- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003

Washington Wizards minority owner Ted Leonsis did not agree with the dismissal of Michael Jordan and is deeply disturbed at how Leonsis’ role in the situation has been portrayed, a source with knowledge of the situation said yesterday.Leonsis, who also owns the Washington Capitals, has been silent in the aftermath of Jordan’s dismissal on Wednesday.In a statement Wednesday, Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin said, “In the end, Ted [Leonsis] and I felt that this franchise should move in a different direction. I wish [Jordan] only the very best in his future endeavors.”“ ‘I wasn’t in agreement with that,’ ” the source quoted Leonsis as saying. “I think he was as blind-sided as Michael was by the whole situation.”Attempts to reach Leonsis were unsuccessful.Considering that Leonsis was responsible for bringing Jordan to the Wizards, and given that he has not spoken about the matter — so far Wednesday’s statement is the only public acknowledgement Washington Sports and Entertainment has made — it is easy to believe Leonsis’ reported surprise.This is supported by the fact that, according to a source, Jordan and Leonsis are said to have had an “amicable” dinner in the Washington area the night before he got axed in an MCI Center meeting room.Meanwhile, although Pollin, 79, has said that he does not want to sell the Wizards in the near future, one source said that Boston-based businessman Steve Belkin, a partner with Larry Bird in the duo’s failed pursuit of the Charlotte franchise recently awarded to Robert Johnson, might have an interest in purchasing the Wizards, currently valued at just under $270 million.Belkin and Bird have also inquired about purchasing the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the feeling in Milwaukee is that if owner Herb Kohl does sell the Bucks, it will be to Racine, Wis., businessman Craig Leipold, owner of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.Belkin would not say whether or not he wanted to pursue the Wizards, but he is clearly looking to own an NBA franchise.”I am pursuing a team, but it would be inappropriate to say which one right now,” Belkin said through a representative.Leonsis has the first option to purchase the Wizards when Pollin puts the team up for sale.In other news, Wizards general manger Wes Unseld, who will take a leave of absence from the club following the June 26 NBA Draft to have both knees replaced, said that Doug Collins, hired by Jordan, remains the coach of the team. There has been speculation that the Wizards, who owe Collins $10 million over the next two years, might fire him.Unseld, who would be responsible for naming a coach — and on whom the ugly job of firing Collins would likely be assigned — said the team’s plans right now include Collins.”I’ve talked to his representative,” Unseld said. “Right now we’re just getting ready for the draft.”Collins is on vacation. Yesterday morning he said that he had not talked with anybody in Washington’s front office.If Collins does not return, one source said that recently fired New Orleans coach Paul Silas, in Dallas yesterday for the Mavericks’ playoff game against Sacramento, would be among the candidates considered for the coaching job.”Paul wants to be involved with the game,” the source said. “He’s not happy with the way things were handled in New Orleans but it’s not the end of the world. But I think talking about Washington is a bit premature right now.”

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