- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

Michael Jordan, who has the power to end world hunger and defeat Father Time, is going to have a difficult time with Vince Carter and Paul Pierce next summer.
Carter and Pierce were expected to be two of the four prizes in the next free-agent class, with Antawn Jamison and Dirk Nowitzki being the others. Jordan was expected to break out all his charm, as well as old friend Bugs Bunny, to lure these big names to Tony Cheng's neighborhood next summer, when the Wizards have the salary cap room to be flirty with the kings of the court.
It was then, and only then, that Jordan's ability to buckle the knees of those in his presence would be challenged, and Washington would be in a stronger position to evaluate the progress of his otherwise modest stewardship.
Unfortunately, the window already is starting to close on next summer after Carter and Pierce signed contract extensions this week. As for Jamison, who knows? And Nowitzki? Good luck trying to pry him from Mark Cuban. The rest of the free-agent pool in 2002 looks awfully ordinary, a Larry Hughes here and a Raef LaFrentz there.
Jordan has demonstrated that he can change coaches with the best, not counting his attempts to land Rod Higgins and Mike Jarvis, and he has recovered from the most analyzed two broken ribs on the planet. It seems even his healing powers are mystical, although to be fair, they probably are not in Lance Armstrong's class.
Doug Collins, the team's head gusher, would have to concede that.
Jordan has led Washington on a strange odyssey, and if he is being held accountable, it is only in a distant sense.
It is really all Wes Unseld's fault, even Leonard Hamilton, even the 19-63 mark last season, the second-worst record in the 40-season history of the franchise. Long live the 18-62 Chicago Packers, the precursor to the Wizards, and thank goodness Unseld is still around to absorb the hits.
Jordan is coming out of retirement, of which he is 0.1 percent certain, and in the deep crevices of his mind, it all gets back
to Jerry Krause, the anti-hero in the saga who has a couple of spare chins and a mustard stain on the corner of his mouth. He is too easy, deserving or not, pulling the plug on the Bulls as he did right after Jordan pushed off on Bryon Russell.
By the way, that's your perfect ending, not Jordan's and certainly not the Jazzmen's, and it really shouldn't bother anyone that Willie Mays elected to stumble around in the outfield in his final playing days. Jordan already did his version of that anyway. If stumbling around in the outfield is sad, what's Korey Stringer? Does his death put the games in their proper perspective? That's what they say. That's what they always say until the next game.
At least Kwame Brown looks good, or as good as a 19-year-old savior from high school can look. Christian Laettner, who hit the shot to beat Kentucky, has re-signed with the team, no small development for a franchise that is stuck on eternal hold.
The trade involving Laron Profit and Brendan Haywood qualifies as a shot in the dark. Haywood might be worth the shot if he ever develops the fortitude to go with his 7-foot height.
Charles Barkley professes to be in the best shape of his life at the moment, whatever that means, considering he was never in the best shape in his prime. As it is, he has become lukewarm to the comeback talk, possibly because in the dark crevices of his mind, he understands it is a whole lot easier to dispense quips for Turner Sports than it is to go against Father Time.
That does not leave Patrick Ewing, who stopped in Orlando and decided to stay en route to the Gold Club trial in Atlanta.
That possibly leaves Dennis Rodman, if his whereabouts matter to anyone other than those in law enforcement.
The team has not lost a game in almost four months. That is the best news.
Otherwise, the team is not distinctly different from Hamilton's last night on the job, with any short-term bounce up to Jordan and Collins, and worse, the season ahead is starting to lack the buffer of next summer.
Darn those smiling faces in Boston and Toronto. You could feel the hurt on Fun Street.

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