- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Thanks, but no thanks.

That is what Michael Jordan would like to tell the NBA when it no doubt looks to add him to the All-Star Game festivities in Atlanta next month.

The 12-time All-Star finished third in fan balloting at guard for the Eastern Conference behind Orlando's Tracy McGrady and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, eliminating the possibility he would be named a starter. The reserves and alternates will be selected by coaches.

"I've played in enough All-Star Games to know what it feels like," Jordan said. "I'm not opposed to letting the young kids go in and do things. It would be great relaxation for me and my family that week. I'm not opposed to that. I've had my experiences with All-Star Games before. I'm not going to campaign for it. It's great, it's good to represent the fans, and if I get a chance to do it then I will do that. But if I don't there will be no remorse, no ill feelings, no animosity, none of that. I'll enjoy my week. I'm pretty sure I can find some warm climate somewhere. It wouldn't bother me."

Jordan, who turns 40 next month, said it probably was a good thing for the league that the young players are beginning to dominate the fan balloting.

"Things are changing. Players are changing. With new generations coming in fans want to see new players in new situations," Jordan said. "That doesn't bother me at all. I welcome that because I think that's how the league is going to survive. It's a different era, and it's time for me to step aside and let some of these kids move in, and that doesn't bother me not one bit [it will] free up my time a little bit more."

One thing that is clearly on Jordan's mind is the Wizards making the playoffs in what he has said will be his final season.

Last season, Jordan's first after a three-year retirement, the All-Star break was the beginning of the end for the Wizards, who entered the game in Philadelphia on somewhat of a roll.

Leading up to the All-Star break the Wizards were 26-21 and riding a five-game winning streak, but the second half of the season was a disaster.

The Wizards dropped nine of their first 10 games after the break on the way to finishing the second half of the season 11-24, and Jordan suffered a season-ending knee injury that forced him out of the last eight games.

However, Jordan feels his knees are fine much better than they were last season after spending most of the offseason and almost the entire preseason resting his legs.

"Physically I feel good. Hopefully I'm not that crisis that everybody is sitting around waiting for. I think I'm going to last this year. I think physically I'm capable."

In fact, Jordan feels the Wizards are better equipped to handle any crisis they are presented with this season, mostly because of the additions of players like Jerry Stackhouse, Bryon Russell and Larry Hughes.

"I think we are a better equipped basketball team to survive and get to our ultimate goal, which is to get ourselves a chance at the postseason," Jordan said. "I think with the level of veterans, young kids and quality free agents, we are giving ourselves a chance to survive the cracks and the crevices. Hopefully we can stay away from the cracks and the crevices. But we're no different from any other team. Those things happen. You just have to survive when those things happen."

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