- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform! On the court! You know, I still can't believe it.
Heck, I thought he would spontaneously combust once he stepped on the court for a game in a Wizards uniform, as if the meeting of these two powerful forces supreme talent vs. supreme futility would defy all known and unknown laws of physics.
Nobody really knew what to expect, but there were a lot of people here at the Palace of Auburn Hills expecting something from a meaningless preseason game between the Wizards and the Detroit Pistons more than 20,000 in the stands, plus a playoff-size press corps.
Someone said, "This is like the old days, the Pistons and the Bulls."
Except it wasn't the Bulls. It was the Wizards.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
He may not not be the Jordan we used to see, although he looked pretty good last night, scoring eight points, hitting on four of eight shots, and pulling down three rebounds in his limited playing time in the first half. And he may struggle turning the Wizards into a respectable team and significantly improving upon last year's 19-win squad a team that then team-president Jordan predicted would go to the playoffs.
But if you're a Wizards fan, it's been like living in Alaska with those 23 hour days of winter darkness for the past 20 years. For now, consider this your one hour of sunlight. Enjoy it, bask in it while you can, because the darkness could return quickly.
Jordan arrived at the arena at 6:10 p.m., in a Commuter Express Airporter van not exactly what you might have expected. A motorcade or, at the very least, a limousine, might have been more appropriate.
Dressed in all black, Jordan, wearing sunglasses and headphones, made his way to the visitor's locker room while about 35 photographers recorded his every step. Inside the locker room, Jordan who did not talk to reporters before the game got some sort of treatment with an electric device on his left knee while still in street clothes. After he was done, he stood in front of his locker number one to get ready for the game, with a handful of reporters just watching. Tyrone Nesby joked that maybe Jordan should show them the tattoo he has on his ankle. "You can't let them know everything," Jordan said. "You've got to have some secrets."
Sitting on the other side of the room was the man who broke open Jordan's secret, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, who nearly killed Tyronn Lue by falling over a chair. "Rick, stay away from my players," Jordan said.
Details, details. I got a million of them.
OK, it's just a preseason game, and some may argue that it won't be official until he takes the court for the regular-season opener on Oct. 30 in New York. But Michael Jordan is back, and we're not only going to put the H-Y-P-E back in hype, we're going to add a few new letters to it.
That whole, "I'm not playing, I'm playing" scene that Jordan pulled before this game is illustrative of the level of hysteria that Jordan's return is creating. And nobody knows this better than him. If he truly was not going to play, and then was surprised to hear that so many people were coming to watch him, so he changed his mind, then good for him. But this guy is media-savvy enough to know that anytime he steps on the court, thousands of people will pay to see him, even in a pretend game. He seems to view media manipulation as competitively as he does basketball remember all the 99.9 percent talk of not coming back and I wouldn't be surprised if this "now you don't see me, now you do" drama was staged. After all, "You've got to have some secrets."
Fans, they don't care what kind of mind games Jordan plays, as long as they see him play on the court. Prince Hawthorne, 28, of Westland, Mich., said he has spent more than $4,000 over the years on a collection of Jordan basketball shoes. He brought a couple of homemade Jordan posters with him to the game last night, and is eager to add to his shoe collection. "I think it's great for basketball that he is coming back," Hawthorne said.
Two 19-year-old Pistons fans, Matt Timmer and Jon Krawczyk, of Imlay City, Mich., came to see Jordan because they grew up on Jordan basketball. That is how they grew to love the game, from watching Jordan when they were kids. Krawczyk wished Jordan had not returned, because he wanted to remember him leaving the court as he did, sinking the winning shot in the Bulls last championship season in 1998. "But I can understand why he wants to come back," said Krawczyk, wearing a Bulls number 23 jersey. "He loves the action."
Timmer welcomed his return. "I knew he would come back again," he said. "He just loves messing with people and proving them wrong."
The rest of the fans at the Palace also welcomed his return, saving their biggest cheer of the night for Jordan when he was introduced. And the arena erupted when Jordan stuffed a lay up attempt by Ben Wallace on the first shot of the night. They howled when Jordan was called for a foul on a rebound by Jerry Stackhouse, and then roared their approval when Jordan scored the first points of the night a 15-foot jump shot with nearly two minutes gone in the first quarter.
Jordan seemed to be enjoying himself. He played longer than expected 16 minutes in the first half and in some ways, was in midseason form, trash-talking early in the game with Pistons head coach Rick Carlisle.
But the score at the half was Pistons 51, Wizards 38, and ended with a 95-85 Detroit win. It may only really be one hour of sunlight.

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