- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

So how did Michael Jordan feel yesterday after competing for the second consecutive day of Washington Wizards minicamp following a five-week layoff with a pair of broken ribs?

"I felt good, really good," said Jordan, despite playing with a mildly twisted ankle. "I haven't done anything for five weeks, so I'm really trying to get back on top of it."

Since Jordan's potential comeback became national news in the spring, he has attached a percentage to the likeliness of his return. He has gone from being "99.9 percent" sure that he is completely retired to placing that figure in the 80s during the playoffs. Yesterday Jordan, who said he would not practice today on the final day of minicamp, was not willing to lower that percentage.

The Wizards' president of basketball operations, who previously said he would announce a decision in late July or early August, said he was no longer working under those parameters.

"When I see the signs, then I'll know," Jordan said. "I've still got time to make my decision. Right now I'm just trying to get myself in shape so I can evaluate myself. I'm not at a stage where I can change my percentages at all."

When Wizards coach Doug Collins flew to town earlier this week with Jordan, the coach did not know if his boss would join the team's practices. During the flight, Jordan told Collins he suffered the minor ankle injury during conditioning work before the start of minicamp. That probably gave Collins even more reason to think Jordan would be just a spectator this weekend.

As for Jordan's potential comeback, Collins says he and Jordan still don't discuss it openly. However, Collins said Jordan imparted some telling information when their plane touched down.

"He said, 'You know, Doug, the big thing for me is that I've got 60 to 75 days where I've got to really push myself to get this cardiovascular to where I need to be if I'm going to play.' "

Jordan was referring to the beginning of training camp in mid-October. On Jordan's comeback, Collins remained noncommittal but said people can read between the lines.

"I really have not even talked to him about that," Collins said. "He has told me that he'll keep me abreast of things. But you know as well as I do, for him to be out here and trying to do these kinds of things, you know where his heart is. The big question is going to be, can he get where he wants to get? That's what it comes down to."

Charles Barkley who once said he wanted to come out of retirement to play with Jordan has considered nixing his comeback attempt, even though he has trimmed more than 40 pounds from his 6-foot-5 frame, down to about 285. Barkley may be backing away from the idea of playing again, but it's clear that Jordan's mind is not made up.

Jordan has instructed Collins to prepare the team as if he is not going to play, but it is clear that Collins has enjoyed Jordan's participation in the two-a-day workouts.

Yesterday Jordan is said to have worked as hard as the players who have very little chance of making the team. Collins, Jordan's hand-picked coach, is running the drills. And the coach has gone out of his way to pair 19-year-old top pick Kwame Brown with Jordan in drills.

"Now Michael can really take him through this process," Collins said. "Right now Kwame and these other guys are thinking a lot. So many of these guys have never run in any kind of system before, so they start thinking so much and they forget about playing. Putting him out there with Kwame helps so much."

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