- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Michael Jordan is not contemplating a comeback to lift the Wizards to a 41-41 record next season.
That would be no storybook return. That merely would put the Wizards in the company of the Chris Webber-Juwan Howard teams, and you know how it turned out with those teams. Jordan declared the 1997 Wizards to be a team of the future after he and the Bulls swept the alleged up-and-comers in the first round of the playoffs, which was the high point of the Webber-Howard teams.
Jordan undoubtedly has taken a thorough inventory of the playoff teams, especially those from the Eastern Conference, and measured the various personnel against his return and the players expected to be around him next season.
He can't be feeling too empowered. He is not Superman, although he was called that a few times in his career. He is a 38-year-old executive who has been out of the game three seasons. To those who believe he can return to his former glory, you forget his shortcomings following his return to the NBA from minor league baseball. He was 31 then.
If Jordan does elect to return to the hardwood, he knows he needs help, and lots of it. He is not going to find much help from the roster of a team that was 19-63 this past season. He also is not going to find much help from the old-timers who have been mentioned as possible teammates, notably Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman and Patrick Ewing.
This poses another problem. As the president of basketball operations with the Wizards, Jordan is bumping up against the appearance of a conflict of interest. What may be best for the long-term future of the franchise may not be best for Jordan the player in the short term.
Jordan the player does not have time to wait on the next potential Tracy McGrady in the NBA Draft later this month. What good is the next Dirk Nowitzki to him if the payoff is two or three seasons away?
As luck would have it, Jordan and the Wizards have the No. 1 pick in what is regarded as a weak draft. That only fuels the speculation that Jordan may be inclined to peddle the pick for someone who can do a reasonable impersonation of a No. 2 guy next season.
No decision regarding the comeback is expected until the beginning of July at the earliest. That means, by this time line, Jordan the executive is completing the preliminary work to the draft with a sense of uncertainty about him. Jordan the executive is making decisions about the franchise without the benefit of a decision from Jordan the player and his buddies.
This is not necessarily an ideal way to run a franchise, even if it could be argued the Wizards are in no position to be picky. The Wizards have made the playoffs only once in the last 13 seasons and have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 1982.
Even if the Jordan-inspired Wizards were considerably less than stellar next season, the thinking goes that beats the alternative. There is something to be said for that view. There also is this: Four or five years from now, a pick or two from this draft probably will emerge as a franchise player. Who might the player or players be? Who knows? That is Jordan's job and the job of his scouts.
That job is hard enough if your agenda is free of conflicts. The job becomes increasingly loaded if you're evaluating the personnel and potential moves in relation to a comeback.
Except for the occasional can't-miss prospect, a Shaquille O'Neal or a Tim Duncan, most potential stars from a draft don't reveal their true selves until they have been in the NBA three or four seasons.
If the NBA could redo the drafts in recent seasons, you would see an unthinkable amount of clarity with the following players:
Vince Carter was taken with the fifth pick and Nowitzki with the ninth pick in the 1998 draft, McGrady with the ninth pick in 1997, Ray Allen with the fifth pick and Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in 1996 and Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick in 1995. Each player would qualify as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.
Not to deflate the comeback talk, but Jordan is up against an unsettling perception going into the draft, and if anything, the franchise appears more adrift than when he joined it 17 months ago.

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