- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

WILMINGTON, N.C. After a week of being shrouded in a cloud of secrecy, Michael Jordan finally made his playing debut last night. And even though he played just 18 minutes in a public scrimmage, it is clear his skills have not eroded as much as many have speculated.
Jordan scored 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and had three steals for the White team, which fell to the Blue team 86-73. His teammate, Richard Hamilton, needed 33 minutes to score 16.
"I felt good," Jordan said. "Obviously getting out there in a game situation with real referees and in front of a crowd, the expectations are always high no matter what. But I've got standards that I've set for myself. Basically I'm trying to work myself back into shape and get my rhythm. This is just another step, as I've said, in the right direction."
The 38-year-old had no problem getting off his midrange jumper, which, in fact, looked automatic. And he demonstrated he could still create space and get to the basket, leaving a defender swiping at the ball. He did it several times against Courtney Alexander, who worked out with Jordan often over the summer.
"I've said all along he looks good. I couldn't grade him a month ago, and I could grade him now," Alexander said.
Alexander speculated that had Jordan not broken a pair of ribs, which forced him to miss four weeks of practice during the summer, he would be further along.
"I hadn't seen him before he broke his ribs, but I'm sure it set him back," Alexander said. "But he's still Mike like I've said all along."
Jordan's arrival onto the court 45 minutes before the start of the scrimmage drew a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd of 6,100 at Trask Coliseum. Following warmups, Jordan stood for the National Anthem, rocking from side to side and alternately gazing at the floor and the flag.
The Wizards took to the court to same theme music the Bulls used during Jordan's 13-year career in Chicago. And it wasn't long before Jordan started making the plays reminiscent of the years he spent with the Bulls.
His first basket was a layup on which he was fouled and converted the free throw. Moments later he set Kwame Brown up for a follow-up dunk when he deliberately missed a shot.
The day before the scrimmage, Jordan hinted he might not play many minutes. He left the game for the first time with 10:10 to play in the half. Rather than sit on the bench alongside assistant coach Brian James the rest of the way, Jordan returned to the game for a few more minutes.
Jordan, who has been instructing the team's younger players, continued to talk with his teammates. He often pointed out things to Brown and the Wizards' other rookie big man, Brendan Haywood, when they made a mistake or didn't appear to know what was going on.
He didn't play in the second half. That disappointed many in the crowd, which began chanting his name with 10:51 left in the game.
Wizards coach Doug Collins said he was happy with the way the team played in general. Even though Jordan played just 18 minutes, Collins said he could see his presence will bring out the best in players like Hamilton and Alexander, something that must happen for the Wizards to be successful this season.
"When you have a player like that playing at that level it puts the pressure on guys like Courtney and Richard to step up their play," Collins said. "The big thing for me is that I have to monitor how much we use him. October 30 is our goal, and that's what we're shooting for."
The Wizards open the season that day at the New York Knicks.
Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who earlier in the year said he had "a gut feeling" Jordan was coming back, was joined at courtside by his wife. At halftime, Pollin reiterated something he has said the past few years: The Wizards are a playoff team.
"[Jordans] what I thought he would be," Pollin said. "He's still the best player on this team, and he's probably going to be one of the best players in the league. He's a fantastic athlete. I knew that he would not come back unless he knew that he could do it, and he can still do it."

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