- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Washington Wizards vice president and general manager Wes Unseld — perhaps the former player most readily identified with the franchise — shocked upper management when he announced that he would take a leave of absence following the NBA Draft on June 26.”It’s time for me to take a break,” Unseld, 57, said in a statement released by the team yesterday. “I’ve been putting some things off for several years now that I need to address, but it was important to me to leave on my own terms and in my own time frame. I’ve been coming to work here for 36 years, and I’m ready for a change.”Unseld, who captained the franchise’s only championship team in 1978, was unavailable for comment following the late afternoon announcement. Calls to his home were not returned.The news came as a shock to everyone, including Wizards owner Abe Pollin, to whom Unseld is extremely close.”When Wes told me of his decision, I was shocked, but at the same time I understood his thinking,” said Pollin, whom Unseld told of his plans Thursday. “He has done so much for so many people, including me, and now I’m glad that Wes will finally have time to do something for himself. Many of his contributions are well documented, but most people will never know the extent to which Wes has given of himself to his career and to help others. I love the guy.”No specific reason was given for Unseld’s decision, but he does have some health issues that are likely to be addressed. Unseld, who has had bad knees since his playing days, is believed to need both of them replaced. Also, the 6-foot-7 Unseld, whose playing weight hovered around 255 pounds when he retired in 1981, is now believed to be in the neighborhood of 330. He also is diabetic.Unseld’s departure compounds a complicated front office situation that has been brewing since the season ended.A meeting between Pollin and recently retired Michael Jordan concerning Jordan’s resumption of his management role was supposed to have taken place in the first week of the offseason. That meeting is now scheduled to take place next week.One issue certain to be at or near the top of the agenda is Jordan’s desire to resume his role as the team’s top personnel man, a role he assumed when he joined the team as president of basketball operations in January 2000. This, according to sources within the organization, was not as big a sticking point as some perceived. One source said Unseld, who served as general manager for seven seasons and also coached the team for six-plus years, “had no problem stepping aside” to let Jordan take over basketball operations.Although Unseld often is criticized for having traded away Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber and Ben Wallace, bungled moves by former general manager John Nash left Washington without first-round picks in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Unseld drafted Richard Hamilton, Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon when he ran the draft.Unseld himself was drafted by the then-Baltimore Bullets out of Louisville in 1968 with the No. 2 overall pick and became the second player in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.Unseld retired in 1981 after leading the Bullets to 12 consecutive playoff appearances and three NBA Finals in five years. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.

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