- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2001

Now that they have the top pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by virtue of winning yesterday's lottery in Secaucus, N.J., the Washington Wizards face a key decision what to do with it.
"Right now I can honestly say that I don't know," president of basketball operations Michael Jordan said after learning that the Wizards, who finished with the league's third worst record (19-63), have the top choice. "We're going to look at what comes to us. Right now, if I had my druthers, I'd probably keep the pick."
Whomever the Wizards select June 27 in New York and they are considering one of the many talented high school centers who have made themselves available there is no guarantee that that player will play alongside Jordan during the 2001-02 season.
Jordan, who has indicated that he might come out of retirement next season, scoffed at Charles Barkley's recent comments that he would be moving into Jordan's Chicago home to begin intense preparations for a joint comeback.
"That's not true," Jordan said. "Sometimes Charles gets his motor running, and he doesn't know when to stop. Right now I haven't been focusing on it. Right now I'm focusing on my job. Also, my back has been bothering me. I've got back spasms. That's what happens when you get my age [38]."
In the lottery, the Wizards had a 15.7 percent chance of leapfrogging the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls for the top pick. The Bulls (15-67) had the highest chance of winning the top pick (25 percent), while the league's second worst team, the Warriors (17-65), had a 29 percent chance of getting the top pick.
The Clippers (31-51), who finished with the eighth worst record in the league, jumped to the No. 2 spot, and Atlanta (25-57), the fifth worst team in the league, will get the third pick. Golden State will get the fifth pick overall, and the Bulls fell to the fourth pick.
The player whose stock appears to be rising the fastest is Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall's 6-foot-9 forward. After Griffin, there appears to be a lot of interest in a crop of high school big men who have entered the draft.
That list includes Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, DeSagana Diop and Tyson Chandler any of whom could be the first pick, according to NBA personnel people. Duke senior forward Shane Battier, who has known Wizards coach Doug Collins since he was a ballboy for the Detroit Pistons, is seen as the player most ready to contribute, but his upside is not viewed as being as high as some of the younger players.
Of all the amateur players in the world, the player the Wizards most covet is said to be Duke point guard Jason Williams, who has elected to return to the Blue Devils. They also would have liked the chance to draft Chinese center Yao Ming. However, the Chinese Basketball Association prohibited the 7-foot-6 center from entering the draft.
Whatever they decide to do, Jordan underscored how important it is that the Wizards, who have reduced their salary cap significantly over last season's, make the right decision regarding the pick.
"It is crucial," Jordan said. "This pick sets the tone for our rebuilding. We really have to be very careful with this."
Even though the Wizards have made the playoffs just once in the last 14 seasons, Jordan said he would not have a problem selecting a young player who might need time to develop an indication that the Wizards might opt to draft one of the high school players or Griffin. Jordan also said he would consider trade offers for the pick until draft day.
Jordan said that having the top pick gives the Wizards much more leverage than they had before.
"We've got something that is very valuable to a lot of people out there," Jordan said. "What we're going to do as an organization is sit down and carefully evaluate everybody out there, every option. We've got a lot of evaluating to do, especially with the young guys. I have not seen all the high schoolers, but like I said, picking one of them is definitely a possibility. I'm not going to rule that out. I'm not ruling out anything.
"I think the bottom line is that having the pick gives us a wild card. This organization hasn't had that in a while."


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