Sunday, November 11, 2001

In Michael Jordan’s comeback attempt at 38 after a three-year layoff, there have been air balls, blocks and flat shots. There has been a career-low 41 percent shooting from the floor accompanied by a 25.5 scoring average good enough for seventh place in the league.
But more than anything else, there has been criticism mostly among journalists that Jordan’s game shows rust.
The big news is that Jordan does not disagree.
Following the Washington Wizards’ 109-100 loss Friday night to the Golden State Warriors, Jordan was critical of his play and that of his teammates, who have lost three in a row going into today’s game against the Seattle SuperSonics at MCI Center.
“I’m just getting my rhythm and my touch,” Jordan admitted after scoring a game-high 32 points. “My touch is really the biggest thing I need to get back. My rhythm on my shot is not quite there. I’ve got to find a better rhythm throughout the course of a 48-minute game or whatever I play. I’m missing a lot of easy shots, a lot of wide-open shots that I would normally make.”
Jordan is a career 50 percent shooter, including his last three seasons with the Chicago Bulls when he failed to shoot better than 49.5. But Jordan said six games is still not enough time to judge either his progress or that of the 2-4 Wizards.
“We’ve shown some signs of bonding where we’ve played some good basketball,” Jordan said. “But we’ve shown some signs where we really haven’t bonded well.”
The other night against the Warriors should stand as exhibit A, as Jordan faced somewhat of a double-edged sword. His teammates played as if Friday were a holiday. Richard Hamilton’s defense against Larry Hughes was so poor in the third quarter that coach Doug Collins refused to play him for more than five minutes. Danny Fortson bullied the Wizards’ front line, grabbing 16 rebounds and leading the Warriors to a dominating 45-27 advantage on the boards.
All of this ineptitude affected Jordan’s approach to playing and got him out of character. Although he scored a season-high 32 points, Jordan needed 30 shots to do so. And this is not how he wants to play the game. He even started forcing shots, some of them bad.
“I was [mad], and that’s why I started shooting it every time trying to find my rhythm for whatever reason,” Jordan said. “I’m trying to take my shots in the rhythm of the offense. And when I feel that I’ve got a good shot, the team expects me to shoot it. But a lot of times I had those shots and I missed them. And that’s frustrating. I know exactly what I’m doing wrong. It’s just a matter of getting it in the right rhythm.”
What is frustrating for Collins has been the team’s performance in two of its last three games. Against Detroit, the Wizards fell behind by as many as 37 points in the third quarter in what was a lost cause by halftime. Against the Warriors, a game in which they trailed by 19, Collins once again felt the effort was deplorable. However, he insisted this affliction won’t continue to plague the team.
“The one thing that I promise is that I’m going to go with competitors,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve lived my life. I’ll find out the guys who want to compete and defend. They scored 100 points. That’s enough to win a basketball game. It was like [Golden State coach] Dave Cowens could run any play he wanted to run. And defense comes down to competitive spirit and will and working together. And that has to be a priority.”
Collins said the lack of effort on the boards against the Warriors spoke volumes about the team’s lack of desire.
“When that ball goes up you have to go after it,” he added. “Right now we just watch.”
Collins said the team had its best practice of the season yesterday as it prepared for today’s game. Collins feels that after giving away a game to Golden State, a team the Wizards should have been capable of beating, “we’ve got to beat one of those teams we’re not expected to beat.”

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