- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2002

Come on, Mike, make up your mind.
Are you gonna play for the Wizards this season or aren't you?
It isn't fair to anybody to keep people guessing, least of all your friend Doug Collins.
There is no way Collins can get the Wizards properly structured and prepared without knowing Michael Jordan's intentions. If you choose to believe that Michael is meditating in a dark room about whether his aching knees can survive another season, that's your privilege. I think he's simply biding his time to make the most dramatic entrance possible.
And there's nothing Collins, a fine coach whom the Wizards are lucky to have, can do about it. After all, Jordan picked him for the job. And whenever Mike decides to stop playing silly games at the age of 39, 40 or 41, he'll be Collins' boss again as director of basketball operations. Provided, of course, that Doug hasn't thrown up his hands and escaped to another NBA venue by then.
For sure, Jordan is the greatest professional basketball player ever. Certainly, he brought immeasurable excitement and innumerable fans to MCI Center last season as well as enabling the Wizards to nearly double the previous season's victories.
But that was last season, and Michael didn't end it the way he wanted. He played in 60 of 82 games, his campaign ended nearly a month early when his knees gave out and the Wizards missed the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 years. (Or is that the 114th time in 115 years?)
So His Former Airness, who presumably won't remain 39 as long as Jack Benny, hasn't played any serious basketball since March 26 the date of his last game in Milwaukee. He already has said he will return if he is healthy, but it's hard to believe that he could do at 39 what he couldn't do for a whole season at 38.
Everybody knows that Mike wants to play, but so what? Already he has proved that he could come back from two retirements and be effective, so what's left? Another championship ring, with this team? Gimme a break. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Abe Pollin, Susan O'Malley and Wes Unseld, these guys might not win in the ACC or Big East.
This business of waiting interminably to reveal his plans is nothing new for Jordan; last season he didn't reveal that he would slip on Wizards uniform No.23 until Sept.25, a date he may be trying to beat in the procrastination department. At the time, Collins termed Jordan's decision "very exciting." What Doug undoubtedly meant was, he was excited that Mike had made a decision.
Lately, Collins has been making noises about Jordan "coming off the bench" if he returns because neither of them wants the aging warrior to play 35 minutes a game, as he did last season. That sounds fine in theory, but it's more than a little impractical. If Jordan doesn't start, can you imagine the reaction of fans paying those inflated prices primarily to see him? Can you hear the PA announcer saying something like, "Michael Jordan replacing Popeye Jones for the Wizards"? Of course not such a revoltin' development simply won't compute in our basketball brains.
Ideally, Jordan should spend all his time at shooting guard, rather than mixing it up with bigger, younger guys at small forward, as he did occasionally last season. The problem is that the Wizards' best young player, Richard Hamilton, should be the 2-guard. Assuming that newcomer Larry Hughes can handle the job at point guard, which he couldn't at Golden State or Philadelphia, what does that leave for Jordan? And we haven't even mentioned Chris Whitney or Juan Dixon, the former Maryland star who is likely to see most of his rookie service at the point.
Collins has a lot of work to do as he begins his second season in Washington, but he can't make any definitive moves until Jordan whispers in his shell-like ear or calls a news conference, whichever comes first.
In case you haven't guessed, it's not a good situation, and it grows worse with every day that Jordan waits.
Everybody respects what Michael Jordan has done in the past and would like to do again. It will be a long time perhaps forever before somebody else comes along to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, average 31 points for his career and lead his team to six NBA championships. But the operative word here is "past."
None of us, athletic or otherwise, staves off the ravages of time forever, not Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Dan Marino, or any other superduper you care to name. The wise ones, though, know when it's time to go meaning before they have to be dragged off center stage or stumble along as a parody of themselves. In the latter category, I give you Willie Mays.
I'm not suggesting that it's time for Jordan to retire; after all, he did average 22.9 points last season. But he owes it to his fans, to the Wizards and, most of all, to himself to decide whether his well-documented competitive desires make another tortuous NBA season worthwhile.
When Joe DiMaggio quit baseball in 1951 at the age of 37, the writers alertly asked him why. "Because I couldn't be Joe DiMaggio anymore," replied the Yankee Clipper, trading modesty for candor.
Think about that, Mike and for heaven's sakes make up your mind.

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