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NBA Season Begins

Ivan Carter and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 2:00 PM

Post staff writers Ivan Carter and Michael Lee were online Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions about what to expect this year from the Wizards and the rest of the league as the NBA season gets underway.

A transcript follows.

Wizards Coverage

Discussion Archive

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Michael Lee: We're back at this again. Hey everybody. I'm checking in from New York, where I'm going to see the new-look, or at least new-coached Knicks take on Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and the Miami Heat. It should be fun. I spoke with Beasley this morning and he has big plans for this season. He was my choice for rookie of the year and after Greg Oden went down last night - let's hope it's not for long - I may be on to something. I'm a little groggy today because I took a train from Boston this morning. I got a chance to see the Cs raise Banner No. 17, but I sort of need to catch some zzzzz. Anyway, enough with the intro. The NBA is here and I'm ready to answer you questions, so let's go. . .

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Washington, D.C.: I don't understand why NBA analysts have been making the case for the Cavs to challenge the Celtics for the conference crown just because of the addition of Mo Williams. Williams is no doubt a good player, but I think Lebron is like Allen Iverson in the sense that he has unique skills that makes it difficult to pair another all-star type player with. Do you think Mo Williams is the answer? If not, who, what type of player, would be a better counterpart to Lebron?

Michael Lee: It's funny you should say that. I was thinking the same thing last night, that maybe a little too much is being made about Mo Williams. He averaged 17 and 6 the past two seasons, but Milwaukee won an average of 27 games in that span. He does give the Cavaliers a little more offense, and the way that team plays defense, you really only need a litte offense. I picked the Cavaliers to win the Central Division and get to the conference finals based more on LeBron James and their suffocating defensive schemes than anything else. James was sensational in Beijing and I still think GM Danny Ferry has another move up his sleeve before all is said and done.

I wouldn't go so far as to say LeBron is like Allen Iverson, because they are two completely different players. James is a reluctant scorer who plays more focused when he's angry. Iverson is a relentless scorer who goes from the throat from the jump. I think James is more willing to lift of his teammates and encourage them, while Iverson sort of takes the attitude that his teammates need to have his same killer attitude or get out of the way.

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Washington, D.C.: Ok, so we know the lineup tonight is Etan, Antawn, Caron, Deshawn, and Antonio, with Javale McGee on the inactive list. However, considering just how talented guys like Nick Young, Andray Blatche, and McGee are, do you foresee any of them moving up in the rotation or even starting by the end of the year?

Ivan Carter: We do not know that JaVale McGee will be on the inactive list. Eddie Jordan won't make that decision until an hour before tip-off as league rules allow. In fact, I would guess that either Oleksiy Pecherov or Dee Brown will be inactive. I see McGee getting playing time.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike, great story on Oden yesterday. It's to bad "david" keeps aiming for "goliath's" legs...crossing my fingers it's not serious

washingtonpost.com: Goliath ReturnsOden, Bynum Charged With Bringing Big Men Back to the Forefront (Post, Oct. 28)

Michael Lee: Me too. That injury last night didn't look too bad, but you never know. You really want to see that kid do well.

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New Orleans: Who wins the Rookie of the Year award?

Michael Lee: I think I just said it in my intro - Michael Beasley. He will get a ton of shots and his team has a good chance of being relatively successful since he is playing with a superstar in Dwyane Wade. Derrick Rose looked pretty nice last night, though. O.J. Mayo might do some damage, too. You can only hope that Greg Oden does as much damage on the league as bad karma has done on his body.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Ivan/Mike...Props on the Wiz Insider and previous coverage of the team.

How much of the team's defensive emphasis was attributed to Haywood's consistent playing time and confidence by EJ...and how will that change with the current injuries w/Agt Zero and Haywood?

Keep up the good coverage. Icing my ankle from a city league game in Dale City...

Ivan Carter: The thing that Haywood brought, other than length and shot-blocking, was excellent bball iq. He really studied the tendencies of opposing big men and of offensive schemes and sort of quarterbacked the defense from his center spot. I felt that he did a great job last season of calling out rotations. Etan Thomas is a good positional defender, an above-average shotblocker and a guy who won't get shoved around but in terms of team defense, he doesn't talk as much and doesn't rotate off his man as well. Also, Haywood's length made him a better matchup for the long types like Garnett, Bosh etc. That's where McGee and Blatche come in. They have to help.

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Washington, DC: One thing that hasn't been analyzed much is the impact Haywood's injury will have on Jamison. In past years, Haywood has guarded the opposing team's more potent center or power forward, leaving Jamison to guard the other guy. For example, Haywood has guarded the likes Elton Brand and Garnett, leaving Chris Kaman and Kendrick Perkins for Jamison. With Haywood out, Jamison may have to check other teams' star power forwards, leading to either early foul trouble for Jamison, or a career night by that star. Which Wizards center offers Jamison the most support in that regard? I'm guessing Blatche, but he's no Haywood.

Ivan Carter: Great point about Haywood covering for Jamison in many cases. I see McGee developing into that kind of guy as the season goes along because he has the combination of length, quickness and shot-blockingn ability to defend fours or fives. As the season progresses, I would not be surprised to see a lineup consisting of Butler at the 2, Jamison at the 3, McGee at the 4 and Etan or Blatche at the 5.

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Fairfax, VA: I'm a HUGE Wizards fan, but from what I observed in preseason tells me that we don't make the playoffs this year. The East is much improved and more deep then years past. Your thoughts?

Ivan Carter: Other than the Memphis and San Antonio games, this team did not look good but I think the bottom half of the East is a little overrated. I see six playoff locks: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Toronto, Philly and Detroit. After that, I'd put the Wiz next with Chicago, Miami and Milwaukee in the mix.

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Arlington, Va.: Are tickets still available for tonight's game?

Ivan Carter: I think so. Go to www.washingtonwizards.com and check it out. As of earlier, seats were available.

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Detroit: Greg Oden -- an ominous sign of things to come, or just a small blip?

Michael Lee: I don't know. It's not looking good. I hate that it has to be like this for Oden. He's such a nice kid and really wants to be everything everybody wants him to be. You have to remember that he is just 20 years old and he's handling a ton of pressure - FRANCHISE SAVIOR!!

The one thing that's hard to break in this league is a reputation for being fragile (see Larry Hughes), but there have been cases of players with history of injuries bouncing back to be really productive players (Marcus Camby, Zydrunas Ilguaskas). I think we'll have to wait and see what his MRI says. But given his broken wrist in college and his microfracture surgery last year, you have to wonder. I'm not ready to call him Sam Bowie just yet.

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Great Falls, Va.: The other evening, I thought I heard Wilbon announce that Monday was a bad day for sons of former sports stars. He indicated that a number of them were cut/waived including Patrick Ewing, Jr. D.J. Strawberry was mentioned, but I missed the other names. I wonder who else, and is there any news on whether they were picked up by other teams? What are their prospects? Thanks for taking the question.

Michael Lee: Danny Grunfeld, Ernie's son, also got cut by the Knicks. I'm not sure what will happen with those guys since most teams have their rosters set. I would assume that Europe or the D-League is their futures until something changes.

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Washington, D.C.: Any chance that Caron Butler enters the MVP discussion this year?

Ivan Carter: On the surface, that sounds like a nutty question but during the first half of last season, Butler was playing as well as anyone in the league. Remember the back-to-back wins over Boston? The key for him will be staying healthy and getting in at least 70 to 75 games. I'll be asking Eddie Jordan about how he plans on managing Caron's minutes prior to tonight's game. Last season, Caron logged huge minutes and he either wore down or had bad luck. That's where Dominic McGuire comes in. He has the size and talent to spell Caron but he has to show it.

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Columbia, Md.: Lately I hear talk and articles that sway between this upcoming season kicking off with a lot of promise for the NBA and others saying that there is still too much controversy in the NBA to attract the average channel surfing fan. I fall somewhere in between, I am excited to see what this season's Wizards squad is going to look like, but could care less that the Lakers are playing the Blazers or Rockets, etc. on TNT. Where do you guys see the state of the NBA as the season gets ready to start off?

Michael Lee: What controversy is surrounding the NBA? I'm not aware of any, unless you want to say that the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City was controversial. But I think the league is doing okay at the start of the season. Team USA is coming off an Olympic gold medal, you have a ton of incredible talent that has yet to turn 25 (LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant). I think you should really sit back and appreciate these days. The league hasn't looked this good for some time. I think Michael Wilbon explained it much better than I can yesterday.

washingtonpost.com:

washingtonpost.com: Plenty of Reason To Enjoy the NBA Again (Post, Oct. 28)

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Mt. Vernon, Va: Minnesota Timberwolves: How does Kevin McHale keep his job? He is like the Wes Unseld of the Twin Cities. Except Unseld actually played for the team he helped drive into the ground.

Ivan Carter:..Thanks Mike. As a Minnesota native and guy who bought my first NBA jersey two days after the city got a franchise, I'm wondering the same thing. Other than drafting Garnett (not as big a lock at the time as it seems now) and putting opening up a championship windown by acquiring Sprewell and Sam I Am (bold moves both), McHale has a total disaster. Terrible drafts (Ndubi Ebi when Josh Howard, Kendrick Perkins and Barbosa were available, Randy Foye over Brandon Roy, Corey Brewer), bad trades (Cassell and a first rounder to the Clips for Marko Jaric, Garnett to his boys on the cheap, the draft day deal that sent O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Kevin Love) and awful signings (Mike James, overpaying Wally Z etc.) make him the worst GM in the biz. The only thing I can think of is that he played at the U of M and is a Minnesota boy. Brutal.

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Reston, Va.: Don't you feel that this is the year everything catches up to Eddie Jordan, and the Wizards are a disaster much like last year's Heat?

Ivan Carter: Only if the Wiz get nailed by injuries to Butler and/or Jamison. Then, yes, it's full rebuilding mode. Jordan's offense is fluid enough to keep teams from "catching up" to it. It's predicated off of reading the defense and adjusting. It's not like he relies on a batch of set plays that teams can just concentrate on.

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Aiken, SC: If Brown is inactive, does that mean Dixon is the backup PG? Yikes. At least Brown is more of a pure 1, even if he can't fill it up like Juan.

Ivan Carter: That's why I see Pecherov being the guy. Dee gives them something they don't have: a real backup pg who can chase the pace of the game.

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DC: I know EJ wants Blatche to earn it, but, uh ... can we just play him anyway. Etan and Darius at center?!?!? Can't play defense, and although maybe MAYBE can hold their own on the defensive glass with Antawn, there will be no offensive boards with them, which was a key to the Wizards success last year.

Ivan Carter: The problem with just playing Blatche "anyway" is that Jordan will lose credibility in that locker room. Believe me, those guys know when one of their teammates is showing up late to practice, dogging it and basically mailing it in every other night and if they see that player rewarded anyway when they aren't consistently producing, They will rightly wonder what the coach is thinking. Andray made strides last season but he has to bring it on a nigthly basis period.

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Framingham, Mass.: Will McGee see real minutes this year? Related -- what does the C depth chart look like? I hope Songaila's not on it.

Ivan Carter: Based on the improvement I saw from the young man between summer league and the preseason and on how he played without showing any signs of backing down, I would say that he is going to see minutes. It may fluctuate from night to night based on matchups (if a team is playing a rookie center heavy minutes for instance) but I see him playing.

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20165: How does Coach Jordan plan on handling Daniels' minutes until Arenas returns? Will Nick Young/DeShawn/Dee Brown take turns at PG to spell Daniels, or will Daniels likely be playing at a 40min+ clip until Arenas returns (thus, exposing him to injury like last year).

Ivan Carter: He can't play Daniels that much and I don't think he'll have to. Remember that last year, this team did not have a backup pg (except for those 10 days when Mike Wilks was signed to a 10-day). Still, Daniels averaged a career-high 30.4 minutes per game and as you point out, he did get tagged up a bit with his wrist. The way he plays - attacking the rim and hitting the floor hard - takes a toll so look for Dee Brown and/or Juan Dixon to play behind him.

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20008: Fellas

I'm amazed at Brand's contract. What is Philly thinking? He was an excellent player, but a rupture Achilles is a brutal thing to come back from. Seems very dicey to me.

Michael Lee: What was Philadelphia thinking? Um. The Sixers were thinking that they aren't going to go anywhere if their low post scoring has to come from Samuel Dalembert. Running up and down the court can get you some wins, but in the playoffs, you need somebody who can do something inside - especially if you don't have a supremely talented perimeter player. Andre Iguodala is a good player, but he is not a No. 1 option. Elton Brand is. You have to remember that only two years ago, the Clippers came a few plays from advancing to the Western Conference finals. I know Elton is trying to work himself back into shape, but an Achilles injury isn't like a knee and Brand doesn't have an above the rim game. He should be okay.

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DC: Who is Hopla working with this year? McGuire, hopefully? Can we expect Etan to continue shooting 5 percent or whatever he shoots from the line?

Ivan Carter: I've seen him working with a bunch of guys. Not sure about Etan improving that stroke too much though. He has that hitch in it and the ball just doesn't come off his hand very well. McGuire's J is much improved but he has to show it in games. Blatche needs serious work on his J. I've seen Hopla putting in the time with all of them.

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Annandale, VA: Please tell me the Wiz have done away with that ugly alternate uniform this season. Seriously that has to be the worst jersey in the league, who ever designed it needs to be fired. Bring back the classic red white and blue Bullets jersey as the alternate.

Ivan Carter: They'll still wear the black and gold from time to time but will also introduce a new blue and gold uniform that dates back to the old Chicago Zephyrs. Haven't seen 'em yet though.

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Westminster, Md.: What's the latest update on Gil's rehab? What are the chances we'll see him in December?

Ivan Carter: I'd say pretty good. Everything I'm hearing tells me that he'll be back at some point in mid-December.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael and/or Ivan,

If you were in charge of the NBA, what two to three rule changes would you make?

Michael Lee: I wouldn't want to change any rules, necessarily. I would just move the Grizzlies back to Vancouver and the Sonics back to Seattle. Then, I'd be okay. I hate that the Pacific Northwest has been robbed of two basketball teams the past 10 years.

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Lynhaven: Is there any way the Wiz could beat the Cavs in the playoffs this year? I'm assuming Gilbert is back.

Ivan Carter: I seriously doubt it. Remember, Cleveland actually a noted Wiz killer in Mo Williams and this team - even with Gilbert - does not have a player who can remotely defend LeBron. The team that pushed the Cavs to six games three years ago at least had Jeffries and Haywood at the rim.

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Herndon, VA: Since the Skins are a legit NFC contender and the Caps are also a legit Eastern Conference Contender, will this in any way hurt or help the Wizards as they fly under the local radar for the next couple of months?

Ivan Carter: It may not help at the ticket office but it could keep some pressure off of the fellas until Arenas gets back.

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Fairfax, VA: What are your predictions for tonight's game? I know the Nets are supposed to be a lottery team but they still have Vince Carter who always kills the Wizards. (I'll never forget that 3 pointer he clunked in against the Wiz at the buzzer to force overtime with the new basketball they experimented with a couple seasons ago).

Ivan Carter: I'm serious when I say this (and I'm a guy who has seen every game this team has played the last four years): I have no idea whatsoever what to expect from this team tonight and into the season. One thing I can say: Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are going to bring it like monsters. The key will be those two staying healthy.

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Warsaw: So given your comment about teams with roookie centers, what do you think will be Eddie's substitution pattern against the Nets tonight? And given last year's start, how close is this year's opener to being a "must-win" game?

Ivan Carter: Relax Warsaw, it's one of 82. That said, you do have a point. This team could really use a good start because A) They played like garbage in the preseason and B) the young guys need a confidence boost that comes with winning.

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Roanoke, Va.: Hey guys. first of all, you guys do a great job. Second of all, hooray for a new NBA season! wOne where the Wizards are finally healthy...oh, nevermind. Here's my question -- can you give me a surprise team or two for both conferences that nobody is talking about but may jump out and surprise people?

Ivan Carter: I like Milwaukee even though the Bucks struggled in the preseason and lost last night. I see the Redd/Jefferson combo clicking, Bogut and Ridnour doing solid things and Skiles getting them all to play legit defense.

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Washington, DC: Hey guys, for a few straight years now, we've read articles and blurbs about the 'young guys' stepping in and playing a role. First it was Jarvis Hayes, next it was Pech/Macguire, now it's Nick Young. I'm wondering where the disconnect is between the projections/expectations for these young guys and the actual production? I'll never forget reading about how Macguire and Pech were "putting on a show in summer league and ready to make some noise for the Wiz."

Thanks for the chat

Ivan Carter: Let's wait and see. I've seen good things from all of them but as well all know, they have to bring it in real games on a semi-consistent basis to make a real difference. Blatche and Young are the keys. Young HAS to score and Blatche HAS to play defense, rebound and make the little bunnies at the rim (go stronger to the rack Andray).

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Washington, D.C.: the NBA is fine, because it has a number of players! the one issue I still have with the NBA is it's all about players and promoting players. Why can't it promote the sport?

Let's look at the Wizard from an LA perspective. I am quite sure the Celtics sell out Staples, but the Wiz are typically a good show against whomever they play. Stern needs to promote the game, i.e the sport.

Michael Lee: Are you saying that the Celtics and the Lakers aren't good teams? I think the NBA has moved beyond forcefeeding us superstars because the best players are on really good teams right now. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are on the same team. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are on the same team. Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming are on the same team. Tim Duncan and. . .you get my point.

I think the fans got excited during the finals last year because it was the Celtics and the Lakers, not necessarily because it was Kobe vs. KG. The stars being on those teams only helped the situation, just like years ago, when Magic, Larry, Michael, Isiah, Dr. J, etc., were leading the good teams.

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Fairfax, VA: With the Wiz picking up the options of Nick Young and Pesh, it seems like they have no room for any other players to add in the draft or in free agency for the next couple of years. Do you see Ernie keeping his draft picks (a PG perhaps?) considering the fact they have so many young players on their roster and he's determined to see which of them, if any, can contribute?

Ivan Carter: I see a trade going down at some point prior to the deadline and if not then, certainly over the summer. Retaining Pech made him very throwinable (is that word?) in a trade.

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Washington, D.C.: If Blatche doesn't play up to expectations, do you see Ernie possibly moving him to team that thinks he can reach his potential?

Ivan Carter: I could but the problem with that is this: Blatche's contract is so reasonable (around $3 million per season) that getting equal value back would be very tough.

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Vancouver, British Columbia: Saw the Laker-Portland game last night. Damn, those Lakers are young and deep. Jordon Farmer will be a force to reckon with I think this year. And Sasha and Radman are shooting 3's like there is no tomorrow...and I think we all know what Byman, Gasol, Odom and, oh yeah, the MVP can do. Will anything but injuries stop them this year?

Michael Lee: I really don't think so. Adding Bynum was huge. They just needed someone to protect the paint and keep Paul Pierce from knifing into the lane at will. If healthy, he really could've been the difference last summer. I think going to the Finals - and losing by 39 points in Game 6 - gave their inexperienced players all the motivation they needed to get back.

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Concord, N.C.: I wondered your take on comparing Kobe to Lebron. I've yet to see Lebron make clutch free throws or make a defensive stop with the game on the line, including against the Celtics last night. This is where Kobe is far superior. I know Lebron has had great 4th quarter playoff performances, notably against the Pistons and Wizards, but in those games he just used his athletic ability to keep scoring.

Michael Lee: What's the saying? You've got to use what you got, to get what you want.

LeBron actually made a huge defensive stop against Kobe in the regular season last year. He won their duel in January by outscoring Kobe and shutting him down defensively.

Granted, Kobe has a more decorated resume than LeBron, but he also has a more talented team. How many all-star caliber talents has LeBron played with? Zydrunas Ilguaskas?

How many has Kobe played with? Shaquille O'Neal. Pau Gasol. Now, Andrew Bynum. And Lamar Odom is no slouch.

You give LeBron one or two of those players and you might view him differently. I was with the Redeem Team in China this summer and I don't think anybody played both ends of the floor better than LeBron James did. He also was the leader of that team, in words and actions.

I like Kobe, but LeBron has done so much with so little throughout his entire career.

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Anonymous: do the Celts repeat?

What road games/trips are you guys looking forward too? What are your year end projections? Best cheerleaders, wings etc.

Ivan Carter: No. I like the Hornets or Lakers. I'm looking forward to New Orleans (as always), SF (as always), going home to Mpls, LA, Miami (and the beach) and Denver (where a couple of my lifelong buddies live. What up McMahon and Chappy?) The best cheerleaders, hands down, are in Miami. Wow. My favorite staples on the road are the irish cofee at a joint near the Golden Gate bride in SF, the chicago-style pizza in Chi-town, the real seafood in Boston and cuban food in Miami. Oh, and I hate losing Seattle. Hands down my favorite NBA city. Was that is.......

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Washington, D.C.: Ivan and/or Michael, If you were the Wizards GM, would you have signed both Arenas and Jamison? Or would you have gone a different direction?

Michael Lee: Yes. Starting over is really hard to do in this league. You can't guarantee that just because you can rebuild it just because you blow it up, otherwise the Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors would've won a championship by now.

The Wizards were in a tough situation last summer because they had two of the top five free agents on the market. And, they HAD to sign both players, not just one because they didn't have to money to say, sign Gilbert and Elton Brand or Antawn Jamison and Josh Smith. After they committed to Antawn, there was no cap room to do anything else but keep Arenas. The Wizards main issue the past two seasons has been health, not chemistry or talent. It didn't hurt to see what would happen if the team ever got healthy - until Arenas got hurt again.

Ivan Carter: I would concur with Mike. It's easy to say now, but if this team allowed both playes to walk, you were looking at a three to four year process of rebuilding. This team, if healthy, can compete and I see a three-year window for adding the kinds of pieces needed to make a real run.

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Washington DC: Did everyone laugh when Eddie pledged to rely on "his veterans" in the early going. God, another season of Darius at C... ugh.

Ivan Carter: Relax, I see McGee filling that role as the season plays out. I don't want to put to much on the kid, but I'm telling you: he is going to be a monster.

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Reston, Va.: Hi Ivan Hi Michael

Which of the Wizards kids are going to come through this year? I love what I've seen from Javale, but I'm hoping and pulling for Andray to bust loose. Young's shot is ugly looking...that's all I've got, it's just ugly, but they still fall through the hoop. Go figure. Have fun this season boys...

Ivan Carter: Nick Young this season. McGee over the next two to three seasons.

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New Orleans: Will we ever see the Wizards "big three" playing healthy together for a full season?

Ivan Carter: Great question. I have no idea.

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Washington, D.C.: An Odom for Antawn trade makes sense. Wiz need a taller guy at 4 who can play D and score, and Lakers need a 3 who can score, while having both Bynum and Gasol start at 5 and 4 respectively. Agree?

Ivan Carter: No. Odom is in the final year of his deal and could walk after the season. The Wiz just locked Jamison up longterm. Why would you do that? And, assuming you would, you would have to count on Andray Blatche being a starting four. I haven't seen enough to count on that yet.

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Tucson, Ariz.: Eddie said he hasn't finished his rotation yet, but will we see a lineup with Blatche, McGee, Pechorov...

Ivan Carter: I kind of doubt. Eddie tried that a few times during the preseason and it didn't work to well. He really got on Pech and Andray for how they played together defensively.

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New York: Michael, thanks for the chat. My beloved Wizards have tossed "continuity" in our faces for the last several years. What will it take for the organization (Ernie G) to realize that continuity is great if you are the Pistons/Spurs but not great if you are an inherently flawed 5-8 seed? We are anchored in place while other teams are getting better (or attempting to) all around us. Isn't the point to win a championship? Does anyone in the building see this as a championship group with or without Gilbert?

Michael Lee: There is only one champion and 29 losers. The question is, how bad do you want to lose? When you think about it, only eight different teams have won championships since 1980. The Lakers, the Celtics, the Sixers, the Pistons, the Bulls, the Rockets, the Spurs and the Heat. The only time a team won a title without a sure-fire Hall of Famer was in 2004, with the Pistons. Those other teams had league MVPs or franchise-changers, often at multiple positions.

Yes, the goal is to win championships, but only a select few really have a shot. At that point, you have to decide, do we want to be competitive and hope some things bounce our way; maybe we can get lucky like we did in 1978. Or do you stink year after year hoping that you can get the No. 1 pick, only to find out it's Kwame Brown.

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Sterling, Va.: As a Wizards fan, I am more scared about Wade's resurgence than I am about anything else in the Southeast division (and yes, I'm including Adam Morrison's haircut).

Ivan Carter: I agree with you. Atlanta took a big step back losing Childress and that bench is paper-thin. Charlotte will be more competitive because of LB but is not a threat.

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Arlington, Va.: I was really surprised to learn Paul Pierce dropped 15 pounds over the offseason. I thought he (and the others) celebrated a little too much, and that they'd be flat. So far this preseason and last night they've looked pretty good.

Michael Lee: I think the best thing I heard Paul Pierce say was that he knows everybody is gunning for them this season, but he said they are gunning for everybody else. That's the mindset a champion has to have. Be on the offensive. Take out your opponent. Don't let them take you out.

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Washington, D.C.: What happened to Chicago? Just 2-3 years ago they were the young, up and coming team, along with the Wiz. The Wiz have maintained the level of play, while chicago has regressed to a possible playoff team.

Michael Lee: The Bulls overachieved two, three years ago and their bubble burst, just like the housing market. They had a lot of good but not great players and had to start all over. Getting Derrick Rose is a good start to turn things around.

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G'town fan from NW: Two Georgetown inquiries. One, what ever happened to Jonathan Wallace? I saw him on the summer league roster, and never heard from him again. And two, has there been any discussion at all about the Wizards bringing in Pat Ewing Jr? Despite his offensive liabilities, I see him as being a beast on defense.

Ivan Carter: Not sure where Wallace is. They won't be signing Ewing. No roster space.

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DC: Did Eddie lose his dinner when Nick threw that no look pass/turnover to Juan against the Cavs?

Ivan Carter: That play - along with the one when Nick forced a shot that clanged off the backboard - is why Eddie is not sold on any of the young guys. It's feast or famine. Strap yourselves in folks.

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Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping in folks. I'm getting ready to head to the arena soon. I'll be on Wash Post Live talking Wiz at 5 p.m. so check it out.

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20165: I am not sold on Toronto. Jermaine O'Neal is going to be an albatross for that team because his minutes will likely decrease over time since he's washed up, which could lead to him sulking and affecting their chemistry. I am also not sold on Philly, as they overpaid more for Brand and Iggy than the Wiz did for Arenas. Am I nuts?

Michael Lee: What are you being sold about these teams? I don't know if I see either team as a championship contender. But you should hop on board with them being playoff teams with the potential to get out of the first round. That's not too far-fetched.

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Michael Lee: Whew. That was fun. But I've got to get ready to head over to the Garden. I hope we can do a few more of these. It's great talking to you guys and gals. Next time we talk, we'll have a new President. Get out and vote, people. Peace.

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