- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

A brand-new starting five and Michael Jordan coming off the bench. Who and what are going on with the Washington Wizards?
Jordan, who has yet to announce whether he will return at 39, is finding the team's flurry of personnel moves agreeable.
Enter Jordan's latest teammate: shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse. The two-time All-Star, was working out with Jordan about three weeks ago at Hoops the Gym in Chicago and casually asked how things were going in Washington. Jordan replied, "I'm trying to put the pieces together."
Stackhouse, 27, thought nothing of the conversation until this week.
"The next time I hear from him he says, 'I told you I was putting the pieces together.'" Stackhouse said of Wednesday's phone call from Jordan.
The Wizards acquired the 6-foot-6 Stackhouse, 6-8 forward Brian Cardinal and unknown 7-1 Yugoslavian center Ratko Varda from the Detroit Pistons for guard Richard Hamilton, 3-point specialist Hubert Davis and small forward Bobby Simmons.
Fred Whitfield, the Wizards director of player personnel and cap guru, called Stackhouse first. Fifteen minutes later, Jordan rang. Apparently, Jordan saw enough of the Wizards' backcourt last season and is effectively cleaning house by sending shooting guard Courtney Alexander, Hamilton, Davis and Simmons packing and MJ may not be done.
"We were small last year we got beat up bad last year in the backcourt," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said. "It was a consensus that we knew we had to get something to go with what we hoped is some nice young talent in our big guys."
The Wizards are projected to showcase a different starting five than the team that went 37-45 last season and missed the playoffs. Larry Hughes, signed as a free agent in July, is penciled in at point guard. Stackhouse is the shooting guard. Bryon Russell, whom the Wizards signed Tuesday as a free agent from the Utah Jazz, will start at small forward. Seven-footer Brendan Haywood is the starting center, with Etan Thomas or Kwame Brown at power forward.
For now, Stackhouse is projected to start in front of Jordan.
"Michael Jordan is a three [small forward], I'm not starting in front of Michael Jordan," Stackhouse said. When it was mentioned that Jordan plans to play exclusively at shooting guard this season to save wear and tear on his body, Stackhouse replied, "Maybe, I'm the three then."
Jordan coached Stackhouse well during Wednesday's phone conversation. Stackhouse would not say whether Jordan plans to play this season or retire. Jordan had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee during the season and had tendinitis in his left knee all season despite being the Wizards' leading scorer at 22.9 points.
"If he comes back and he is able to play well and we have a great year, do you really think he's going to quit?" Stackhouse asked rhetorically.
Right now, the Wizards have 19 players on their roster, and Unseld said they may not be done wheeling and dealing.
The Wizards currently have four point guards Hughes, Tyronn Lue, rookie Juan Carlos Navarro and veteran Chris Whitney. Unseld conceded that Hughes is a combination guard and not a true point man. The Wizards have been actively shopping Lue and Whitney and have received no takers. If necessary, Jordan can play point guard if Hughes becomes too much of a scorer and less of a playmaker.
Inside, the Wizards are young and relatively inexperienced. Christian Laettner, a 6-11 forward/center, was the Wizards' best big man last season averaging 7.1 points and is now projected as a reserve.
With Jordan and Laettner and rookies Juan Dixon and Jared Jeffries coming off the bench, Washington appears to have plenty of firepower. If the young posts hold up their end of the bargain, the Wizards could be an intriguing team.

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