- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

Every pair of eyes at MCI Center were focused on Michael Jordan, who had tumbled to the court with his hand covering his eyes midway through the second quarter.
The game's greatest player remained on his back for several seconds, and the crowd of 20,674 was hushed, fearing the worst but uncertain of what had happened.
It turned out that Jordan had been poked in the left eye by the Orlando Magic's Darrell Armstrong after he came down with a rebound. After a respite, he returned and played 33 minutes.
The injury people couldn't see was what really hampered Jordan: the tendinitis in his right knee. By game's end, Jordan and the Wizards clearly showed the effects of playing four games in five days as they fell to the Magic 96-87.
Jordan will visit former Chicago Bulls team doctor John Heffron tomorrow to have his knee examined, a visit that was scheduled before last night's game.
Coach Doug Collins said Jordan is having trouble going through a one and a half hour practice one day and playing 35 minutes the next night. Jordan said he experienced trouble with the knee when he hyperextended it in training camp, but he doesn't believe this is a lingering problem.
"It's sore; there's a little swelling on it," Jordan said. "I kind of expected it, playing four games in five nights, playing heavy minutes early. … I think it's about time for me to start paying attention to [the knee] so it doesn't linger all season long. … I have to make sure there's no ligament damage and get it treated and get it drained and see what the doctors have to say."
Jordan made four of his first seven shots but went just 2-for-12 the rest of the game, mostly on perimeter jumpers, to finish with 15 points on six of 19 shooting. With just under 5:00 to play, Tracy McGrady (game-high 26 points) helped expose Jordan's lack of lift when he partially blocked a turnaround attempt.
Collins substituted for Jordan with 3:50 to play and the Wizards trailing by double digits.
"His knee has really been bothering him," Collins said. "I wasn't going to let him play. I knew he wanted to play, but I wasn't going to let him do that. I love him too much. I knew he was playing on one leg."
The Wizards, who had won two straight, got a great effort from rookie center Brendan Haywood (18 points, nine rebounds) and stayed within striking distance of the Magic throughout. But the Magic's two runs to end the second and third quarters they pushed a six-point lead to 11 at halftime and a five-point advantage to 11 at the end of the third were too much to overcome.
"It was good for my morale to go out there and have a pretty good game against one of the better centers in NBA history," Haywood said, referring to Patrick Ewing.
After a timeout, Jordan returned but airballed his first shot after the incident. He left the game 20 seconds later to tend to his eye. Jordan's absence gave Orlando an opening, and the Magic outscored the Wizards by seven the rest of the half after Jordan was hurt to lead by 11 at halftime.
The symbolism of the old guard meeting the rising star was readily apparent. Throughout much of the game, Jordan and McGrady one of the expected heirs to His Airness guarded each other, though the matchup was disrupted early. Jordan and McGrady both picked up two fouls in the first 31/2 minutes, limiting their playing time for the rest of the half.
After Jordan left in the second quarter, McGrady took his cue. The 21-year-old phenom reeled off eight of his team's next 10 points, then the Magic closed the half with a fury: Armstrong scored a driving bucket for a 47-39 lead with 4.9 seconds left, then Troy Hudson mugged Richard Hamilton and nailed a 28-foot 3-pointer for an 11-point halftime lead, the Magic's largest of the game.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide