- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

They put Tyrone Bogues next to Manute Bol in 1987.
Tall and short. Mutt and Jeff.
Bol was from the Dinka tribe in Gogrial, Sudan, Bogues from the Wake Forest tribe in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The team went 38-44, not bad, really, considering the team and the history.
Reggie Miller was in the same draft class as Bogues, taken just one slot ahead of Bogues in the first round.
That was one of the snapshots of the '80s, a decade mostly about what might have been. Jeff Ruland broke down way too soon, John Williams ballooned up, and the team passed on Karl Malone in 1985 and took Kenny Green instead.
Juwan Howard and Chris Webber came to define the franchise in the '90s, and the sometimes small margin between decent and deceptive.
Who knew that hope, real hope, eventually would manifest itself in the form of a 38-year-old suit, both an icon and a has-been?
A somewhat disconcerting picture of Michael Jordan in his new uniform appeared in this newspaper the other day. He looked slightly old, slightly heavy, slightly out of place, possibly because it has been three years since he last wore the accouterments of his craft.
Athletes normally age in public on a seasonal basis, one year at a time, the latest images replacing the recently departed ones. The masses barely notice. Even an image as carefully constructed as Jordan's is powerless to hide a three-year gap in the process.
Otherwise, age aside, the context is favorable. The well of hope associated with Jordan's comeback is fed by the team's 19-63 record last season and a generation's worth of missteps, injuries and disappointments.
It can't get any worse, only better, and Jordan is the soloist in charge, for better or worse.
It is his team. It is his coach. It is his organization, except for Wes Unseld, Abe Pollin's only holdover from the franchise's glory days of the late '60s and '70s.
The team is modest, the expectations and questions a reflection of that, starting with the following: Can the Wizards secure the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference?
The Pacers required a 41-41 record to make the playoffs as the eighth seed last season. The Bucks earned the eighth seed with a 42-40 record in 2000. In 1998, the Nets claimed the eighth seed with a 43-39 mark, one game, incidentally, ahead of the Wizards.
The 41-42-43 cutoff would necessitate a 22-, 23- or 24-game turnaround by the Wizards, no small achievement, even if Jordan is able to give a worthy impersonation of who he was.
A perimeter lineup of Jordan, Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander is intriguing. It undoubtedly is the strength of the team. All three players are tall, can shoot the ball and create shots for others. They might be susceptible to a quick point guard on defense, which is where Tyronn Lue is likely to earn his keep.
Alexander and Hamilton are young and impressionable enough to benefit from the mad-dog approach of coach Doug Collins. The same goes for top pick Kwame Brown.
Collins has been a largely unnoticed element in the equation. Jordan, of course, has that effect on those around him. Collins' background suggests immediate results, followed by an emotional breakdown. He claims to be more grounded this time around, his third stint as a head coach in the NBA.
The frontcourt is an enormous vacuum, filled with suspects, marginal sorts and one teen-ager. Christian Laettner, the best of the bunch, has averaged at least 18 points a game twice in his nine-season career, the last time in 1997 with the Hawks. He is a competent rebounder but an ill-suited defender, slow afoot with a body that yields too much space.
Jahidi White, Popeye Jones, Loy Vaught. Please, please and please. Even Thomas Hamilton, a member of the NBA's cup-of-coffee brigade, is meriting a look in training camp because of his 7-foot-2, zillion-pound size. He is, as usual, on a diet, the story of his nondescript pro career.
Jordan is negotiating the gulf between 19 victories and 50. He would be "totally surprised" if the team achieved the latter figure. He could accept 45 victories, along with the notion that it would be his basketball miracle to claim.
The thought is too sweet to pass up in preseason. The reality will come soon enough.

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