- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins said yesterday he is uncertain whether or not Michael Jordan will return next season.
"I'd be surprised if he did play," Collins said, appearing on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.
Jordan and Collins were unavailable for comment later in the day.
Wizards general manager Wes Unseld was caught off guard by Collins' statement.
"I don't know where Doug is getting that information," said Unseld, who obviously has been counting on Jordan returning next season.
Jordan's future as a player has been up in the air since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Feb. 27. Jordan, who has since returned, has indicated that whether he plays next season he's under contract to the Wizards but has donated his salary to relief efforts for the September 11 terrorist attacks depends completely on how well his knee heals.
Jordan had been scheduled to miss four to six weeks following the surgery. However, his rehabilitation went better than expected, and he returned to the team last week.
Jordan has said the knee "feels great." He also has said he intends to fulfill his two-year obligation to the team, but he has always added that his return depends on the health of his knee.
Collins, hired last summer, speculated about Jordan's future but did not say anything definitive.
Asked if this could be Jordan's final season, Collins replied, "It could be. I just think the wear and tear on his knee … I'm not saying he's not going to play. I am saying right now I think that's up in the air. I think he's going to make a decision. We'll sit down and talk after the decision.
"Last year we did not know he was going to play until after the draft," Collins continued. "This year he said we'll know what he's going to do before the draft so we can move forward on what we have to do. But I don't think there's any assurance of how he's going to be able to play next year and go through a full 82-game season. Michael's got great pride. He does not want to come back next year and be injured and go through the season where he's on the injured list."
Meanwhile, a source with knowledge of the situation said Jordan's return "would be predicated most likely on his overall health."
Jordan, who turned 39 last month, has been hindered by his body this season. After word leaked out last year that Jordan was planning a comeback, he suffered a pair of fractured ribs in clandestine workouts at Hoops the Gym in Chicago.
During the season Jordan's health has cropped up as an issue, something that rarely happened in his career with the Chicago Bulls. On Dec. 4, 2001, Jordan, who had fluid drained from his right knee the day before, was forced to sit out a 103-88 loss, marking the first time he had missed a game due to injury since March 5, 1995.
Jordan had the knee drained again before a Feb.24 game at Miami and scored nine points while appearing visibly hobbled in a 92-80 loss to the Heat.
Three days later Jordan had the surgery that forced him to miss 12 games. In Jordan's absence the Wizards went 4-8.
The Wizards have split four games since Jordan returned, having beaten the Denver Nuggets twice and losing to the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors.
Jordan has helped lead Washington (33-38) to the brink of the playoffs for the first time since he eliminated them in the first round as a member of the Bulls in 1997. Going into last night, the Wizards were just 2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, presently held by the Indiana Pacers.
However, their road to the playoffs is still spotty. Of their remaining 11 games, nine of them are against teams that would qualify for the playoffs if they began today.
And even though Jordan had returned to the lineup, he is still nowhere near matching the form he showed when he scored a season-high 51 points Dec. 29 against the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan has come off the bench and played limited minutes in his return.
On Tuesday, Collins acknowledged that Jordan was "still not" ready to rejoin the starting lineup. Jordan agreed with Collins.


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