NBA Training Camp Opens

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 3:30 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET to talk about the Washington Wizards and the rest of the league as NBA teams open training camp.

The transcript follows.

Wizards Coverage

Discussion Archive


Hollywood, Md.: Just how raw is McGee? Could he see spot duty this year, or maybe a little more? Also, is he a 5 exclusively, or could he play any 4? The kid flashed real talent in summer league, and showed an offensive game a little more refined than I thought.

Ivan Carter: He is very raw as advertised but not in a clunky 7-footer kind of way. He's not P.J. Ramos. He's coordinated, agile, has very long arms and competes. His fundamentals are raw -- as Haywood was quoted as saying An Oversized Roster" target="">in my story today -- and he does get pushed around underneath the basket because he's still growing into that body. He's not just a 5 because he can step out and make a 15-18 footer and he can put it on the deck on get to the basket. Time will tell but so far, you have to like the blend of talent and work ethic.


Oakton, Va.: How unsurprising was it that Eddie's option was picked up?

If it hadn't been, he would have been a lame duck coach. Since he's going to coach this season, unless your owner is crazy, you always give your coach "another year" which the team will have to swallow if they fire him during/after the season... but which is the norm.

The correct angle on this story is that his option for an additional year was simply picked up, and that he didn't get an extension with additional years... am I reading this right?

If Eddie were such a hot commodity, or were truly valued as THE coach for this team, wouldn't Ernie be trying to lock him up for at least a few more years?

Ivan Carter: Not really. As you point out, they picked up his option because nobody wants a coach going into a lame duck year. I could see Eddie getting an extension if things go well this season which, given the fact that his best player will be out at least a full month and his owner won't touch the luxury tax with a ten foot pole, would be 40-45 wins in a brutal eastern conference.

I'll say this based on conversations I've had with scouts and gms from around the league, Eddie will have another gig almost right after he's done with Wizards. He's that respected around the league.


Fairfax, Va.: Has the relationship between Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas changed since Thomas had open-heart surgery? I'm not implying that they're big pals all of a sudden, but just from clips on TV they seem a bit more friendly toward one another.

Ivan Carter: So far so good. As you point out, I see a mutual respect. In fact, I think that goes back to before last season. As men, they were embarrassed by the attention given their spats and wanted to end that stuff. They're still banging away and competing like heck out there in camp but it's pretty clear that neither of them wants to be known for getting into juvenile fights.


Greentree off Seven Locks: I watched every second of summer league, most of it from courtside. I can only recall one instance where Dee Brown drove all the way to the rim and dished for an easy basket.

By contrast, Aaron Miles created a lot of easy shots with his presentation.

All I hear from Eddie is how fast Dee is. That may be true, but I've seen no evidence that he can create easy baskets.

Has anyone raised this concern? Are you seeing anything different in training camp?

Ivan Carter: In fact I have. Just today they were scrimmaging and I watched Dee push the rock and create an easy bucket and the person next to me (another reporter) remarked before I could that we've seen him do that over and over again so far. He really does look explosive and, the guy has been stroking open jumpers. Now, we all have to see him do that stuff in actual games but so far, it's a very positive sign.


Da Bridge, Va.: Gentlemen,

Would like to see your unbiased opinion on how the Dee Brown/Juan Dixon "battle" is playing out in camp. Seems that EJ is a Brown fan while EG is more of a Dixon lean. Personally, I'd go with Juan. He's experienced and Brown showed me nothing in the LV Summer league. Since both are on partially guaranteed deals, do you think it's one or the other, or do both stick around?

Ivan Carter: I really do expect to see both stick unless DerMarr Johnson, who really had a great day today and provides a length and slashing ability that neither Dee nor Juan has, makes a big case for himself early on during the preseason.

You mention who Eddie likes. Actually, I get impression that he really likes them both. Remember, neither player has a guaranteed deal so the team could carry both of them and then drop one in January when/if Gilbert returns. That is when contracts become guaranteed for the season.


Fairfax, Va.: For years, the Wizards were probably the least relevant team in the league... who holds that title today? Even the worst, most irrelevant team couldn't hold a candle to the situation the Bullets/Wizards were in... no nationally televised games... I mean, does that even happen anymore.

Ivan Carter: The team I grew up following, the Minnesota T-Wolves, are pretty darn close if you ask me. Not sure how many nationally televised games but they can't be getting too many.


Summerville, S.C.: How has Taj McCullough looked in camp? I realize he's a long shot to make the Wizards when the season starts, but has he shown enough to make either of you believe that he could possibly land on a regular season roster in the league in the next few years?

Ivan Carter: Interesting that you mention him because after he missed three practices with a rolled ankle, he returned yesterday and looked very sharp. Eddie Jordan had strong words of praise for him after that practice.

"He's got everything to make an NBA player," Jordan said.

Taj just looks like an NBA 3-man. Know what I mean? He has the build and that nice mid-range game that you need and he really moves well defensively. I'm intrigued.


Michael Lee: Sorry to be late. I'm in lovely Newport, R.I., checking out the defending champion Celtics. I won't even bother with an intro. Let's go. . .


Westminster, Md.: Is this Blatche's breakout year? I think if he doesn't put it all together this season, he'll never become the star he should. He's been in the league long enough now. Is he headed for stardom or being an adequate starter or solid bench player?

Ivan Carter: This has to be his year. Just has to be. He has the tools, the experience, the talent and the support around him.


Alexandria, Va.: Ivan,

Any impressions you can share of this year's camp vs. last year's? When the season begins, can we expect to see big changes in the rotation, or big improvements otherwise? Or are we in a similar place to last year?

Ivan Carter: The main thing that is different this year from my last three camps covering this team is that Eddie has them doing a lot more scrimmaging. The reason is that guys are so familiar now with one another and the schemes, they can have crisp scrimmage situations without having to constantly stop and instruct. They just look smoother. I've also see a ton of different combinations in the front and backcourt. Right now, we know the starters and then it's a matter of who plays where out of this group: Blatche, Songaila, Thomas, Brown, McGuire and Dixon. I see Pecherov and McGee as being on the outside looking in right now.


New York: Why must the Knicks dump Marbury immediately? What are they going to win this year? Why not play him, and build up his trade value, particularly since his contract frees up cap room? Whose playing time is he cutting into, Oscar Robertson?

Michael Lee: Why should the Knicks dump Marbury? Hmm. He's a distraction. He hasn't contributed positively to the franchise in almost three years. Mike D'Antoni wasn't a huge fan of him in Phoenix. His teammates have grown tired of his erratic, often selfish behavior. His time has run out in New York. Point blank.

Yes, he's better than Chris Duhon or any of the other point guards on the Knicks roster. But chemistry trumps talent in this case. Marbury has had a chance to lead the Knicks. He has taken them to one playoff appearance, no winning records and two of the worst seasons in franchise history. It's time to cut him loose. No matter how well he plays, no team will trade for Steph on the basis of talent, and I thinks the Knicks are better of letting that salary come off the books than trade him and risk taking back more deals. Remember, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are free agents in 2010.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Ivan, you've said on the blog that Blatche has been looking sharp so far in camp, but give us a bit more detail about how he's bringing it. Is he doing the inside-outside wannabe KG thing, or focusing more heavily on banging inside? Do you see him holding on to heavy backup center minutes or playing more time at the 4?

Ivan Carter: I've seen him primarily at the four and to be specific, he's done a little bit of everything. Today for instance, I saw him post up against Haywood, back him down and make a jump hook. Saw him push the ball in transition and make a pass that led to a layup. Saw him finish a couple of breaks with long looping finger rolls and saw him swat away a couple of shots.

Basically -- and this is what makes him so intriguing -- Dray can play just about anywhere. The only weakness is that he does not have a consistent jump shot and, he sometimes goes with finesse near the basket instead of powering through people.


Washington, D.C.: We know the Wizards are once again emphasizing defense in camp, but has there been any adaptation to Randy Ayers' scheme to better defend the 3-point line? The Wizards got killed from out there all year, especially in the Cleveland series.

Ivan Carter: I touched on that the other day in the paper. Ayers and Eddie are placing a strong emphasis on closing out on shooters more aggressively but doing it without getting beaten off the dribble. A lot of the open threes last year came when a guy got beat, help rotated and a shooter was left open on the weak side. I've heard the coaches yelling "contain, contain, contain" quite a bit.


Silver Spring, Md.: Are the Knicks really going to allow Marbury to be around that team? I mean that dude has completely lost it.

Michael Lee: You understand me. The Knicks might have to do to Marbury what the Pacers have done with Jamaal Tinsley and the Bulls did to Tim Thomas in Chicago a few years ago. Send him home until something gets worked out. Steph has worn out his welcome in New York and three coaches have lost their jobs partly because of him. Like my man Robin Harris used to say, "Gotta go, gotta go!"


Washington, D.C.: Any chance the Wizards take Hollinger's advice and play Caron at the 2, Antawn at the 3, and their glut of big men at the 4/5 more?

Ivan Carter: Eddie said that he doesn't want to play Caron at the 2 the other day but I do see Antawn sliding to the 3 and him going with a bigger front line at times when Caron is out of the game. He almost has to given the glut of bigs. The key, of course, is Blatche. If he's beasting, Eddie will have to find a way to get him on the floor.


Windsor View Drive: Can we get some more info on the rehab specialist? Was the hire prompted by Gil's injury? Is this an implied admission that Washington's training staff was less then stellar? Do other teams have rehab specialists? Is he/she affiliated with the current training staff?

Ivan Carter: Good question. To this point, I have not been able to get a lot of information on why. One thing I do know as that Ernest Eugene, who was the assistant trainer to Eric Waters the last few seasons, got a move up when he was hired by the Marquette bball program to be their head trainer.

That opened up a spot that the Wiz filled with another assistant trainer. The rehab specialist I mentioned has been at camp all week but is not at this point listed in the program and the team has not put out a release announcing that he's been officially hired so I think it's still up in the air. I'll find out more and let you know ASAP.


Chocolate City: Hey Ivan--

I want to know about defense. Is DeShawn still the best defender? Besides Blatche, who is going to need to step up their D?

Ivan Carter: I would say that yes, DeShawn is still the best defender. The keys elsewhere will be the development of Blatche and McGuire and the help Etan Thomas could provide as a backup big.


Burke, Va.: Hey Ivan,

I read that Gilbert kicked Nick and Dominic out of the house. Do you know if they are still rooming with each other? Are they still close friends?

Ivan Carter: Yes, they are still friends. But I have no idea about the house thing. I'll ask. You have to be kidding me with this stuff...


Dallas: Is Jason Kidd as finished as he looked in the Olympics? If so, where does that leave the Mavs, who mortgaged the future to get him

Michael Lee: I actually liked the idea of the Mavericks getting Kidd last season. But I remember talking to a scout after the deal and I realized that the Mavs had made a mistake based on the way Jason Kidd forced himself out of New Jersey. The bumpy transition in Dallas was no fluke. Kidd has lost some gas in that engine. All that Kidd proved over the summer was, as Pistons GM Joe Dumars likes to say, "Father Time is undefeated."

Chris Paul and Deron Williams came in and stole those minutes. Kidd is still savvy, but the Mavs need more than that right now. I wonder how he will respond to Rick Carlisle, who promised to open up the floor more. But he has never shown an ability to let loose of the reins and let his players run. I'm not sure if Dallas is a definite playoff team this season. They barely made it last year and didn't improve in the offseason. This could the year the West truly flips upside down.


Cville, Va.: what are Dermarr's chances of making this team? He was the most talented high schooler I have ever seen, but I feel like the accident derailed his progress. What are your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: Funny that you bring him up because he had by far his best practice today and I'm writing about him tomorrow. Right now, I would say that he's on the outside looking in but he plays like he did today -- he was slashing to the basket, draining jumpers and being a disruptive force on defense -- he'll make a case for himself. He said that he was back not long after the accident but that the perception in league circles changed, somehow they didn't think he was the same.


Rockville, Md.: Any surprises so far in camp? Anyone catch your eye in terms of improvement or have things been status quo?

Ivan Carter: I'll got back to Dee Brown. I did not think he would be this good. Again, it's only camp and it's early but man he's been impressive. He looks like he really belongs out there. No hesitation, he's pushing the ball without turning it over, he's pushing up man-to-man fullcourt and he's knocking down jumpers. I haven't seen him drive and finish at the rack much but other than that, he's been very good.


Washington, D.C.: It seems like EG is big on getting all-around players, like Blatche, JaVale, Nick, even Gil is a "shoot-first PG." It seemed like the Cavs were killing us in the playoffs by having each spot locked down with role-players. Is this a weakness? What other weaknesses do you see?

Ivan Carter: First of all, the Cavs were killing the Wizards because they have a monster in LeBron James. Period. But I do see where you are going with the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none thought. At some point, multi-skilled players like Blatche, Pecherov and McGee have to actually go out there and make a major impact. Otherwise, I'm just writing articles with that dirty word "potential" all of the time.


D.C.: For the guy asking who the most irrelevant team is that title is the Memphis "Free Giveaway" Grizzlies.

Michael Lee: Don't forget about the Charlotte Bobcats. I would put Oklahoma City in that category, with that lame nickname and those lame jerseys, but at least they will be playing in front of sellout crowds. I can't say the same for Charlotte and Memphis.


Washington, D.C.: Do we have new uniforms this year?

Ivan Carter: I heard something about a new alternate but every time I try to pry something out of folks they clam up as if Vladimir Putin is sitting over their shoulder and any revelation will get them sent to the gulag so stay tuned.


Washington, D.C.: If Pecherov averages less than 8 minutes/game this year, will the OPec experiment have been a total failure?

Ivan Carter: Not yet. Not given his injury history so far and not given the glut of big men on this roster. If he were on a team with no bigs and couldn't get on the floor, that would be a problem. I can tell you this: Eddie hasn't given up on him yet. He'll look for spots to play him watch.


Concerned in Vegas: I was in Vegas and watched Nick Young's horrendous play. Has he given any explanation?

You mentioned Young's explosiveness in training camp. Is there reason to believe Vegas was an aberration?

Ivan Carter: I also expected more of him in Vegas and he did as well. I think he was trying too hard knowing that he was expected to bring it in his second season. To me, he missed a lot of makeable shots and forced the action. So far him camp, he's looked a lot more comfortable. Jordan talked about how he's done a good job of matching aggression with a comfort level with the system. He appears to know what he's doing out there and that wasn't the case far too often last season.


Washington, DC: So I see that "experts" are once again picking the Wizards to win anywhere from 35 to 50 games this year and from winning the division to missing the playoffs entirely.

Do you have any guesses/predictions?

Ivan Carter: If healthy - and that means getting Arenas back sometime in late December (which is what I'm hearing ) - I could see this team winning 45-50 games.


Washington, D.C.: While I was happy to see Juan Dixon back (because he can be instant offense off the bench), I'm concerned as to how much time Nick Young will get?

Ivan Carter: Nick's going to get his minutes, it's just a matter of what he does with them early on.


Luray, Va.: Question for either Michael or Ivan.... I know it's a bit far off....but:

Antonio Daniels and Etan Thomas' contracts expire at the end of 2009. With the fabulous 2010 Free Agent class (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Nowitzski, etc...), those expiring contracts may be in high demand.

The Wizards seem to be one or two major pieces from contending for a Championship.

If you were Ernie, who would you target for a trade? Joe Johnson ? Shane Battier? Emeka Okafor? Shawn Marion?

Michael Lee: Those guys don't come off the books for two years, but it's a bit too early to start speculating about 2010. I'm not sure if they'll be able to move those guys to get a player like the ones you are asking for. Plus, you have to remember that the Wizards will have to find some money for Brendan Haywood, who becomes a free agent in 2010.

The Wizards may also be looking into signing Caron Butler to an extension around that time, too. With Arenas and Jamison still on the books at that time, it would hard to add another high-salaried player to the roster.


Dublin, Ireland: Is Etan running full-speed in practice? Is he showing an ill effects of the surgery?

Related question: Even though Etan's back, is Haywood still the starter, no ifs, ands or buts? It's obvious to -nearly- everyone that Brendan is their best center, but Eddie seems to have some kind of crush on Etan, and in the past has wanted to give him minutes at Brendan's expense.

Ivan Carter: Etan is going full speed and has shown no signs of having problems and yes, Brendan is the rock solid starter. However, as you mentioned, Eddie is an Etan fan and he will find minutes for him. The question I can't answer is this: how will Brendan react if/when Etan starts grabbing his minutes. Given his history, I would say "not well." In fact, he could go right in the tank.


Williamsburg, VA: Is the window closing for the Spurs to contend for the title?

Michael Lee: That window is open for as long as Tim Duncan is playing. He's signed until 2012. I'd say the window closes then.


Chocolate City: After watching a few scrimmages, are there any obvious weaknesses that we have? What area has the most room for improvement?

Ivan Carter: I don't see a dead-eye, knock-down three-point shooter on this team. Antawn can make 'em as can Juan Dixon but that is an area where Roger Mason Jr will be missed.


Gaithersburg, Md.: How many players do you see in the regular rotation? Since Etan, Songaila and Blatche are all front court players, it is unlikely all three will be in the regular rotation? Who gives?

Ivan Carter: Right now, I'd say Etan given the fact that he's coming off a full year of inactivity. Blatche is going to play and play a lot (as long as he takes care of himself off the court somewhat, shows up and practices hard and prepares for games - no given) and Eddie trusts Songaila.


Uptown Baby, DC: Is the intensive pre-season schedule potentially going to wear us out or make anyone get a bad attitude? I know Haywood said he hates traveling, and furthermore it seems like a liability. Why should the Wizards be advertising for the NBA for free by flying across the pond?

Ivan Carter: Why not? The flight from DC to Germany is not that much longer than a flight from DC to say, Portland. I've done it and I'll be making the trip as well. I don't think it'll hurt at all. I mean, the Celtics went to Europe last fall didn't they?


Luray, VA: The return of Andrew Bynum will push Pau Gasol to PF (in my opinion his natural position), and, presumably Lamar Odom will move to the SF spot. That's a HUGE front line.

Kobe seems to be getting better and better.

Is LA the team to beat in the West?

Michael Lee: Without a doubt. Bynum would've made the difference for the team during the Finals, because he would've provided the interior defense that team really needed during the Finals. They ushered Paul Pierce into the lane so many times. And how you forget the Ray Allen waltz around Vujacic in Game 4?

A front line of Bynum, Gasol and Odom should make every team in the league nervous. And, oh yeah, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, too. I think everybody else is playing for second in the West. New Orleans could give them a run, though.


Hurdle Hill Lane: I hesitate to raise this issue, but I'm wondering if Gil Arenas and Brandon Roy have the exact same injury (partial tear in the meniscus)? With Roy, the recovery time seems to be about 2.5 months...

Ivan Carter: That was where Gilbert's insistence on rushing back so fast hurt him. If he had listened to the doctors and trainers and taken his time, the usual 2.5-3 month timetable would've been in effect.


Luray, VA: Long arms (7ft wingspan), lateral quickness, fast, good size (6'7"), large quick hands....

With his toolset, Nick Young should be a much better defender.

Have you seen anything in camp to indicate that he's been working on becoming better on defense?

Ivan Carter: I honestly can't say. He hasn't been horrible but I can't say that he's much improved either. Jordan did say that he looks better so I'll go with that.


Baltimore, MD: How much of what the players do in practice is position-specific?

I'm thinking in particular of A.B.'s situation, where it looks like he may find himself as a 3, 4, or 5 on defense, depending on the lineup/opposition. Do the coaches take him through the same situation multiple times, imagining different roles, or is everything just a matter of execution of defensive principles depending on where on the floor a player is?

Appreciate the job you guys do-can't get enough of the blog.

Ivan Carter: I have seen Andray do a lot of post-specific work (post ups, defensive positioning etc.) and also work drills as four ala Jamison.


Washington, D.C.: Would the Wizards be willing to trade one of their bigs to upgrade the backup swingman or guard positions? It seems Etan, Songaila, and Blatche all have big contracts, and Pecherov/McGee wouldn't fetch much of worth in return, but what do you think?

Michael Lee: Until Gilbert returns, it's really hard to talk about what the Wizards need. He could answer a lot of those questions. But I don't see why Ernie would hesitate to trade anybody to upgrade the team.


Deli Den/Swensen's - Cabin John Mall circa 1985: Is there any reason to expect that Brendan Haywood will be exponentially better this season? Is it possible to think he'll be an all-star this year?

Some suggest last season was a fluke. Is it possible that the opposite was the case, and if EDDY DOESN'T GO WITH CRAZY SUBSTITUTION PATTERNS that mess with superstars' fragile psychology - if Haywood is again allowed to be the clear starting center for the Wizards - he'll be able to make further improvement?

Ivan Carter: I could see him making slight improvement as a free throw shooter because he works so hard at it but otherwise, I think he is what he is. If he gets minutes, he gives an X amount of production. If not, his play and effort fluctuates along with his attitude.


Burke, Va: Irrelevant: Atlanta. They're so irrelevant that you forget they have a franchise when you're listing irrelevant teams.

Michael Lee: Atlanta equals a playoff team that pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games last season. I'm talking about really bad teams with no fans. The Hawks, at least, were invited to the postseason party.


Oakton, Va.: Ivan, congratulations on serving as beat reporter much longer than the previous ones... for years, covering this team meant covering a team that was not only irrelevant league wide, but also in its own hometown. Seemed like previous beat reporters moved on as soon as something bigger and better came along. Actually, forget the bigger and better part.

How long can you keep doing this?

Ivan Carter: Uh, thanks, I guess. Seriously, I like this gig and could see myself doing it for awhile. It hasn't gotten stale yet (when you cover Gilbert Arenas for a living and regular enter that Lockerroom, "stale" doesn't exist) and I enjoy the lifestyle so I'll be around.


Rockville, Md.: If Pecherov is "on the outside looking in", does the "bust" label start to apply? He was a top 10 pick and hasn't done anything.....

Ivan Carter: He was the 18th pick and he's only 22 years old. Relax.


Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping in folks. I have to go write my stuff for the paper now. Take care and keep reading.


Anonymous: The NBA draft often turns into a crap shoot and GMs take chances versus getting a solid contributor. That solid-contributer type slips to the 2nd-round. (Agent 0 is a prime example.) Who should we be looking out for from this draft, either this year or in years to come.

Michael Lee: You should keep an eye on the obvious guys like Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, and that old guy Oden. But you should also keep an eye on Rudy Fernandez. The Suns sold him to the Blazers two years ago. He was quite impressive at the Olympics and could be the Luis Scola of this rookie class.


Michael Lee: If that's it, I guess I'll say goodbye - to you guys and to Newport. I've got to get home. I hope we can talk again soon. Peace.


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