- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

Charles Barkley continues to stoke the flames regarding the potential playing comeback of Washington Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan.

In an article that appeared in yesterday's editions of the Los Angeles Times, Barkley told a reporter that when his duties as an analyst for TNT end on May 24, he will move into Jordan's Chicago home and begin intensive training for a comeback.

Jordan, reached yesterday by phone, had no comment on Barkley's latest proclamation. However, a source with knowledge of the situation said Jordan is "nowhere near the condition he needs to be in" to make a successful comeback.

Barkley made his most recent statements on Tuesday, the same day he taped a segment for "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.

According to Barkley, Jordan visited his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., last weekend. Barkley said they worked out Saturday at the gym Barkley uses when he's in Arizona. According to Barkley, Penny Hardaway of the Phoenix Suns and some college players took part in a scrimmage.

Of Jordan, Barkley said, "Michael looked great."

Barkley has retained the services of one of Jordan's personal trainers when he is in Atlanta, the headquarters for TNT sports. Barkley has repeatedly said that Jordan has told him that if Barkley can get his weight down to 265 pounds, it's possible the two will attempt a comeback together. Earlier this year, the 6-foot-5 Barkley's weight had soared to 337 pounds. However, Barkley said two-a-day workouts that last up to three hours have gotten it down to 292 pounds.

Jordan, who like Barkley saw his weight go up after retirement he topped out at 245 said he has lost about 25 pounds and that he is close to reaching his playing weight of about 218.

Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin said last month he has "a gut feeling" Jordan will return to play for the Wizards next season.

Initially, Jordan said he was "99.9 percent" sure that he would not come out of retirement. More recently, in an interview with NBC's Ahmad Rashad that aired April 19, Jordan said he has lowered the percentage to about 85 percent. In the interview, Jordan said he retired in January 1999 because management decided to break up the Bulls' nucleus, which won six championships.

Barkley said the recent hiring of Wizards coach Doug Collins for whom Jordan played in Chicago was further indication that Jordan was planning a comeback. Although Jordan has downplayed a comeback, Barkley said the two former players will have an announcement regarding the matter.

Jordan owns a minority share of the Wizards, and NBA rules prohibit team owners from playing. For Jordan to suit up for the Wizards, he would have to give up his estimated 6 percent ownership stake.

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