- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

WILMINGTON, N.C. It's been quite some time since the Washington Wizards had a weapon in their arsenal so lethal that where and how it was deployed was an issue. Fact is, you probably have to go back to Chris Webber, the volatile power forward whom the Wizards traded to Sacramento, to find the last Washington player who factored so heavily in the opposition's defensive game plan.
Since Webber was dealt in 1998, the Wizards' most potent threats have been Rod Strickland, Mitch Richmond and Juwan Howard, decent players but not the kind who kept opposing coaches awake. That's not going to be the case anymore.
New coach Doug Collins' biggest task will be the proper utilization of 38-year-old Michael Jordan during the 82-game regular season, and in the preliminary stages it seems that they're on the same page.
During the three years Collins coached Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan scored at will, mostly from the off-guard position. There were times, however, when Jordan was needed to play point guard, and he did so with startling success.
But in the later stages of his career under then-coach Phil Jackson, Jordan spent most of his time at small forward, which is where both he and Collins envision he'll live most of this season.
"People don't realize it, but I played [forward] my last few years in Chicago," Jordan said. "[Scottie Pippen] was the point forward, [Ron] Harper was the two guard and I was the small forward."
Offensively, Collins pictures Jordan dropping down in the post and taking larger, slower forwards to the basket. He also envisions him running off screens for open jumpers and wreaking havoc along the baseline as well.
Putting up points in bunches more than anything despite being the only guard to record more than 200 steals and 100 blocks in a career helped build the Jordan mystique. But Collins knows Jordan can't be expected to be what he was at his prime. Collins expects his savvy to kick in more often than it did in the past.
"There are other things he's going to do for us besides just score. You know as well as I do that everybody in the building is going to be laying on him late in games," Collins said. "So for me to think that we're going to throw it into him and something's going to happen….
"That's where you have to be a little creative and try to get him the ball where either he can do something or find the open guy."
The Wizards have huge question marks along their front line. Although Jahidi White was the team's starting center for most of last season, he still has trouble catching the basketball. And in Collins' offense, known as the pinch-post, centers are often required to play in the high post, catch the ball and find cutters. As a result, sources say that White will have to fend off a challenge from rookie Brendan Haywood for the starting job.
Christian Laettner is the likely starter at power forward, but there is little depth behind him. However, this will force the Wizards to at times play shooting guards Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander and Jordan at the same time. This works for the Wizards in that the three are interchangeable at both guard positions and small forward.
"You'll probably see a good deal of that offense," Collins said. "Having Michael allows us to have that kind of flexibility. It will work because Richard and Courtney are picking up everything they can from Michael. They're being good students. They know that there will be times when they are on the court together."
One thing that Collins is not certain of is how the new defensive rules permitting zones will affect the way teams play the Wizards. But having Jordan on the court assures him of one thing.
"I guarantee you that he'll make the fastest adjustment to them," Collins said. "Nobody really knows what's coming, but I guarantee that Michael is thinking about it as much as or more than anyone in the league."

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