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Live from Cleveland


Just wanted to drop in with some info before heading over to Quicken Loans arena for this morning's shootarounds. The issue of the day for me will be how the Wizards go about defending LeBron James. I'm sure you've heard of the guy, he's the cat who is in every other commercial these days. (I personally love the new "Lebrons" one with him on the diving board. Great stuff).

Last season, there was no question what the Wiz were going to do: they assigned Jared Jeffries to him and tried various ways of helping from there. Double teams. Traps. Various zones. James got off big time in the playoff series when he averaged 35.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists but Jeffries did give James problems with his 6-foot-11 inch body, uncanny wingspan and quick feet. He drew a number of charging calls on James and remember, James did average 5.6 turnovers in the series. I had a scout tell me a few weeks ago that Jeffries does as good a job on James as any player in the league.

Without Jeffries, Caron Butler will be the first man on deck but DeShawn Stevenson, Jarvis Hayes, Antonio Daniels and even Gilbert Arenas will get a shot. Coach Eddie Jordan discussed his plans the other day.
"I told the them the other day: Caron, first you're going to be a witness, then DeShawn, you're going to be a witness. Jarvis, you're going to be a witness too. And then after we gathered up at the end of practice, Gilbert came up to me and said: Coach, can I be a witness too? So, we're going to throw a bunch of guys at him."

Butler is listed at 6-7 but I think he's really closer to 6-5. He is strong though and quick enough to stay in front of LeBron but he's not long-limbed like Jeffries so I see LeBron shooting over him. Also, Butler has to be concerned about getting into foul trouble and hurting himself at the other end.
I spoke to Butler about facing LeBron after practice on Wednesday and Butler already had his game face on: "From my standpoint, I'm just looking at trying to watch as much film as I can over the course of the next couple of days. On the plane ride there, in my room....just want to watch a lot of film and study as much as I can. I'll look at film of myself on him last year, seeing what I did well, what I did wrong and how I can approach him this year. I felt I did well at times, kind of disrupting him so we'll see what happens. First of all, you have to match his energy. It's going to be a big crowd, ESPN and all of that so I definitely have to match the energy he's going to bring. I'm prepared for that challenge."
How does Caron avoid getting into foul trouble?
"I'm not going to avoid playing hard or avoid playing physical on defense. I'm still going to be me and if that happens, it happens. I 'm a player who has to be aggressive at both ends of the floor. I have to be me."

Stevenson checked LeBron as a member of the Magic last season and fully expects to get some of the King tonight. His approach: "I just try to force him off his right hand as much as possible. You have to push him to his left and make him take fadeaway jumpers as much as possible."
Does the 6-5 Stevenson worry about the 6-8 James posting him up?
"He does that some but he's more comfortable facing up and attacking off the dribble. He likes to see the floor and then react to the defense that way."

Jordan on James: "He's scary. That size. That passing ability. He's focused. He's willing to help his teammates. I think his shot selection has become better, his decision making is probably better. He' s not trying to make the outlandish pass - he knows his teammates now."

However, James is not the only Cavs player the Wiz will be concerned with. Jordan touched on that the other day as well.
"The thing that kept me up at night, giving me nightmares all summer was seeing Drew Gooden and Anderson Verajao running to the boards and getting putbacks. That hurt us too."

Ok, heading off to shootaround. I'll check back in this afternoon with any buzz from the arena. Any questions you folks what asked today? Drop some in the comments section and I'll try to get a couple asked and answered for you.


By Ivan Carter  |  November 1, 2006; 9:31 AM ET
 
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Comments

Thanks for the word Ivan! I am interested to see if Songaila's injury will move Blatche into the rotation. He didn't look very good in the preseason games I saw, and I wondered how he's been looking in practice the past week. Seems he'd be a good matchup on Verajao. Also I love what I saw of Lang, and hoping he gets an opportunity to get on the floor. His ability to score down low could really help to open things up for our perimeter scorers. Overall, I think our best opportunity against the Cavs is to really try to establish an uptempo game and run them out of the building. I know we want to focus on D, but our advantage over this team is we have alot of speed. I don't see them able to keep up with us if we get the fast break going and really run and gun.

Posted by: Darnell | November 1, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I think this game tonight will be very telling as to why we will struggle to reach these lofty expectations we seem to have set for ourselves. We cannot match-up defensively with the bigger teams (like CLE) or the quicker teams (NJ). We can talk about defense all we want to; but it will be the same song after Thomas is out after 3 minutes in the first quarter with 2 fouls, and we are 'going small' with Ruffin at the 5. Giving up 2nd chance points, dunks, and layups.

It makes me sad. Everyone got better and our big aquisition won't play this year. I'm down right now. Somebody pick me back up.

Posted by: Bernard King | November 1, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Everyone keeps talking about how the Wizards' lack of defense allowed LeBron to score all those last minute layins. What about LeBron taking four steps? How are you supposed to defend against that?

Posted by: Zonker | November 1, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Don't get down yet. The season hasn't even started!
I am hopeful that the Wiz will be good this year for the same reason the Redskins are bad every year, keeping the core team together.
We started looking really good for stretches during the later parts of last year. Granted, we didn't get it done in the playoffs, but you learn from those experiences. I think that we will be happy with the product on the court. I'm not saying a title or anything yet, but defintely the playoffs.
We kept the big three together, got back Jarvis, and added some a role player in Stevenson.

Posted by: Re: Bernard | November 1, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Other than who will guard James tonight (Butler fouled out in the playoff even though he was not the primary defender against James), the subplot will be Etan against Ilgauskas.

How well can Etan defend Ilgauskas? Can Etan outquick Big Z on the other end? And if does not work out, is Jordan willing to switch to Haywood?

We will also get to see the how the new defensive emphasis works in a regular game. Is it really an improvement or just a lot of talk like last season?

I couldn't wait.

Posted by: sagaliba | November 1, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't get down my man. Song being out does hurt us. I saw his addition really helping because he gave us the ability to go big without losing anything offensively. Bring him in at PF, then we can play Antawn at SF which is his best position, and either Hayes or Butler at SG. Now if we want more size, we can still slide Antawn and Caron down, but with Ruffin or possibly Booth at PF should help control the boards, but not as nice a unit offensively of course. Blatche can be an option, but he looked terrible in preseason. He was really lost, and made alot of TOs and some really bad passes and decisions overall, and was not good defensively at all. In light of this injury, I would love to see us go out and obtain someone like Michael Sweetney, Nick Collison, or Hakim Warrick.

Posted by: Darnell | November 1, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Have fun in Cleveland Ivan. I like how you broke down the defensive match ups against King James. But I believe you missed the biggest issue which has been lingering for several years...the lack of size, strength, and ability with our big men. Haywood...good back up but has not turned the corner in being a legit starting center mostly b/c of his lack of aggressiveness and inconsistent defense. I believe we could have made a better effort in going after a better big man this off season (Big Ben coming back home to VA...Ohhh lasss what could of been). King James is going to get his numbers and if the game is on the line when he has the ball the Wiz are in trouble...despite what Eddie Jordon does to prepare. The lack of a legit center is what I believe is going to be a bigger factor in the game as well as the season...Thomas is really a power forward and can't hold down the lane by himself b/c of his height. A great person...but more of a back up power forward coming off the bench vice a starting center. We will see...Ivan, check out Haywood after the game to see if being benched motivates him or pushes him further away from the coach and team...

Posted by: Fitz | November 1, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Agree w/Fitz about how Haywood is affected by coming off the bench tonight.

Also: Stopping LeBron is not just a matter of keeping him from scoring. It's also about cutting off the passing lanes. I agree there's no way to stop LeBron from taking four steps like in the playoffs :) but CUTTING OFF THE BASELINE wouldn't hurt either.

In other words, the Wiz have to play good team D tonight -- they can't just focus on shutting down LeBron. They also have to keep him from hitting open teammates, force the Cavs into low-percentage shots on the perimeter and prevent drives to the basket (or help out and rotate effectively when the Cavs penetrate).

If the Wiz can frustrate LeBron and the rest of the Cavs, that will likely show up in the stats: a low assist/turnover ratio for LeBron, low shooting percentages for the Cavs -- and better yet, a Wiz win.

Can I get a witness?!?

Posted by: iceberg | November 1, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Quicken Loans arena???

ewwwwwww when did they change to that?

Nobody bets the Wiz. Let get off to a good start on the road tonight. They can't look as bad as Miami did last night. : )

Just looking for a good outing from the Guy, good ball movement on Offence, and some hussle on D and the boards and I'll be happy. Maybe a fat lip for Leborn. It's just opening day of the season not the first game in a playoff series.

Posted by: dc | November 1, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree that you can not stop LeBron, but how about stopping the rest of the team. If we can stop the rest of team then we have a good chance of winning. I mean last time I checked a B-ball team is more than 1 man. Besides that I think we have the talent to go along way this season, maybe not a championship but atleast the playoffs and maybe a first or second round win. I think we will be alright defensivly this year if everybody step up and play some good D. Get low slap the floorboards and man up. Go WIZ.

Oh yeah get rid of them Gold uniforms.

Posted by: BxSteve | November 1, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Ok something else Haywood is good for was what he did to Lebron in the playoffs last year....put him on his butt and it affected his game.

Ask Haywood to do that again for me Ivan since he's already coming off the bench anyway. Not really a question, but more of a suggestion. :)

They should really send a message to him tonight that will last into the playoffs.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 1, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Ok something else Haywood is good for was what he did to Lebron in the playoffs last year....put him on his butt and it affected his game.

Ask Haywood to do that again for me Ivan since he's already coming off the bench anyway. Not really a question, but more of a suggestion. :)

They should really send a message to him tonight that will last into the playoffs.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 1, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Ok something else Haywood is good for was what he did to Lebron in the playoffs last year....put him on his butt and it affected his game.

Ask Haywood to do that again for me Ivan since he's already coming off the bench anyway. Not really a question, but more of a suggestion. :)

They should really send a message to him tonight that will last into the playoffs.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 1, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree that you can not stop LeBron, but how about stopping the rest of the team. If we can stop the rest of team then we have a good chance of winning. I mean last time I checked a B-ball team is more than 1 man. Besides that I think we have the talent to go along way this season, maybe not a championship but atleast the playoffs and maybe a first or second round win. I think we will be alright defensivly this year if everybody step up and play some good D. Get low slap the floorboards and man up. Go WIZ.

Oh yeah get rid of them Gold uniforms.

Posted by: BxSteve | November 1, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yikes! could you delete a couple of those for me please?

Sorry, I don't know what happend.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 1, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

You know in my opinion Etan and Haywood are both pretty good centers defensively. What seriously hurts these guys and makes them look bad is the fact that Jamison plays no defense and whovever is the center essentially defends 2 positions (C and PF). Jamison is a good rebounder, but he makes no effort to stop penetration and if you watch you will see the center defending his postion and having to go defend Jamison's man. And on good PF they have to defend them the whole time, for example KG or Duncan would be defended by Haywood last year rather than Jamison. True none of our centers are good offensively, but Jamison is the weak link on defense which makes our centers look worse than they are.

Posted by: Darnell | November 1, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

i'm so tired of all the lebron hype, ooh "King" James, ooh were all witnesses, blah blah blah. i hope Etan brings the PAIN and breaks LeBron's face/arms/legs etc...

Posted by: t-Bird | November 1, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I am interested to see Larry Hughes vs Arenas. The 2 are good friends. Maybe DeShawn Stevenson will guard him though. Either way it will be fun to see good old Larry. He was my favorite player on the Wizards until he decided to leave. I hope he doesn't injure his thumb again. We don't have anyone big enough or athletic to guard LeBon James. It would be nice if we had Kenyon Martin, he would stick it to him!

Posted by: Poptart | November 1, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't get all this attitude like the Wiz are underdogs here and Lebron torched them in the playoffs. If I remember correctly, the Wiz handed those games away at the end, Lebron didn't take them. Gimme one of the following: four steps is a travelling violation; Wiz cut off the baseline; or Gil makes two free throws and that was a seven game series. Gimme two and the Wiz win the series.

The Wizards should be favorites here (like they were in the series last year) and the only reason they aren't is because LeBron makes good press.

I'm with Michael that the Wiz can push Miami for the Southeast title (with help from Miami's laziness and age). I also like their chances against the Bulls, Cavs, Nets and Detroit in a seven game series. If they are as focused as these guys are reporting, the Wiz are true contenders!

Posted by: Drew | November 1, 2006 4:05 PM | Report abuse

""I don't get all this attitude like the Wiz are underdogs here and Lebron torched them in the playoffs.""

Because Cleveland beat the Wizards in the playoffs last year so they are the underdogs until proven otherwise.

The series was very close but when it was on the line Lebron showed up, and as much as I hate to say it Gilbert choked with those free throws.

The Wiz have something to prove starting tonight, I just hope they knock Lebron on his butt like they did in that series.

I also hope the refs don't give Lebron all the breaks that the great ones always seem to get tonight. Those games are just so frustrating to watch.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 1, 2006 6:33 PM | Report abuse

They where underdogs in this game because it was the home opener for Cleveland.

Posted by: dc | November 2, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Ivan:
Don't know if you will read this, so I will post again in your blog today, but you asked whether we had any questions we wanted you to ask. After last night, the main question I would like you to ask Coach Jordan is why did Etan play only 22 minutes last night?

Posted by: Henry | November 2, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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