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Published: Friday, 9/28/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Jordan takes Wizards' future into own hands

When confronted with overwhelming adversity, Michael Jordan the basketball icon made a cold-blooded business decision. In doing so, the NBA's greatest player became the league's top executive.

Understand this. Despite firing more coaches than Daniel Snyder, Jordan wasn't close to improving the morbid Washington Wizards while watching his team play from a corporate suite at the MCI Center.

Jordan was running out of viable, sensible options.

The draft - heavy on high school and underage college talent - is void of players capable of making an impact in the league.

Trades are now conducted for salary-cap purposes. Player addition through free agency is too expensive and too unrewarding.

Bottom line: The quickest way for Jordan the front-office Wizard to make good things happen on the court was to sign the most talented player available.

Himself.

Watching the Wizards finish 19-63 last year ate up Jordan inside. His fierce competitive spirit refuses to accept losing.

I don't buy all the rhetoric about Jordan being too old, 38, and too rusty to make a serious comeback.

After taking off a year and a half to play baseball, Jordan returned midway through the 1994-95 season to score 55 points in his second game back. The following season, he was the best player in basketball again.

The NBA has been backsliding for years. Commissioner David Stern, the television networks, and national advertisers have been pining for Jordan's return.

Granted, he won't score 37 points a game like he did 15 years ago. But Jordan still wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He's not coming back to play a secondary role.

Still, it's going to be strange seeing Jordan being shown up in one-on-one matchups against some of the league's new stars such as Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant.

Jordan doesn't run as fast or jump as high as he used to.

But unlike most of his younger contemporaries, Jordan remains all about winning. He's won six NBA titles and one NCAA championship. He knows how to play the game of basketball.

As he did with Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, Ed Nealy, Bobby Hansen, Stacey King, Dickey Simpkins and Jud Buechler, Jordan has the ability to make his teammates better.

Jordan will teach his new teammates everything he knows.

He will show them how to play just as hard in practice as they do in games. They will watch him practice his fallaway jumper until his right arm falls off.

The Wizards will learn how Jordan influences referees to his side. They will see how he gets into opposing players' heads and messes with their performance.

Jordan will tell the Wizards that doing the little things can be just as important as having great athletic ability. What separates Jordan from the ordinary is his ability to combine both assets.

As a player, Jordan was notorious for embarrassing and even destroying the psyche of teammates who didn't perform up to his enormous expectations. Now he can encourage coach Doug Collins to bench or even release unproductive Washington players.

After talking a great game to his new teammates, Jordan will go out and play a better one.

Washington hasn't qualified for the playoff since 1987-88. Leading by example will be Jordan's greatest asset to the Wizards.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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