- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

As the doors swung open to the Washington Wizards' closed practice yesterday at MCI Center, Michael Jordan exited the practice court in a soaked white Wizards practice jersey and blue shorts looking as if he had just played harder than any of the Washington players in the scrimmage.
Moments later, wearing a black pinstriped suit as he prepared to take a picture for next season's media guide, Jordan shot down the rumors sure to spring from his latest workout with the team.
"I'm just getting in a little exercise," Jordan said, "that's all."
The Wizards president of basketball operations continues to insist he isn't coming back to play for the team next season, but Jordan had plenty to say about another comeback: the astonishing one of Miami center Alonzo Mourning, who will be in the lineup tonight when the Wizards try to end a 10-game losing streak against the Heat.
"He's going to have to get himself back into a rhythm," Jordan said. "With him back healthy and playing the way that he's capable of playing, Miami steps to the forefront [of the Eastern Conference] without a doubt."
Mourning, the NBA's reigning defensive player of the year, missed the team's first 69 games of the season when he was diagnosed with a serious kidney ailment called focal glomerulosclerosis before the start of the regular season. Not long after the diagnosis, the Heat the choice of many to win the Eastern Conference because of the additions of guard Eddie Jones and forwards Anthony Mason and Brian Grant said they would be without Mourning for the entire season. At the time, his return to the NBA was considered a long shot.
However, the Heat conspicuously left a playoff roster spot open, and late last month they filled it when they activated Mourning from the injured list. Since he returned to action, Mourning, who was voted the starting center for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game but didn't play, has averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 18 minutes. Last season Mourning led the Heat in scoring (21.7) and rebounds (9.5) and led the league in blocked shots (3.72).
Mourning's ailment is in remission, but it is not cured. He continues to take 14 pills a day. However, his physician, Gerald B. Appel, has given Mourning the green light to play.
"He has done remarkably well for himself," Appel said. "If there was any danger whatsoever in him playing I would say so."
None of the Wizards know much about Mourning's condition. What they do know is that they won't cut Mourning any slack because of it. They are also aware of their losing streak against the Heat, which they hope to end tonight.
"You don't think about those things when the ball rolls out," Wizards center Jahidi White said. "You know that if 'Zo is out there, he's going to play as hard as he can at both ends of the court the whole time he's out there. He's going to be physical because that's his game. I don't know what kind of shape he's in, but he never lets himself get in bad shape."
Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton agreed.
"They're the team fighting for playoff positioning, so we won't take it easy on them," Hamilton said. "We've got a string of tough games coming up, and that's how we have to approach it. I think for Alonzo it's just a testament to how much he loves the game that he would work so hard to get healthy and then come back considering his condition."
Hamilton should know. One of his former players, Rod Strickland, who will do jail time after pleading guilty earlier this week on a driving under the influence charge, missed large chunks of the season with sore hamstrings, something many players have at this point in the season.
Note Jordan hopes the league's Board of Governors votes to keep the zone defense illegal.
"I'm totally against it," Jordan said. "I think it eliminates your marquee players. You lose some of the excitement of the game. I think one thing that they're thinking is they want to eliminate the isolations. Well, isolations in the past have always been where the creativity has come from. I think the drastic measures that are being taken come from the lack of maturity of the players coming out early. I don't think we need to make a knee-jerk reaction to the situation so quickly. I hope it doesn't pass."

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