- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

When Washington Wizards rookie Kwame Brown was drafted with the No. 1 pick last month, one of the first things the 19-year-old wistfully talked about was getting the opportunity to play with Michael Jordan.

Yesterday Brown got his wish.

Jordan, the team's president of basketball operations who is contemplating a comeback at 38, worked out with Brown, other Wizards and free agents on the first day of the team's three-day minicamp. Recovering from a pair of broken ribs suffered June 13, Jordan is believed to have gone full speed in a session that was closed to the media.

Jordan was unavailable for comment.

"He got knocked on the ground the first play of the game the first time he tried to run the whole court," said Brown, indicating that Jordan took part in 5-on-5 drills. "He got up and he played harder. That's Mike."

Brown, who earlier in the day signed a guaranteed three-year, $11.9 million contract, spoke with Jordan in the latter's office at MCI Center moments before practice and was unaware that Jordan would join him on the practice court. In coming weeks, Jordan is expected to announce whether he will end his retirement.

"Yeah, we were all surprised," Brown said.

Brown added that Jordan did not appear rusty.

"You can't keep up with Mike," Brown said. "He's still a step or two ahead of everybody, even with two or three broken ribs."

Jordan's appearance deflected most of the attention from Brown, who at a muscular 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds is difficult to miss. Although this was Brown's first chance to play with Jordan, it was not a first for Chris Whitney, who will compete against former Los Angeles Laker Tyronn Lue for the starting point guard job. Whitney was impressed with the Jordan he saw.

"Michael was Michael," Whitney said, "He looked good. You can still tell he was the greatest ever. He didn't even have to try the way he moved, used screens and those types of things. He looked good."

Charles Barkley, who said he would attempt a comeback with Jordan, said recently that he likely won't follow through with those plans despite having lost almost 40 of his 337 pounds. Barkley said he hoped Jordan would reconsider playing as well.

Coach Doug Collins also got his first chance to see Brown matched up against other players of NBA caliber. Collins said that the rookie seemed hesitant at first but soon got comfortable.

"He was a little bit wide-eyed after signing that contract and meeting with Michael and [general manager Wes Unseld]," Collins said. "But you can see that he's really willing to pick things up. He's very eager to get better."

Brown acknowledged that he would need some time to get adjusted. He'll get the chance next week at the Shaw Summer Pro League in Boston.

"I'm not ready to compete at an NBA level," Brown said. "I didn't know that the game was this fast. On TV it looked real slow. I thought college was faster."

Collins did not say Jordan was at practice but acknowledged that they have talked recently and that Jordan is ready to get back to working out on a daily basis. Jordan originally was scheduled to do so in about two weeks.

"He's feeling much better, and I think he's itching to get back into the swing of things," Collins said. "But I know his spirit and heart is to get back and start pushing and to get in condition. With him, I just sort of sit back and watch. With him being president of the team, I think we'll keep two spots open for him."

Collins said he was happy to add the speedy Lue and added that the Wizards want to keep free agent forward Christian Laettner. The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have expressed interest in the 6-11 center/forward.

"We're in the process of negotiating with him," Collins said. "We're hopeful that he'll re-sign with us. He gives us another big guy, and I think he's a guy who can really help Kwame a lot."

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