- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

The first rumor involving Eddie Jordan surfaced, conveniently enough, the day after Ernie Grunfeld expressed a fuzzy intention to discuss the potential contract extension of the Wizards coach this summer.

The rumor was thin, considering it emanated from Sacramento just after Rick Adelman was dispensing his farewells.

A hastily drafted list of prospective candidates that follows a parting is often filled with guesses, possibilities and long shots, most not intended to be taken seriously.

Even Don Nelson’s name is being floated in Sacramento because of his entertainment endeavor with the Magoof brothers. The omission of K.C. Jones undoubtedly was an oversight.

There is a certain conceit with the list, given the job requires a Sacramento address and the assignment of being Ron Artest’s lead babysitter.

Yet it is nice to be wanted, or at least perceived to be wanted, and Jordan is no different from the rest of us in that regard.

Jordan has labored under the perception, accurate or not, that he is Abe Pollin’s guy instead of Grunfeld’s guy. His four-year contract is Pollin’s handiwork, after all.

Jordan has one year left on the contract following two consecutive playoff appearances, the first back-to-back postseason journey of the franchise since the 1987 and 1988 seasons.

That is the obvious talking point. There are others.

Jordan did not inherit Gilbert Arenas, the budding superstar. He inherited an immature hothead who shot the ball indiscriminately or sometimes not at all if a teammate objected to his shot selection.

Jordan did not inherit the All-Star Antawn Jamison. Jamison became one under him in 2005.

The two merely could be fortuitous coincidences in Jordan’s portfolio.

The problem with that view is the career seasons of both Larry Hughes and Caron Butler, one following the other and both under Jordan.

Grunfeld, of course, has acquired the talent that Jordan has nurtured.

It is no longer basketball heresy to drop potential All-Star in the same sentence with Butler, as Grunfeld did earlier this week.

Jordan and Grunfeld make an uneasy team, partly because theirs remains an arranged one.

Grunfeld has not felt compelled the past two seasons to stand behind Jordan and shout superlatives for all to hear. That either is not his management style or a sign of reluctance to embrace Jordan as his own.

Grunfeld said all the right things about Jordan this week, but only because it was solicited from him. In fact, the question of Jordan’s contract was put to him about 10 different ways.

Jordan has made no peep about his contract, other than to say he is under contract and intends to serve out the last year of it, which goes with his personality.

Jordan is a tight-lipped battler who absorbs the blows of the game, both on and off the court, in an understated way.

His resiliency is reflected in the team, which overcame both a 13-19 start and a late-season injury to Butler that resulted in a five-game losing streak.

A certain amount of tension between a team’s personnel guru and a coach is inevitable.

A team’s president of basketball operations wants all his personnel moves to look brilliant, while a coach is programmed not to look beyond the next game.

Yet odd unions can and do work in sports, as we learned from Bobby Beathard and Joe Gibbs.

Both Grunfeld and Jordan merit kudos at this point in their respective tenures. The franchise is relevant again after a generation’s worth of missteps.

They cannot possibly appreciate the way it was. They cannot possibly appreciate the suffering of a franchise whose NBA season usually was concluded by the start of February each season.

Grunfeld and Jordan want nothing more than to win a bunch of games in the regular season and go deep into the postseason.

Whenever the principals sit down to evaluate the state of the organization and the status of all concerned, Pollin, Grunfeld and Jordan ought to see that their cupboard is half-full, not half-empty.

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