- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

PHILADELPHIA This time next year, the Washington Wizards had better be prepared for making the transition to life AJ (After Jordan). Michael doesn't appear to have any plans to play after next season.
Asked yesterday whether he might play in the 2003-2004 season, Jordan re-plied, "No, no, slow your roll. Next [season] is something I definitely want to pursue. Outside of next year, I'm not even thinking that far.
"I mean, I'll be 41," Jordan added. "When you talk about extending, [the media] gave me a lot of garbage when I was [38]. So I can imagine what it's going to be like when I'm 41. I'm just going to take it slow, year by year, and see how it feels, how the body holds up. If my body doesn't hold up, then I've got to make excuses."
Jordan, the star attraction at the All-Star Game even though it is being played in the home city of reigning MVP Allen Iverson, also acknowledged that the Wizards (26-21) might shuffle their roster in an attempt to be a better team in the second half of the season. If the playoffs started today, the Wizards would be seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Wizards coach Doug Collins, like Jordan, has said the team would consider making a deal "if it helps the organization."
Although he has resigned as president of basketball operations, Jordan still has some say on what the team should do. And even though it is highly unlikely the Wizards will make a deal this season they are too concerned with obtaining salary cap space to pursue players like San Antonio's Tim Duncan Jordan says they will continue to listen until the Feb. 21 trading deadline.
"I think there are some holes we must continue to try to [fill], so we will entertain deals. I don't think we're at the point where we can say that we're pretty set with our roster [so] we don't want to mess with the chemistry."
Jordan thinks Iverson's team, the defending champion 76ers, seeded eighth at the moment, are still the team to beat in the wide-open Eastern Conference. And Jordan indicated that facing them in the playoffs, at least for now, might prove to be a problem for the Wizards.
"Can we contend? I'm sure on any given night we can contend," Jordan said. "The thing we have to understand is whether we can do it over a five- or seven-game series. I think we've still got time to understand that as a young team."
Not coincidentally, Jordan addressed the media alongside Iverson after both skipped Friday's media session. Iverson, who has been painted by many as a bad guy, resuscitated his image last year in leading the 76ers to the NBA Finals, where they were eliminated in five games by the Lakers.
Yesterday Jordan, a three-time All-Star Game MVP, mostly complimented Iverson, pointing out that the former Georgetown star has been maligned unnecessarily.
For his part, Iverson said he was happy for the opportunity to play on the same team as his boyhood idol.
"I'm honored," Iverson said. "This is what I've dreamed about. I've always thought [Michael and I] would be the best backcourt in the world, and now I get a chance to live out my dream."
Jordan, who will start in today's game, said he just wants to play limited minutes. He joked that he might even get some shots off against the West and that Iverson, who leads the league in field goal attempts with 1,156, might make an assist or two.
"It will be a pleasure playing with him, although I don't think I'll get too many shots, but I don't have to," Jordan said. "I'll probably end up playing point guard tomorrow and let him get going."
Although they both missed the Friday media session, only Iverson was asked why he had not been present. Later that same day, Iverson was seen playing host to a party with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Said Iverson: "I wasn't feeling well. If I make it next year, I might skip it again if I don't feel well."
And even though Iverson may never endear himself to the people who cover him, the high regard with which he holds Jordan was clear.
"He's the guy all of us wanted to be," Iverson said. "You can take Michael Jordan's shoes and try to fill them, and all of us could try to put our foot in them, and they just wouldn't fit. There will never be [another] Michael Jordan. Nowhere near."


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