- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

The Wizards have hit another bump in the season.
They are down to a one-legged Michael Jordan and a one-track note following a nine-point loss to the Magic. A date in San Antonio tomorrow night awaits the uncertain ones, their first of four consecutive games on the road.
The Wizards are stuck between Jordan's bum right knee and a stretch in the schedule that is designed to expose the NBA's weakest. Their fourth game in five nights annoyed Jordan's tendinitis-plagued joint as well as those in attendance.
The schedule explained the absence of collective energy. The Wizards' legs were somewhere at 35,000 feet, too lacking in vigor to overcome the Magic, vulnerable though the visitors were.
Grant Hill was in street clothes again, his left foot in a boot, fielding questions at one point from NBC's Jim Gray. Hill's long-term worry is implied, as it is for Jordan. An athlete's body speaks louder than his expressions of hope.
Jordan's desire to play in all 82 games, however noble, is doubtful, the prospect compromised even further by the need to have him on the floor nearly 40 minutes a game.
Jordan is a 38-year-old perimeter player, more dependent on his legs than a post player. Patrick Ewing, who is sometimes painful to watch as he lumbers from end of the court to the other, is six months older than Jordan but a half foot taller. The latter is more useful to Ewing than two good knees.
Ewing, as it turned out, was the best fossil on the floor on Saturday night, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes. That almost was lost in the hustle to chart the one-on-one showdown between Jordan and Tracy McGrady.
Their meeting ended up with an asterisk, given Jordan's physical limitations. Not even McGrady could muster much glee from his performance against Jordan, betrayed as he was by his body.
The signs of decay were self-evident in the summer, when Jordan's conditioning pace was interrupted by this or that rebellious body part. The two broken ribs didn't help, either. Age takes the legs first and then whatever else it likes.
Even so, Jordan, along with coach Doug Collins, has provided a boost to the franchise, a sense of accountability, a notion that the old way is destined to be eliminated.
Courtney Alexander might argue with Jordan's presence, considering his increasing irrelevance. He is working on three consecutive DNP's, which is did not play in NBA parlance. In Alexander's case, a coach's decision is the buffer to his .329 shooting percentage.
Jordan and the Wizards seemed to be getting somewhere after he noted his disgust in Cleveland. He included himself in the "stink." Two victories in a row on the road soon followed, along with the sentiment that maybe the growth process finally was evolving in a tangible manner.
Then the Magic hit town and Jordan's right knee hit a wall.
Rest is the solution for Jordan. A strong shot of resolve could aid the Wizards.
Brendan Haywood, in four games since coming off the injured list, has shown himself to be more than the obligatory 7-footer taking up roster space. He is acting his height, the opposite of his reputation at North Carolina, after accumulating 18 points and nine rebounds against the Magic.
Richard Hamilton is trying to learn to play through the contact that is applied to scorers. Some of it goes unnoticed as his 98-pound body goes to the floor. Twelve free throw attempts were his reward in the last game, seven more than his customary take.
The process, alas, is uneven, ever changing, a struggle. A feel-good moment in the season was spoiled by a 24-hour layover in Tony Cheng's neighborhood.
A big gulp followed the news that Jordan is hurting more than he previously has cared to reveal.
The Wizards are 5-11, only one game improved after 16 games last season, a 19-63 pit.
No relief is expected on their swing through Texas, assuming Jordan's right knee remains unresponsive.

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