- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

He was never ours, anyway. Michael Jordan spent only slightly more time in Washington than he did at the University of North Carolina, and the memories aren’t nearly as fond. No, his unique stint as the Wizards’ president/shooting guard was merely a refueling stop, it’s clear. Air Jordan is headed for other destinations.

Abe Pollin — and, more importantly, Ted Leonsis — rolled the dice with Jordan (if you’ll pardon the expression) and lost. They were hoping the world’s most famous hoopster would have unique insights into team building, but it soon became obvious he didn’t. Then they hoped he had enough left as player to get the Wizards into the playoffs, but that prayer wasn’t answered, either. When the parties parted ways yesterday, well, it was time. Now MJ can bring his managerial “acumen” to Carolina — or wherever — and Pollin can go back to mucking up the franchise.

If a player had produced the results Jordan has over the past 3 years, you’d say, “Trade him.” If a coach had done it, you’d say, “Fire him.” But because it was Michael Jordan, there was no shortage of folks urging Pollin to give him another chance. Interesting, huh?

The fact of the matter is, Jordan doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, and it’s always dangerous to get involved with someone like that. He thought he wanted to run a basketball team, but barely 18 months later he decided to return to the court. If he really cared about the game, and the direction it’s heading, he’d roll up his sleeves and coach. Lots of big stars have — Bill Russell, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas. But Michael has shown no inclination to get that down and dirty, to put his neck on the line on a nightly basis. You get the impression he’d be much more comfortable in a (high-paying) consultant/adviser role; plus, it would be better for sneaker sales.

Omitted from all the 11th-hour defenses of Jordan was the fact that the Wizards still haven’t paid the bill for Brendan Haywood. MJ gave Orlando a future first-round pick for the modestly talented center, a pick that won’t be made until 2004 at the earliest. If the Magic wait until ‘06 or ‘07 to collect, they could wind with a top-five selection, perhaps even Numero Uno. The Wizards, in other words, will be feeling the effects of Jordan’s leadership for years to come.

As for his two seasons in uniform, they were swell from a business standpoint — Michael sold tons of tickets — but his play kind of reminded me of Frank Sinatra after he’d begun to lose his voice. He just didn’t go the basket much anymore, couldn’t go to the basket much anymore. And isn’t that what made Jordan Jordan? Here’s the most telling MJ statistic: In his 11 full seasons in Chicago, he averaged 714 free throws. In his two years here, he averaged 329. Just a totally different basketball creature.

But Jordan leaving doesn’t really change anything. Nothing with the Wizards is going to change until the ownership does. (And even then nothing might change. Leonsis, the owner-in-waiting, has generated plenty of headlines with the Capitals, but the club has yet to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Will he do any more with the Wizards than Pollin has?)

After seeing the immediate respectability Hubie Brown brought to the Grizzlies, I’m not so sure Abe shouldn’t be picking up the phone and calling Bob Ferry. Go ahead and laugh if you want, but the Ferry era is looking better all the time. I mean, at least the Bullets made the playoffs most of the seasons he was general manager. (And unlike Jordan, he did it without putting himself on the active roster.) Also, Bob had an underrated sense of fun — as evidenced by his drafting of 5-3 Muggsy Bogues and 7-7 Manute Bol just two years apart.

While he’s at it, Abe might want to bring back Gene Shue, too. In his second tour of duty, Gene was usually good for 39 to 43 wins — an improvement over the current 37. If Hubie and Jerry West can do it at 69 and 64, why can’t Shue and Ferry do it 71 and 65?

Think of the marketing possibilities for Susie O’Malley. Such as: Anybody Who Was Alive When Geno Led the Bullets to the NBA Finals Gets in Free Night (it was in ‘71). Or: “Take the ferry to the game and receive an autographed basketball.” Granted, the team’s past is less than glorious, but the future right now — with Jordan gone and the franchise in typical disarray — is too painful to contemplate.

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