- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

The gloom-and-doom critics of the Washington Wizards had to back off a little yesterday after the results of Michael Jordan's arthroscopic surgery were designated a success.
Team doctor Stephen Haas repaired a torn lateral meniscus in a procedure that lasted just over an hour at Sibley Hospital. According to sources with knowledge of the surgery, Jordan, whom some predicted could miss the remaining 26 games of the season, could be back in "three to four weeks."
No one was happier to hear that news than coach Doug Collins.
"Anytime you have a knee where you are having swelling, you hope that when they go in there they find something that they can fix," he said. "When I talked to Michael, they were happy that they found the source of his problem and that they were able to fix that. Now he just has to rest and let time heal him, do his rehabilitation and see when that might be."
Jordan will begin rehabilitation after a few days' rest. Yesterday morning's surgery was completed on an outpatient basis, and Jordan was home resting by afternoon.
Despite the good news concerning their leader, the attitude of the Wizards before last night's game against Portland was mostly solemn. They know Jordan is the primary reason they have reached this point in the season still in contention for the playoffs. And they are fully aware that their recent poor play won't be enough to get them to their goal.
Last night, they had more immediate concerns than Jordan's return. Injuries forced starting center Jahidi White (strained left shoulder) and backup Brendan Haywood (sore left knee) out of the lineup, and Washington had just 10 healthy bodies available.
"We're still confident in ourselves," said reserve point guard Tyronn Lue. "We still feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs. MJ has a lot of confidence in us. I know a lot of people have written us off, and that's OK. We've just got to pull ourselves together and guys have got to step up.
"The time is now. There are 27 games left in the season, and this will be a make-or-break time for us while MJ is out. We've got to make the most of it, and guys have got to step up starting tonight."
If Jordan does return in a month, he could be back in time for the team's April1 game with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, it is the time between now and then that will no doubt decide whether or not Washington plays postseason basketball for only the second time since the 1986-87 season.
During March, the Wizards have a West Coast trip with six games in nine nights and four sets of back-to-back games.
"The schedule is not going to be kind to us," said forward Popeye Jones. "And the fact that we'll have to play so much without Michael is not good news. I guess the positive way to look at it is that he should be back for the last month. So it's up to us right now."
With Jordan out of the lineup, the Wizards lose not only their best scorer but their best post player, although Jordan is only 6-6. Look for Washington to try to use its quickness and become much more reliant on jump shooting.
"In a situation like this, normally someone will step up and play well," Chris Whitney said. "Hopefully, it's a collective effort because we can never replace what Michael gave us on the floor. He gets double-teamed in the post and he always draws a lot of attention. We're going to have to play total team basketball because I don't think anybody can step in and do the things he did for us."
Added Collins: "We can't be looking over our shoulder wondering when is he coming back. We have to find out who we are without Michael, and that is a tremendous challenge."


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