- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

With or without Michael Jordan, the Washington Wizards will open on Broadway next season when they play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

The Wizards announced their 2001-02 schedule yesterday, and the eyes of the sports world will be on the team which last season didn't so much as merit one national TV appearance if its president of basketball operations returns to the court three years after his second retirement.

"That's the question that's going to be on everybody's lips," guard Richard Hamilton said. "If Mike does come back, playing in New York would be the perfect setting. We'll just have to wait and see."

During his playing career, Jordan and his Chicago Bulls owned the Knicks, knocking New York out of the Eastern Conference playoffs five times. And when he returned from his first retirement in 1995, Jordan scored 55 points at the Garden in his fifth game.

Winners of just 19 games last season, the Wizards will play four of their first five games on the road. The home opener at MCI Center will be Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. against the defending conference champion Philadelphia 76ers. Washington will make its only scheduled national television appearance Nov. 28 on TNT at Philadelphia.

The Wizards are one of 14 NBA teams not scheduled to appear at all on NBC next season, but that could change dramatically if Jordan returns.

NBC has the right to change its schedule to allow for up to 11 Wizards games; Washington, in theory, could be on a total of 15 times between TNT and TBS.

"As is the case every year, we can make adjustments in partnership with the league to put on the best matchups possible," NBC Sports vice president Kevin Sullivan said. "We have flexibility."

December will be particularly tough on the Wizards, who play nine of their 15 games on the road. One of those will be their first trip to Memphis, Tenn., to face the Grizzlies, formerly of Vancouver, on Dec. 11. And for the second straight season, they will play host to a New Year's Eve game, this time against the New Jersey Nets and new guard Jason Kidd.

The Wizards will make their first West Coast trip in December, beginning against the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and continuing to Sacramento and Phoenix.

However, the toughest portion of the schedule comes in the last two months. On March 13 the Wizards embark on a 12-day, seven-game trip that begins against the emerging Los Angeles Clippers and ends in Toronto with a Sunday afternoon game against the Raptors.

And if the Wizards are in playoff contention heading into the final month, they'll face a tough road. Seven of the last nine games come against playoff teams, including the Lakers, 76ers (twice), Knicks, Hornets, Bucks and Pacers.

Jordan's first appearance in Chicago against his former team would be Jan. 19 at United Center.

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