This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun in September 2001.
Wizards plus Jordan still doesn’t equal playoffs
By Ed Odeven
OK, you can stop holding your breath. His Airness will play for the Washington Wizards this season.
That’s right. It’s official. Michael Jordan has announced he will play for the Eastern Conference’s most pathetic team. Wait a minute, haven’t the New Jersey Nets held exclusive rights to that title for years? That’s a debate that could go on and on until Pascual Coco becomes a household name or until Chris Berman runs out of nicknames.
After getting rid of underachieving malcontents Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Mitch Richmond, the Wizards have gone from pathetic to awful. They are certainly the laughingstock of Washington, D.C., — and remember, there’s normally plenty to mock in a city of perennial political-related scandals.
Even the Los Angeles Clippers have shown signs of improvement over the past few seasons.
Just what will MJ’s Second Comeback Tour mean for basketball? Surely, there will be a dramatic rise in the sale of Wizards memorabilia. (Last time I checked, there were 14 people west of Hagerstown, Md. with Wizards jersey).
Nostalgic banter will clog the airwaves and give sports scribes something to write about. The big question will be: Has MJ lost a step?
The NBA will have to revamp its television schedule to please commish David Stern. Wizards games will be shown constantly, certainly irritating the usually spoiled L.A. Laker lovers.
In short, basketball fans will get the privilege to watch Jordan and a bunch of nobodies do nothing.
That’s right. A 38-year-old shooting guard might be able to score 30 points a game, but can he effectively defend quicker guards on a consistent basis. I doubt it.
Jordan’s new teammates are not exactly a collection of stellar role players like the Bulls had in Chicago for his final few seasons. None of the Wizards has the defensive presence of Dennis Rodman or Scottie Pippen. Nobody on the Wizards has the veteran savvy and clutch shooting ability of Steve Kerr. Nobody on the Wizards is a proven winner save one legendary superstar.
The Wizards’ roster currently consists of Courtney Alexander, Kwame Brown, Hubert Davis, Richard Hamilton, Brendan Haywood, Popeye Jones, Christian Laettner, Tyronn Lue, Tyrone Nesby, Bobby Simmons, Mike Smith, Etan Thomas, David Vanterpool, Loy Vaught, Jahidi White and Chris Whitney.
The roster features a couple of solid players (Alexander and Hamilton), promising rookies (Brown, Haywood and Thomas) and a bunch of players no other team wants.
Jordan says he’s going to play strictly “for the love of the game.” It’s an admirable reason. But isn’t it better to go out on top? Jordan’s last shot clinched the Bulls’ sixth NBA championship — a storybook finish to a magical career.
It’s going to take a miracle for the Wizards to even contend for the Atlantic Division title. Even with Jordan, there’s hardly a rational thinker who believes the Wizards will be better than the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards won 19 last season. The Knicks lost 11 home games all season; Allen Iverson’s hustle and dominance is worthy of least 20 wins a year to Philly.
The best-case scenario? The Wizards go 41-41 and get swept in the first round of the playoffs. The worst-case scenario? Is that really necessary? The Wizards haven’t been respectable since underrated scoring machine Bernard King hobbled down the court with two bad knees in the early 1990s.