- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 10, 2001

Michael Jordan was supposed to change all this.
He was supposed to put this game in the victory column.
You know the deal. Bad team from the West Coast shows up. Jordan shows it the door.
But last night was last season. Last night was a whole lot of seasons in this city.
The Warriors beat up on the Wizards, pushing them around underneath the basket, en route to a 109-100 victory.
Jordan scored 32 points, 32 mostly insignificant points. The key statistic: The Warriors outrebounded the Wizards 45-27.
You know how to fix that, if Dennis Rodman is finished with his legal obligations.
Christian Laettner, who scored 29 points in Boston, managed only three points and three rebounds in 29 minutes. He is alleged to be a power forward. Mookie Blaylock, a 6-foot-1 backup guard with the Warriors, had the same number of rebounds as Laettner in 18 minutes.
The outcome was settled by the third quarter. The Wizards trailed by 15 points after 36 minutes and could not mount a serious challenge in the last 12 minutes.
Ponder the long-term implication: The Wizards could not compete with the Warriors, not even at home, not even with Jordan scoring a bunch.
Before the season, coach Doug Collins said Jordan could be the difference in games like this one. He said it. We thought it. Please. The Warriors? Count it.
Collins said if the team could keep it close, Jordan would have the wherewithal to finish it. Jordan would make the big shot or make the right pass. He would make a steal or grab a rebound. He would do something to pull the game in the Wizards' favor, because he is Jordan, because he wants to win more than the next guy.
That expectation seemed reasonable, although it does not seem as reasonable as it once did. Sometimes Jordan flashes glimpses of who he was. Other times he looks all of his 38 years. He still knows what to do. But his 38-year-old legs don't always let him do it. His path remains uncertain, the same as the team.
Here is Jordan's conundrum: He is more dependent on his outside shot. Yet his outside shot is less dependable. He has not shot 50 percent from the field in a game yet.
The Wizards already have dropped two games that could have been theirs: the two-point loss in New York on opening night and the nine-point loss in Boston on Wednesday night.
A bothersome knee contributed to Jordan's uneven effort in New York. It was Paul Pierce who contributed to Jordan's unfulfilling time in Boston. Pierce blocked Jordan's shot in the waning minutes. The ball went the other way, and so did the game.
This is part of the process, not all on Jordan. His teammates, even the ones on the floor, still have a tendency to watch him at work. Collins is up to his zillionth reminder in this regard. His admonishment often comes in the fourth quarter, which is: don't stand around and watch him play.
Collins might want to bark that order sooner in the next game, considering the team's lack of fight against the Warriors.
These were not the Rick Barry/Keith Wilkes Warriors. These Warriors are coming off a 17-65 season in which they won only six games on the road. They will be lucky to hit the 30-victory mark this season, no matter how much they progress, no matter how active they are underneath the basket.
Thirty victories may look good to the Wizards if they have too many more nights like this one. They have a 2-4 record after dropping their last three games. They have problems.
"We have to continue to be in every game and give ourselves a chance to win," Collins said. "That's my first goal as a coach, to make us competitive enough that we have a chance to win. Then we have to learn to win those games."
Jordan and the Wizards have what amounts to two no-shows in six games, counting last night and the powder break in Detroit.
They also have an aversion to the rough stuff.
"When that ball goes up, you have to go after it," Collins said. "Right now, we watch."
The Wizards watch. They also clean their fingernails, comb their hair and scrub their faces. They don't like to get dirty.
And it shows.


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