- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

Never mind Waldo where's Michael?

Since Michael Jordan became part owner and director of basketball-related operations for the Washington Wizards on Jan. 18, he has been mostly out of sight. He has attended a handful of games at MCI Center and, as he promised, has practiced with the team at least twice to evaluate the players up close.

But in recent weeks, Jordan whose face is perhaps the most recognizable in the world has kept a very low profile around the team and in the Washington area in general. In fact, he has not spoken with local media since the Feb. 24 trading deadline.

His absence, however, is not a problem for players, coaches and others in management within the organization.

"It's not that important to be seen," general manager Wes Unseld said. "It's important in training camp, but after that most general managers are not around."

Because of his celebrity and other professional obligations, Jordan obviously has to spread his time more thinly than others in his position. After all, he is still Nike's top pitchman, and he just recently joined forces with retired superstars Wayne Gretzky and John Elway as spokesmen for MVP.com a Web site specializing in sports apparel.

But Jordan has said the Wizards are "my number one priority" and that he would discontinue other activities if they prevented him from doing his job with the Wizards.

In New York on Monday to receive the Jackie Robinson Foundation's Robie Humanitarian Award, Jordan said he still plans to be a regular at MCI Center but noted, "I will pick and choose the times."

Jordan indicated that he would attend games against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight and the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, saying, "I should be at both."

When Jordan joined the organization, the players were as excited as the fans. But that excitement has not translated into victories; Washington has gone 8-18 since Jordan's arrival.

The players don't believe that Jordan's presence at practice or at games has a direct impact on what they do against teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers, who bring their 19-game winning streak to MCI tonight. After all, Jordan cannot make any significant moves until the season ends in about a month.

"At this point, you don't worry about whether or not he's there," rookie Laron Profit said. "I know we don't consider it. The only way him being here would impact us would be if he was playing then we would really miss him. But he's not in the capacity where he can go out and contribute points, rebounds, assists and blocks."

Profit believes Jordan is making more of a statement by not being around.

"I think the point he is making is that it's not up to him to play the games," the University of Maryland product said. "It's up to him to put us in the best possible position to win. He's going to have all summer to do that. Our job is to win games."

Jordan is not the only NBA executive to make himself scarce. Orlando Magic general manager John Gabriel, for example, has been the Invisible Man after signing Doc Rivers as coach last summer.

"He went to training camp with us to make sure the guy he hired knew what he was doing," Rivers said. "But to tell you the truth, I don't see him that much at all."

Unseld and coach Darrell Walker talk with Jordan daily. Unseld said he and Jordan already have discussed scouting players during the offseason. Over the summer the NBA conducts at least 10 camps for future rookies in places like Phoenix and Newport News, Va. Unseld guaranteed that Jordan would go to see players then.

"Right now there's no need for him to spend a lot of time at the games," Unseld said. "I saw at least 18 games over the weekend with the satellite dish. Michael is doing the same thing. And we've got loads of tapes we will watch. It's not a matter of being around players all the time. The key thing is to know what's going on. Believe me, Michael knows what's going on."

Walker agreed, saying, "He can't play. He can't make a shot. What is he going to do because he's in the stands? He sat in the stands before and we got beat by 20."

Wizards minority owner Ted Leonsis, who brokered the deal that brought Jordan to Washington, thinks Jordan is in it for the long haul.

"I don't think Michael Jordan is doing anything until he wins a championship," said Leonsis, whose group also owns the NHL's Washington Capitals. "I don't think his being allows that. I don't think that's what he's about."

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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