Tuesday, March 17 at 11 a.m. ET

Wizards Road Trip and NBA News

Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 17, 2009; 11:00 AM

Post staff writer Ivan Carter was online March 17 at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions about the Wizards and the NBA.

The transcript follows.

Wizards Coverage

Discussion Archive


Washingon, D.C.: Can you shed some insight into the Wizards' thinking on players logging heavy minutes? Obviously, the fact that 32 1/2 year old Antawn Jamison is leading the league in minutes for one of the worst teams in the league is eye-catching. But it is consistent with this team's philosophy -- they give their top players heavier minutes than any other team in the league.

In the past four seasons, the Wizards' top two players in minutes have ranked no lower than 12th in the league in minutes per game:

08-09: 5th and 8th (Jamison, Butler)

07-08: 4th and 12th (Butler, Jamison)

06-07: 7th and 10th (Arenas, Butler; Jamison was 18th)

05-06: 3rd and 9th (Arenas, Jamison)

There are 30 teams in the league, so on average each team should have one player in the top 30 of minutes played per game, and two in the top 60. In the four seasons listed above, only once did another team have a twosome that played more minutes per game than the Wizards' top twosome (in 06-07, Kobe and Lamar Odom ranked 4th and 9th, respectively). So clearly the Wizards' thinking on this issue is very different than the norm in the league.

Given the Wizards' recent injury history, isn't it legitimate to question the team's philosophy on this issue? And doesn't this issue go hand in hand with questions about the team's commitment to defense? It's one thing to ask a guy to play 40 minutes of offense every night; it's quite another to ask him to play 40 minutes of offense and tough defense every night.

Ivan Carter: Good question and good breakdown of the issue. I have three thoughts: 1) Arenas, Butler and Jamison WANT to play heavy minutes every night. They do not like coming off of the floor. 2) Before this season, the team was always in a dogfight for playoff seeding and those guys had to play big time minutes. 3) Whenever I've brought the subject up to Ernie Grunfeld, his response is along the lines of "the great players play heavy minutes."


Maryland: It seems like Jamison is pretty fed up and disgusted with some of the younger players. My question for you is, does Caron seem to share his feelings?

Ivan Carter: I wouldn't characterize it as fed up and disgusted. Just more like an older brother who thinks the young fellas need a good whoopin' every now and then. Caron feels very much the same way but doesn't vocalize it to us nearly as much. He's more likely to use humor. Before one game for instance, JaVale McGee was sitting and his locker and Butler said to him: "Hey JaVale, the weight room is down there around the corner. That's what Dwight Howard is doing right now. He loves those weights." Caron does that kind of thing.


Washington, DC: What have you heard from the Wizards regarding who they like in the upcoming draft?

Ivan Carter: I can't anyway speak for Ernie but I can tell you this: it's a one man lottery with Blake Griffin being that man. After that, I really believe they will do everything they can to trade the pick.


Mt. Pleasant: Any dark horse picks for the playoffs, beyond the usual suspects of Boston, LA, Cleveland, etc.? Any of the top seeds you see most at risk of being upset in an early round?

Ivan Carter: I was really starting to feel Orland before Jameer Nelson went down. I like Rafer Alston but with Nelson, I think they could've really given Boston and/or Cleveland a serious run.


Washington, D.C.: It's 11:15 and nothing about if Gilbert is going to play or not this year?

Ivan Carter: I don't think he's playing but that's just my gut. He's not on this trip so that only leaves 11 games. I know that the team wants to see Arenas and Brendan Haywood out there before the season ends but I get the feeling that neither player is in a rush.


Largo, Md.: As a Bullets fan from wayyyyy back, I happen to note our draft picks don't grow and develop here. It's not a talent thing, it a matter of growing as players and people.

Nick Young concerns me. He has a world of ability, but he has flaws in his game he should not have made it out of middle school basketball. His fadeaways from 18-feet burn me up. He never squares to the basket nor shoots on balance. Yeah he is a "scorer", but have some fundamentals to your game. Do the Wiz employ intensive measures to work with these guys or it simply on them in their eyes? I really feel like Nick Young is going to waste here just like many others before him.

Ivan Carter: I agree all the way. With the exception of Dominic McGuire, none of these young guys have really improved. The Pecherov pick is starting to look like bustville. Nick is one dimensional offensively, can't defend and has zero hoop iq. I see Crittenton as potentially being a solid backup PG but that's it. McGee is just raw but, I'm concerned about the messages he's receiving away from the court about how great he is. I get the impression that he thinks he already has it all figured out and that's scary because he has a long way to go.


Javale's Mom: Can someone please explain to me how a veteran, undersized PF is playing 30 min a game at center while my son only gets off the bench once every 5 games.

What exactly is Darius doing in practice to deserve all these minutes?

It's going to be hard enough finding minutes next year with Brendan back, why not give my boy some minutes this year? That way he can work through his defensive lapses in meaningless March and April games this season.

Ivan Carter: This really could be Pam McGee. Had this very conversation before. Tapscott's constant thought on this subject has been that minutes must be earned. I translate as meaning that McGee isn't earning them. Not saying I agree, I'm just asking the questions and providing the answers. As I said in my previous post, JaVale has some serious work to do and I think it's very important that he doesn't learn bad habits that will become that much harder to break down the line. The kid has big-time talent and has a chance to be special.


DC: Ed Tapscott is a player development guy, so why then does he seem to have so little interest in developing the young guys? The Wizards are terrible, so lets get the young guys out there as much as possible. Playing the matchups when you're the worst team in the league is absurd, no?

Ivan Carter: I generally agree but also say this: you can't reward guys who aren't brining it in practice or who are behaving like knuckleheads in the locker room with guaranteed playing time. It has to be earned.


Washington, DC: Have either of you asked Antawn Jamison how he would feel if the Wizards won the lottery and selected Blake Griffin? Griffin's presence would at least cut into Jamison's minutes, if not perhaps cause Jamison to come off of the bench eventually.

Ivan Carter: I can tell you for a fact that Jamison couldn't care less about a lottery pick. In terms of the lineup, you could always shift Butler to SG, play Jamison at SF and have Griffin at PF. Get your best guys on the floor regardless.


The Pecherov pick is starting to look like bustville. : How could we possibly know this about a guy that gets literally 2 minutes per game? And don't tell me he's gotta bring it in practice... the league is FULL of guys who didn't get a chance with one team, move on, and blow up. The Wiz have had far too many of those guys.

Ivan Carter: Thus the "starting to look like" Of course we really don't know. All I'm saying is that when a former first round pick can't get on the court for this team, you have to wonder.


Leesburg, Va.: If it's a "one man lottery with Blake Griffin ," doesn't that make the notion of trading the pick if you don't get Blake Griffin a much more daunting proposition?

Basically, Once Griffin is gone, what's the incentive for other teams to trade up to get our pick?

Ivan Carter: That could be the issue. What you have to think is that some time would be looking to move up if it likes one of the other guys Thabeet, Rubio etc. Maybe Ernie looks to package the pick with Mike James or Etan Thomas and takes back a vet who can help next year.


DC: It's the 2010-11 season opener for the Wizards. Which of "the kids" do you think is still around? McGee? Young? McGuire?

Ivan Carter: I think all three will likely be here.


Germany: Hey Ivan! Many Wiz-Fans believe that Tom Thibodeau, who nearly became our defensive assistant coach some time ago, would make a good coach next year. Is he on the radar? Grunfeld seems to like him. And how about the rumour about Pat Ewing?

Ivan Carter: Grunfeld's thinking on this has been a total mystery. All I know is that he knows that he has to pick someone who can deal with Gilbert. That's crucial. Not sure if Thibodeau will have his ear. I simply can't see Gilbert reacting well to Avery Johnson's style. Don't think Ernie would look for a first-time coach so that leaves Ewing out. As I've said before, Flip Saunders is a logical candidate but again, I can't speak for Ernie at all because he's revealed nothing.


Washington, DC: Do you have any insight as to whether the Wizards like James Harden out of Arizona St., if we don't get the #1 overall pick and grab Blake? Harden is solid all the way around. We struggle a little at the 2-guard spot. DeShawn plays decent defense, but it is a little limited offensively and Nick Young struggles with confidence, defense and and basketball IQ. We really could've used Mason!!

Ivan Carter: Given DeShawn's back problem and Nick's inconsistency, I agree that the 2 is an area of concern. Not sure how the team feels about Harden but I like him. He's not super athletic but he knows how to play. Almost reminds me of a Euro in how he gets to his spots on the floor.


Falls Church, Va.: Ivan, have you and Mike Wise worked the phones with Reggie Love and gotten in on those presidential basketball games?

Ivan Carter: working on it....


Washington DC: I'd be curious to know what kind of an insurance policy the Wiz got on Gilbert's knee when they signed that contract. I wonder if they get a big payout if he sits out the year?

The conspiracy theorist in me says that this could be true and so they're keeping him out because of that, and maybe they'll use the payout to go over the tax next year.

Ivan Carter: Nah, I can promise you that they aren't "keeping him out" In fact, they want him out there badly. The team has tickets to sell for next season and nothing in the world is going to make that happen like the sight of Arenas dropping 30.


DC: So, am I to presume that Mike James is the greatest practice player of all time? Because he is possibly the worst starting PG in the NBA and Tapscott just keeps playing him.

Ivan Carter: Valid point.


Haymarket, VA: Why has Ernie stockpiled so many young knuckleheads???

Ivan Carter: They are all good guys. I like each of them personally. However, none of them take their job very seriously. Hitting the weight room, eating right, getting rest, studying the game plan and scouting reports etc. Not yet anyway.


minutes must be earned....: ...Makes sense on a good team. It even makes sense on an ok team. This makes absolutely NO sense on a terrible team like the Wizards. Players get better by playing, and leaving your future on the bench on a 12 win team is insane.

Ivan Carter: Players get better by playing the right way otherwise, they're just out there playing. The league is filled with bad teams that have young guys doing that.


Washington, DC: Isn't the bottom line this: some NBA coaches just don't trust young guys, and 9 out of 10 times will play the awful vets over the green rooks.

Ivan Carter: When you get in the huddle and draw up a play that you worked on in practice and shootaround only to have the young fella look at you with a blank expression and not know what is going on what would you do? That happens all of the time.


Barney Circle: Wasn't the Mike James trade an act of desperation? The Wizards are stuck with him for next year, restricting how they can improve. Along with Etan Thomas, you have two guaranteed salaries next year for men who aren't going to help the Wizards get better. Doesn't this reflect badly on Ernie Grunfeld?

Ivan Carter: The Thomas contract is a problem. James was just a swap for Antonio Daniels so Daniels' money would have been on the books through next season anyway. But still, giving Daniels five years now looks like a bad move. At the time, Ernie had to do it to land him. He was going to sign with the Lakers that summer had the Wizards not upped the offer.


Maryland: Do you believe Arenas when he says that he is feeling like himself again, or do you write off as Gilbert being Gilbert. He said the same thing in the summer of 2007.

Ivan Carter: I've covered the dude for five years and I have no idea whatsover what he's thinking on a given day. Total mystery.


Washington, D.C.: Ivan, how much harder is it to cover a bad team?

Ivan Carter: Well, everyone gets mad at you more often: fans, the players, agents, wives of players, the front office, the pr staff, your editor, your friends who like the team etc. That's just part of the deal though.


Germantown, Md.: Ivan,

Congrats on your new gig. Sorry to see you go.

My question: Grunfeld the Trader has been A+. Grundfeld the Drafter and Free Agent Signer has been a C at best. If we draft Griffin, Harden or Thibeet, it will be make up for the disappointing drafts of years past. What was Ernie's track record with the Knicks and Buck when it came to evaluating talent in the draft and FA market?

Ivan Carter: One thing I'll say in defense of Ernie is that with the rare exception, he's been drafting in the mid teens to 20's and it's simply a crapshoot at that point in the draft. I give him credit for finding Michael Redd as a second rounder in Milwaukee and right, Dominic McGuire is a real find. Blatche was a second rounder as well though I would say that the jury is out on whether he'll ever be more than he is right now.


Washington, D.C.: Is it at all possible that Kareem could interview for the HC position. I don't understand why he has been virtually blackballed from the Association, outside of his current role with the Lakers. I think he would be great and should at least get a shot.

Ivan Carter: Everyone I've ever asked about Kareem simply feels that he doesn't have the communication skills or temperment to be a head coach. I personally don't have an opinion because I've never dealt with him.


Ivan Carter: Thanks for dropping in folks.


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