Haywood. Songaila and Jamison were the front court pairing in the third quarter in Game 4 when the Cavs started pounding the offensive glass. That's where Songaila has a problem. He can box out all night long but lacks the length, quickness and leaping ability to consistently outrebound Varejao and Joe Smith.

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Nancy: I'm full of questions today! Here's a fun one:

If DeShawn meant "death to the Jay-Z music empire" with his throat slash, and not death to anyone on the court, and if the NBA official who fined him had known that, would he have to pay $25,000 for his informed musical critique?

Ivan Carter: The NBA sees no distinction in whether a throat slash gesture means one thing or another. It's a no go. That said, DeShawn and his agent plan on appealing the fine.

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New York (Harlem), N.Y.: Hey Ivan/Mike:

I know that it's official WaPo policy to avoid directly criticizing Eddie Jordan. But, in the event that the Wizards lose and EJ is fired after the series, which available head coach do you see Grunfeld hiring?

D'Antoni? Avery Johnson (who will likely become available sooner than later)? Defensive guru (and EG chum) Thom Thibodeaux? Or some other hot coaching prospect that you'd like to suggest?

Ivan Carter: That's funny but no, there is no such policy. As for Eddie, I see him being safe. Ernie hasn't come right out and said that but, the general feeling is that given the team's injury issues, relative success this season and the fact that Eddie has a full year remaining on his contract, he will be back. Again, that's just my read on it.

Ernie could change his mind or, if the team were to get crushed tonight, allow that to influence his thinking process. One thing to keep in mind: Ernie has only fired a coach once in his career as a GM and that was Don Nelson in New York. I wouldn't even begin to know where Ernie would start to look for a new coach if he did run Eddie. You could start with the usual list of names though.

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Washington, D.C.: The celebrating every time after hitting a shot by Deshawn Stevenson has been absurd and ridiculous to watch. It's been a while, but the last time I played NBA Jam you had to hit three shots in a row to be on fire. I'm a Wizards fan, but they almost look like a whole different team than the one I've been proud to see compete all year.

Ivan Carter: Thoughts on DeShawn Stevenson's antics.

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Washington, D.C.: Has LeBron gotten better? He seems more mature than two years ago.

Ivan Carter: Of course he's matured. The guy is 23. Also, he really picked up valuable experience in the playoffs last year when he had that huge game against Detroit and then experienced operation shutdown against Bruce Bowen and the Spurs in the finals. I was at two of those games and watched the others on the tube and think he really figured some things out about where he had to improve his game. His mid-range jumper is more reliable and I think he's done a great job of picking his spots offensively.

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Minneapolis: What's up Ivan and Michael? Hoping for a good game tonight!

I just have a problem/question on the national coverage of this series as it concerns the LeBron/DS show and the other hard fouls during games. Somehow LeBron and the Cavs have done NO wrong on the coverage nationally? Like they've handled everything with class up to this point. What gives?

Also, wasn't LeBron's intentional elbow to Blatche's face plenty to get him ejected from that game??? Now, the fact that it has "secretly" turned flagrant is a little weird to me as well. Thanks! Go Wiz!

Ivan Carter: Cleveland coach Mike Brown has done a masterful job of creating the perception that the Wizards are out to seriously hurt James and it began after Game 1. The local (Cleveland) media has sucked it up but that's to be expected. Much of the national media has as well. In fact, there have been no harder fouls in this series than many others. The difference is that other coaches aren't running onto the court to defend their players and whining in the media the way Brown has. I thought it was a real treat when Brown called James a "special human being" to take what he has in this series. Really Mike? Special like MLK and Jackie Robinson? I thought he was a basketball player who wears sunglasses to indoor press conferences and refers to himself in the third person. Amazing.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think that the Washington media bears some responsibility for the embarrassment that this series has caused the city? After DeShawn took the embarrassment to new lows with the Vick jersey, are there any regrets from you guys about enabling the antics instead of questioning them?

Ivan Carter: We're here to cover what we see and hear. That's our job. If DeShawn tells us that LeBron James is "overrated" and tells us to "write it" that's what we do. If Soulja Boy shows up courtside in a Stevenson jersey and does his hand wave, we write about it. That's the gig. I'm not hear to tell grown men - very rich ones at that - what they should do or say.

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Akron, Ohio: I also got a retroactive demerit from my high school principal yesterday. I don't have to spend any time in detention or anything, but it's good to know that the rules are being evenly enforced.

L. James-Carter-Knowles.

Ivan Carter: That's funny. It is interesting however. Had James been assessed a flagrant for what was an obvious foul during the game, the Wizards would have been awarded free throws and a possession. In a close game. You think those potential points could have made a difference?

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Washington, D.C.: Just wanted to say on maybe the last night of the season on behalf of many Wizards fans that both of you have done a FANTASTIC job covering the team and the NBA in general all year long. It's been much appreciated and I hope you'll both be back at it next year.

Ivan Carter: Thank you. Speaking for myself, it's been, well, interesting.

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Beyond the Beltway: Guess what? No one out here even knows who DeShawn Stevenson is ...

Ivan Carter: Good point. And a true one.

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Vienna, Va.: why don't the wizards do what the spurs have been doing every quarter of the series...fouling Shaq to force him to take free throws. Ben Wallace is a career 41 percent FT shooter and is 3-10 this playoff series.

The Wizards have shown they can't beat LeBron with their b-ball talent, so instead use your brain and foul Wallace. Get the ball out of LeBron's hands. Hasn't Eddie been watching the Suns/Spurs series!!

Ivan Carter: I wrote about this today. Eddie said he hasn't seriously considered going to the hack-a-Ben because A) there may be unintended consequences such as the Cavs getting an offensive rebound or one of the Wiz getting into unnecessary foul trouble and B)It's just not his style. Eddie said he prefers to play the way the game is meant to be played.

Personally, I think the Spurs looked stupid having a guy chase Shaq all over the floor in an attempt to foul. Beat them playing basketball. But, that's just me. Keep in mind that Eddie did not totally rule it out tonight. Just said that he'd prefer not to.

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Washington, D.C.: Aside from staying healthy, what do the Wizards need to do to get out of the first round next year?

Ivan Carter: This particular group? Stay healthy and either get homecourt against the Cavs or avoid the Cavs all together. The East is going to be tough next year though. Atlanta is obviously getting better. Orlando is better. Toronto will still be tough. Larry Brown instantly makes Charlotte better. The Nets could bounce back if Krstic comes back strong. My point: it's not going to be easy for the Wizards.

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Washington, D.C.: If things are going bad, in the fourth quarter, why not put in our streaky Nick Young and see if he starts streaking?

Ivan Carter: Don't be surprised if Eddie gives the kid a look. Then again, it was Roger Mason Jr. who shot them into a groove in Game 3 and Eddie trusts him more at both ends. This might be a game for the veterans to earn their money.

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Washington, D.C. : What are the keys to the Wiz taking Game 5 tonight? Besides rebounding, what has to happen for them to win?

Ivan Carter:1. Rebound, rebound and rebound. They don't have to be even but Cleveland can't have a 20-6 edge in second change points and outboard the Wiz by 20 like they did in Game 4.

2. Jamison and Butler need to have big games. They are this team's all-stars and both have favorable individual matchups. Any time you have Wally Szczerbiak on Butler, Butler should take him. Period. I again refer to Joe Johnson the other night for Atlanta.

3. Keep getting the ball out of LeBron's hands in the fourth. He didn't make a field goal in the 4th in Game 4 and the Cavs won because Daniel Gibson and Delonte West made big shots. If they do that again, hats of to 'em.

4. Bench has to bring it: Antonio Daniels, Darius Songaila, Andray Blatche and Roger Mason Jr. need to at least match the production of Cavs bench players.

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Springfield, Va.: Let's be real, this -- the Wizards as now constructed -- just isn't going to work is it, if the goal is getting past the first round?

Ivan Carter: Not when Gilbert Arenas is one on leg or absent as has been the case the last two years.

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Washington, D.C.: Ivan often says the the Wizards are one of the best teams to cover, because the guys on the team are so open and are mostly good people. However, champions in sports -- not just the NBA -- are very often the opposite: guarded, suspicious and difficult. Agree?

Michael Lee: No. Do you remember the Lakers? They were anything but guarded and boring. As a matter of fact, any Shaquille O'Neal team was exciting to cover. Shaq called Sacramento "the Queens." He talked trash and backed it up. That's the key. If you talk the talk, you got to walk the walk. I personally don't have a problem with players opening their mouths. It really has no impact on anything. If you aren't already motivated to play in the playoffs, then you shouldn't be there. But if I guy has to wait for some trash talk to get them moving, there is a problem.

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Woodbridge, Va.: I've been preaching the Wiz need to upgrade the PF spot. As much as I love AJ as a fellow 'Heel, we need to move on. I'd be interested in hearing where you guys think the roster should be tinkered with? You don't have to throw anyone under the bus, but where on the roster can the Wiz create more defensive presence and remain a potent offensive team. I say PF, because AJ might put up 20 and 10, but his man usually has big nights as well. You can't pay AJ big money and not win that position battle 80 percent of the time. Any ideas?

Ivan Carter: You want to do a sign-and-trade that would ship Jamison to the Clippers for Elton Brand? That's an idea? Would the Clippers bite? No idea but I kind of doubt it.

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Arlington, Va.: Avery Johnson just got canned.

Michael Lee: No surprise there. Once he got into with Mark Cuban last month, you knew that he'd be in trouble if they didn't go far. I'm sure Byron Scott is somewhere chuckling, because you know Jason Kidd isn't too upset about seeing Avery go. Kidd just looked like some dude in a Mavericks uniform. He did nothing in that series. You have to wonder if the starting point guard job is his for Team USA after Chris Paul took his lunch.

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Oakton, Va.: Hey Guys,

Is there growing resentment within the organization and the players for DeShawn Stevenson? It seems to me that his selfish antics have distracted the team from playing its best basketball? What will the fallout be, as it relates to DS, if/when the Zards are eliminated?

Ivan Carter: Some vets on this team were clearly not happy about him yapping as he did and they still aren't. But no one has blamed him for the 3-1 hole and frankly, with the possible exception of Jamison, no one has played well enough to take such a stance. They are getting beat as a team.

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East Coast time: washingtonpost.com lists the start time for tonight's game at 6 p.m.? what gives? I'm assuming its 7???

Michael Lee: Six, sir. It's a TNT thing. They want to get the Celtics-Hawks on prime time. Who woulda thunk it? The Wizards have played so poorly that they get bumped by the Hawks for prime time. Sad times indeed.

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Washington, D.C.: Brendan had a great season this year. Do you see Ernie trying to move Etan this offseason to keep him happy?

Ivan Carter: Good luck with that. Ernie has been trying to move Etan since last summer if not before but hasn't found any takers. Now, that Etan has missed a full season and is coming off of open-heart surgery, I don't see Ernie moving that contract at all (it runs through 2009-2010 so, he can't even shop it as an expiring deal).

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Philadelphia: I can't believe people find all the additional hype surrounding this series to be offensive. As if wearing a Michael Vick jersey is an "embarrassment" to a city.

Chill down and watch some good, entertaining basketball.

I for one hope the Wiz team and coaching staff stays in tact for next year, with perhaps a minor adjustment or two. They're fun to watch/follow and I think their best basketball is ahead of them.

Ivan Carter: A different take on the Wizards.

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Anonymous: Avery Johnson is officially out in Dallas!

unrelated, but what happens to the dumbest player of the day Josh Howard for openly talking about smoking weed? Could this be why he dropped in the draft to late 1st round?

Ivan Carter: It's just an example that telling the truth is not always a good thing. If they threw out every athlete who smoked weed, pro sports would be very different.

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Cottage City, Md: Will either the Mavericks or the Suns break up their team and start over? Or are they only a piece or two away from competing for the crown again?

Michael Lee: The explosion is coming. Avery is already gone as head coach, but the Mavericks don't have many pieces that they can move. The Suns appear ready to move on without Mike D'Antoni and you have to wonder what direction they plan on going. They're stuck with Shaq, but Steve Kerr wants to go in a different direction, get more defensive minded. Makes you wonder how Nash fits into that equation.

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San Antonio: I am hopeful that TNT will put on a Suns-Wizards series just to see if it's possible for either team to win one!!

Michael Lee: Win one? I don't get it, San Antonio. The Suns lost 4-1. The Wizards series isn't over yet. I'm confused.

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Bethesda, Md.: If the Wiz lose tonight and Ernie lets Eddie go, do you think Eddie gets another head coaching job in 1-2 seasons.

Ivan Carter: I think he'd get one as soon as he wants one. He's very respected around the league and after getting this team to the fifth seed given the injuries this season, that is even more the case.

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Washington, D.C.: Everyone loves the Pollins. What's not to love? I'll feel so bad for the Pollins if we don't get to game 6. They are such good owners.

I guess you've heard that they had a talk with the guys before they left for Cleveland. Anymore inside facts or backstory on that talk available?

Ivan Carter: I don't have many details other than what Mike Wise wrote in his column today but Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler did say that it was pretty cool visiting with Abe yesterday. I think it gave them some added motivation, as if they needed any.

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Washington, D.C.: How did you find out about the secret LeBron flagrant foul? How come we are finding out about it now, over a week after Game 2? Is this standard NBA operating procedure?

Michael Lee: It wasn't really a secret foul. I just checked with a league source who told me that LeBron was given a flagrant foul after Stu Jackson reviewed the film of Game 1. The NBA generally doesn't have to announce retroactive penalties. You just have to check and double-check -- and have someone willing to tell you. But this wasn't some secret CIA operation to figure it out.

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Albuquerque, N.M.: In the midst of all the playoff drama, I have a completely irrelevant question -- why is Roger Mason always referred to as Roger Mason Jr. and Gilbert Arenas is not referred to as Gilbert Arenas Jr.? Speaking of Mason -- If the Wizards resign Arenas and Jamison, could there possibly be any money left over for RM Jr?

Ivan Carter: Roger Mason Jr. asked that the "Jr." be included. Gilbert has not. Part of that may be because Roger lost his father at a young age while Gilbert Sr. is very much around and a part of his son's life. In fact, it's interesting that Gil Sr. is built much more like a football linebacker than a hooper. Kind of tells where Gilbert gets those wide shoulders and strong legs from. I've always thought he resembled an NFL cornerback in build.

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LA: How in the world are the Hawks and Celtics tied at 2 games apiece

Michael Lee: The same reason that the Pistons-Sixers series is 3-2 right now. Those young legs are running the old legs out of the gym. One of the more underwritten angles about this series is that the Celtics have won so many games handily that Pierce, Garnett and Allen haven't had to carry big minutes too often. They are playing heavy minutes, which has disrupted the rotation. I heard from some people that the Celtics were huffing and puffing in the fourth quarter of both games. The Hawks are so young -- the youngest team in the league -- that they can run all night.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you consider the Wizards to be mentally strong, relative to the rest of the NBA?

I have my doubts. Guys that I used to consider rather soft, like Jamison and Haywood, have been stepping up. Meanwhile Caron Butler has played okay but he hasn't had the impact I thought he would -- I thought he would rise to the occasion when faced with LeBron James. Gilbert has lost a lot of his luster to me ... he wants to be admired and appreciated and adored so much. Can you consider someone who craves attention so much to be mentally tough?

Arenas needs change his "Gilbert Scores for Schools" formula to $100 for a point and $200 for an assist. Maybe then we'll have a point guard that could lead us to a championship one day.

Michael Lee: You're probably right. Mental toughness is the key in the playoffs, and given how the Wizards have lost two of these games this series -- Game 2 was an aberration -- they didn't have the mental fortitude to make stops down the stretch.

Watching that Hawks game on Monday, when Joe Johnson put his stamp on the fourth quarter, I asked myself, when is one of the Wizards' three all-stars going to say, "Hey, I'm here, Cleveland!" So far, none of them has imposed his will on the series. Maybe it finally happens tonight. But the Wizards aren't playing smart or taking advantage of their opportunities.

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Washington, D.C.: "Personally, I think the Spurs looked stupid having a guy chase Shaq all over the floor in an attempt to foul."

Personally, I think the Spurs look great raising banner after banner.

Michael Lee: Who's going to question Popovich when the man has four rings? It may have seemed like a lame tactic, but it worked.

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Barno: Why haven't you guys gotten a comment from the League offices on why DeShawn Stevenson was fined $25,000 for the same gesture Damon Jones did against the Wiz last month--yet wasn't fined for?

Would be nice to see David Stern or Stu Jackson try to give a lame justification for the obvious double standard.

Michael Lee: It is a double standard, but I think DeShawn got fined because it was an afternoon game on ABC, where there is a larger viewing audience and most importantly, children watching. Since it was played in the highlights more than once - and it was early in the game - big brother couldn't help but see it. The stakes are higher in the playoffs. And, who knows, maybe Jones was fined - retroactively.

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Chicago: Man, who else is tired of the Spurs? I hate the way they play. Ginobli and Parker are floppers (and Duncan seems to be learning that it works pretty well). And what about their decision to foul Shaq off the ball in the first quarter! What kind of strategy is that? On top of all that, they aren't fun to watch. Who's with me?

Michael Lee: Chicago, you better start loving the Spurs. They aren't going anywhere. Just sit back and enjoy watching Tony Parker sprint into the lane at will and Manu Ginobili make his Tazmanian Devil drives and spins. I think the Spurs are great to watch against the right teams. Sometimes, the halfcourt, defensive games can get boring, but I've said this before - Parker and Ginobili are two of the 10 most exciting players in basketball.

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Alexandria, Va.: How do you see the Hornets-Spurs matchup shaping up, specifically Paul vs. Parker? How were their regular season contests?

Michael Lee: I'm really looking forward to that series. The Spurs and Hornets went 2-2 against each other this season. Paul averaged 22 and 10 against San Antonio this season. Parker averaged 19.5. But I think those two going head-to-head should be awesome.

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Washington, D.C.: With two of the teams who made mid-season blockbuster trades not fairing well after the trades and being eliminated from the playoffs, do you see that making teams hesitant to make those kind of deals in the future?

Michael Lee: Absolutely. Teams are realizing that it isn't easy to incorporate new players to a team with just 25-30 games left in the season, but you never really get to postseason form. The first 10, 15 games are like training camp, then you're in a dogfight. I think teams will try to be more like Boston and do makeovers in the offseason, give them a training camp to bond, then let it all come together over the course of 82 games.

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Michael Lee: Alright, everybody. I've got to run and get ready for the game. It's been fun. 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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