- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

If at some point late this summer Michael Jordan's body is sending him the same negative messages it has for most of this season, Jordan will indeed retire is what Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins intimated on national television on Wednesday.
"I think I've been saying all along that physically if I'm not capable of playing next season, why would I play?" Jordan said yesterday following the team's practice at MCI Center. "Based on what Doug's seen of what I've been going through as of late, obviously he gave his opinion about it. I'm not mad at him. That's his observation, and as a coach you have observations like that.
"That would be my observation too. If I felt this way, I would be totally surprised if I'm trying to play next year."
Jordan, 39, had knee surgery Feb. 27 that forced him out of 12 games, and he has missed a total of 14 this season. Before that, Jordan last missed a game March 5, 1993. In addition to arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, he has had fluid drained from it three times.
For most of the season, Jordan's left knee, wracked with tendinitis, was a bigger problem then the right. And his return this season was placed in jeopardy last summer when he suffered a pair of broken ribs while playing a pickup game with NBA players in Chicago.
Jordan also said he intends to have arthroscopic surgery on the left knee as soon as the season is over, which no doubt will take him at least four weeks to recover. Yesterday Jordan said his left knee was "not bothering" him and that any procedure would be preemptive in nature.
As a result, Jordan is completely uncertain whether or not he will in fact be physically ready to play another grueling 82-game NBA season in which he would turn 40. However, he made it clear that he does have every intention of playing next season, body permitting.
"My intention is to go through the necessary steps of getting the knees rest, maybe have surgery to clean out my other knee at the end of the season, and see what that does for me physically and if it can make a difference in terms of giving my knees rest and seeing how the summer goes," Jordan said. "You guys are asking me to make a decision about next season now. Based on the way I feel now, that's not really fair. My contract lasts through next season, and I have all intent of living out my contract.
"But if I physically can't … If I have to go through the same situation that I've gone through this year, it's not meaningful to me."
On Wednesday, Collins said that he would "be surprised next year if he did play. I don't think there's any assurances how he's going to be able to play next year and go through a full 82-game season."
Yesterday Collins sounded much like Jordan.
"Michael will make that decision," the coach said. "It's his intention to play next year, and he wants to play more than anybody, and he will decide that based on his health. That's the way it is."
Jordan said he has no regrets concerning his comeback, during which the Wizards (33-38) have already won 14 more games than they did all of last season. However, coming to grips with his own athletic mortality has not been easy.
"It's been very tough," Jordan said. "I think my whole issue with my physical breakdown started when I broke my ribs. Up to that point, I had no prior physical problems. From there it started with the flaring up of the knees, tendinitis. When the body starts breaking down you start compensating and other things start to happen."
If he decides he can't play anymore, Jordan will not look at this season as a failure, even if it ends as the only one in 14 years in which his team did not reach the playoffs.
"I've enjoyed myself even though I've had to deal with the injuries," he said. "I think I've been able to teach and get closer to the players and help them understand my dedication to the game, the attitude about winning and what I will be asking [of them] for the long term in terms of winning and just being a part of a positive franchise. I feel like this has been successful. Individually, I haven't been as healthy as I wanted to be. But in terms of what the team needed … I think it's been very positive."


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