Wednesday, November 14, 2001

There is a crick in Michael Jordan’s shot, and a 2-5 team in his presence.
That is a clank, followed by a thud, if the soundtrack with the comeback is made to be accurate.
Even an alley-oop to Jordan merits an oops.
Is there a shot doctor in the house?
A head doctor wouldn’t hurt, either.
Jordan implied a psychosomatic cause after his 5-for-26 eyesore against the Sonics on Sunday.
“You miss a few and it starts working on you mentally,” he said.
Air Mike is Iron Mike, the original holder of the title be darned.
Theories are following Jordan’s .378 shooting percentage, starting with his 38-year-old legs. His teammates could be better, too. They don’t rebound the ball well. Fastbreak layups, unfortunately, require the ball. A couple of easy baskets would help the shooting percentage and the head.
Solutions grow in number by the hour, as if Jordan’s lucky shorts from North Carolina have lost their power. A rabbit’s foot is one alternative. We promise not to borrow one from Bugs Bunny, one of Jordan’s closest friends.
They have an equal number of acupuncturists and Chinese restaurants in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood. The needles are provided if the Peking duck goes quack-quack on the tummy. A flu-ridden shot feels the same.
Jordan’s background with the Far East is in Zen, the method of operation preferred by the Zen master of Los Angeles. The two shared six NBA championships in Chicago. The Zen master led the NBA in incense, Jordan in scoring. The assist went to Cochise.
“A different situation,” Jordan said.
No Scottie Pippen. No Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman. No John Paxson or Steve Kerr. No Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley. And no mustard stains on Jerry Krause’s chins to mock.
Jordan is bound to start making more shots, if only because many of the shots he is missing are so makeable. His legs don’t explain all the misses.
Jordan’s legs tell in his less frequent forays to the basket. They also tell in the absence of lift and explosiveness. They do not tell on the open 15-footer that goes awry. That sometimes is the function of what lurks between the ears, begging the pardon of Buzzy Braman, the shot guru who is so last century.
Many NBA teams have at least one pair of dead legs. They call them spot-up shooters. And shoot they do. And shoot well. Not that Jordan aspires to be Dell Curry.
The adjustments to age, to new teammates, to the league, to the new rules and to three seasons of golf require more than seven games. The last time Jordan felt a desire to scratch his basketball “itch,” in 1995, it was unsatisfying. He shot .411 percent in 17 games and was pushed out of view in the playoffs by the Magic.
That was the end of Jordan and the Bulls, it seemed at the time, until their 72-10 march the following season.
No such reprisal is expected from Jordan and the Wizards, only a trace of competence, spirit and fortitude. A victory in each of the last two home games would have cleared the bar of expectations. Instead, double-digit deficits by the end of the third quarter resurrected the anxiety.
More potential trouble looms from the Bucks tonight, and not just on the court. Hide the women and children, particularly the children. Anthony Mason is in town.
The Bucks just might be the best team in the Eastern Conference this season if Sam Cassell can resist the temptation to be the fourth referee on the floor.
The Jazz and Hornets follow the Bucks to Fun Street. The Wizards then play four of their next five games on the road. That takes care of November, though hopefully not the season.
Doug Collins has handicapped the games on his team’s schedule, as coaches do, only to find the difference between the hard and easy dates in the NBA is indistinguishable with the Wizards. They are all hard, except maybe the two dates with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Collins and Jordan have not tried to hide their disappointment or spin their part in it. Their work is just beginning, considerable though it may be. This is an 82-game haul.
It promises to improve after Jordan removes the cobwebs from his shot.

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