- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

The old man in short pants is ever conscious of the half-baked perceptions in his midst.
It seems his basketball legacy is a national treasure to those with prolific vocal cords, keyboards and waistlines.
No, Michael. Boo-hoo, Michael. Go back to the front office.
"I'm not committing a crime here," Michael Jordan said back on Oct. 1, the day he announced he would play for the Wizards this season. "I'm just trying to play a game."
The game is serious, at least as serious as any game can be.
They play a game with a goat's head in Afghanistan. The Afghans lack the technology and frivolity to examine the complexity of it all, which probably is just as well. Members of PETA are left to cry from a distance, however enlightened their tears are.
Jordan might have felt like a goat after scoring a career-low six points in Indianapolis last week. That set off the usual investigation of his birth certificate. He was still 38 years old at the time, just as he is still 38 this week, and still on schedule to celebrate or curse his 39th birthday on Feb. 17.
Jordan remains too old, by the decree of his birth certificate, although distinct from the surreptitious Little Leaguer Danny Almonte.
As old as he is, Jordan hit his first four shots against the Hornets on Saturday night after stewing on his six-point outing for 48 hours. Jordan finished with 51 points, the second-highest output in the NBA this season. He might have eclipsed Tim Duncan's 53-point game, along with the franchise mark of 56 held by Earl Monroe, if he had not been pulled from the one-sided game with 3:08 left.
Here is Jordan adding to his legacy instead of tarnishing it, finding new ways to be who he was while leading the Wizards to the rarefied bearing of a 15-14 record. The 15 victories are just four fewer than the 19 managed by the contingent last season.
The sense of professionalism and accountability follows the roadside sobriety tests of Rod Strickland. As Strickland showed, it is hard to lead a team with a hangover and three hot dogs on your belly. Coincidentally or not, Strickland's latest employer has descended to the bottom of the NBA. Have a drink on us, Miami. Make it a double if you like.
Doug Collins, who was on pace to be in a straitjacket by the All-Star break during the team's eight-game losing streak, is now one of the NBA's early Coach-of-the-Year candidates.
"Do you think he has any pride?" Collins said after Jordan answered the 6 with 51. "He's an amazing guy, he really is."
Jordan is in position to be the NBA's Executive of the Year, depending on how the voters elect to judge an executive whose best personnel move was to come out of retirement. Hiring Collins was a pretty good move as well, along with trading Laron Profit to the Magic in exchange for Brendan Haywood.
The Wizards could end what was a potentially crippling month at 11-4 with a victory over the Nets in Tony Cheng's neighborhood tonight. Nine of the 15 games were on the road, and the first stop in San Antonio dropped the team's record to 5-12.
Jordan sat out the San Antonio game with a bum knee and a dogged suspicion that not even he, the best there ever was, could help resurrect the moribund franchise.
As lame as the opposition has been at times, with this or that star player on the shelf, the Wizards have been equally plagued with injuries. Hubert Davis missed the team's first eight games, Haywood the first 12. Richard Hamilton and Christian Laettner are out of commission now.
The NBA does not furnish footnotes with the records of its 29 teams. The 82-game schedule usually takes something from everyone. You are obligated to play the next game regardless.
Jordan has missed only one game so far, no small achievement for an old man who refuses to act his age.
He is more dependent on his outside shot and thus more susceptible to a hand in the face and a forearm on the back. He is not what he was in the '80s or early '90s, as it could be said during his second go-around with the Bulls.
Yet he is still awfully good, and on some nights remarkable. Contrary to the hand-wringing, there is no disgrace in that.

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