- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Michael Jordan is not half bad, the team just bad.
Jordan is becoming more fluid with each test, more confident, more at one with the vagaries of the game. He is not what he once was, and won't be, which perhaps comes as a shock only to the most committed Jordan-philes.
Yet Jordan is still pretty darn good, even special at times, and considerably more impressive than the team after 10 games this season.
The team is what it is, what it has been since the playing days of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes and what it might be until Kwame Brown is old enough to buy a drink in the city.
Jordan, the best athlete of the last generation in any sport, is reason enough to stay with the Wizards. Doug Collins, the coach, is another reason.
Collins is a no-nonsense basketball sort who imploded in his two previous stints as a head coach in the NBA after rectifying the wrongs in his midst. He eventually may go 3-for-3, given the seemingly intractable circumstances around him. He demands accountability from his players, as an ever-changing starting lineup attests.
The bench is one of his methods of communication, the injured list another. Tyronn Lue came down with a mysterious hand injury after looking lost in seven minutes against the Bucks.
Collins has a vision of how the game is supposed to be played, plus the capacity to articulate it. He just lacks the personnel to implement it.
The team's post players have one deficiency or another, or several if the option is Jahidi White. There is not a solid player in the mix, just a bunch of marginal types who would be receiving limited minutes with most teams in the NBA.
The perimeter, excluding Jordan, is unsteady, uncertain and unknowing. Two of the guards, Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander, can't see beyond their woe-is-me prism.
Their cluelessness matches their runaway egos.
Hamilton, an able shooter, is a 98-pound weakling on defense. He would get pushed around by Ally McBeal if she were playing in the NBA.
Alexander, whose value was inflated in the offseason, has been unable to find his place around Jordan. He has had one month in the NBA, last April, when he was selected the Rookie of the Month after reaching the 20-point mark on seven occasions.
The rush to view Alexander as an essential piece soon followed, as if his numbers at the end of a dreary season revealed a significant developmental step. What it really revealed was Washington's emptiness. Another team's castoff, a rookie, no less, managed to become one of the team's principal scorers in a matter of weeks.
Collins, as did others, came into the season hoping to put the team in playoff contention. That sentiment has left the building, along with many of the supporters who paid to have seats in the lower bowl.
The Wizards, even with Jordan, already have become an afterthought in the Eastern Conference. Barring a trade or a dramatic change in the suspects, the Wizards are not going to get close to a .500 season.
That's no fault of Jordan the player. His comeback so far has been good stuff, if you consider all the variables. He is up against his 38 years, three seasons in a suit, teammates who can't relieve the defensive attention on him, new rule changes intended to curb the one-on-one maestros and a league with new, emerging stars.
Jordan the player should demand an apology from Jordan the executive. This is the executive's team, after all. He unloaded Juwan Howard, Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond, good moves all. He also hired Collins, his best addition to the franchise. Otherwise, his attempt to remake the franchise in the last 22 months has been marked by personnel misses and lots of losses.
It has been left to Collins to make chicken salad out of so much chicken fertilizer.
"My concern is getting them to play as a cohesive unit," Collins said before the Wizards-Hornets game last night.
They don't "trust" one another enough to do that. All too many of Jordan's teammates only check their minutes and shot attempts.
They miss the defining essence of Jordan, the six championships. That is their loss, and loss, and loss …


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