- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Michael Jordan prefers to come off the bench for the Washington Wizards. But Jordan wants coach Doug Collins to know that if he wants to insert him as a starter, he is willing.
"I feel from a strategy standpoint that I'd still like to come off the bench and force teams to match up to us," Jordan said. "If [starting is] something that Doug wants to tinker with, he definitely has an option to do that. But that's not the way I'm looking at it. But if he wants to put me in the starting lineup, I'm ready for it."
The Wizards' game plan, even before the season began, has been to bring Jordan off the bench to preserve the health of his knees. Jordan, who will turn 40 in February, had water drained from his knee twice before surgery forced him out of the team's final eight games last season.
But the momentum the Wizards started to build early this season has hit a wall. They have lost three consecutive games, the ugliest an 85-74 setback Saturday against Memphis that saw the Grizzlies score the game's final 11 points to end their 13-game losing streak.
After the loss to the Grizzlies, an obviously perturbed Jordan suggested there might have to be some adjustments to the team's rotation, even hinting he might be better suited to a starter's role.
Spurring speculation that now might be the time to start Jordan are his escalating minutes. After keeping his minutes under 30 in the season's first five games, Jordan has played 30 minutes or more in six of the last eight games.
After the embarrassing loss at Memphis a game that saw Jordan play 32 minutes Jordan said his knees are not bothering him at this point despite his burgeoning workload.
Yesterday Collins said he had no intention of starting Jordan any time soon and that he and Jordan are, for now, both on board with that.
"I think Michael and I are very much on the same page with what we want to get accomplished and how we want to do it," Collins said. "More minutes doesn't necessarily mean going back in the starting lineup. I think we're just going to have to wait and play it out and see how things are."
Right now, both Collins and Jordan are more concerned with getting back to winning, something they haven't done in 10 days. Both indicated the chemistry the team was beginning to develop earlier in the season has vanished, and no one seems to know where it went.
"We need to get back to playing with that elan that we were playing with early," Collins said. "For some reason we've lost it."
The Wizards haven't lost their penchant for being wildly inconsistent. Since the season began slightly more than three weeks ago, the Wizards have shown they are capable of demolishing a good team like Boston by 45 points and winning a close tussle against a veteran team like Utah.
But there also are nights when the Wizards can't do anything right. The loss to the lowly Grizzlies might attract the most attention, but the losses at Houston and Philadelphia also brought back memories of Wizards teams gone by.
The Wizards' starting frontcourt was outscored 40-7 by Houston. And against Philadelphia, the Wizards couldn't handle a trapping defense, committing a season-high 23 turnovers.
"I'm still trying to figure this team out," Collins said. "We've got a lot of new faces and a lot of different kind of skills, and I'm sort of trying to blend it all together. I think that's the hardest thing for a coach to have to do."
During their three-game losing streak the Wizards have been reduced to a jump-shooting team, mostly because they have had little consistency from young big men Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood and Jared Jeffries.
Jordan believes if they start producing on a regular basis, getting him into the starting lineup won't be an issue.
"If they step forward and play I may not need an increase in minutes and you won't hear me gripe," Jordan said. "But if they don't play well and we're not winning, you've got to go to an area where you know you can count on, and I'd like to think that [Collins] can count on me from a coaching standpoint."


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