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Michael Jordan - Steve Lipofsky photo - GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2




James Loving - National Radio Text Service


Since his return to the NBA after a voluntary three year retirement the sports media have been questioning his abilities and if he were capable of competing with the new generation of NBA players.


Monday December 31, 2001



The negative sports media all but counted out 38-year old Michael Jordan after a six point performance Thursday in a 108-81 Washington Wizards loss to the Indiana Pacers. Jordan once again proved his critics wrong when he rebounded in the following game with a stellar 51-point performance leading the Washington Wizards to a 107-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets Saturday.

Jordan became the oldest player to score over 50 points in an NBA game. His six point output was only the second time that Jordan was held under double figures (10 points) in his now 14-year NBA playing career.

Since his return to the NBA after a voluntary three year retirement the sports media have been questioning his abilities and if he were capable of competing with the new generation of NBA players. They haven't given Jordan his respect by not factoring in that it takes time for the superstar to regain his form and get in top physical condition and to sharpen and regain his skills. Jordan is portrayed as being from…. the OLD SCHOOL (ahem).

Watching Jordan struggle to get into shape during the early part of the of tough NBA season you can clearly see that his skills aren't at the level they were prior to his retirement. The five-time league MVP has spent the past two years as the Wizards President of Basketball Operations following a year of playing a lot of golf and taking care of his business empire.

After watching his team suffer through two dismal losing seasons Jordan decided to return to the game in hopes of turning the Wizards fortunes around….. And... he's done that. He's done that while being out of shape. He's led the team in scoring 19 of their 29 regular season games helping them to a 15-14 record.

Prior to his 51 point output Jordan had a 23.3 points per game scoring average ranking him 11th in the league. It was his second lowest ever NBA scoring average. His 22.7 average in his second NBA season (1985-86) is his worst when he played in only eight games before suffering a season ending injury. He holds the NBA record for leading the league in scoring having done that ten times.

The Wizards started off this season in disarray with a 5-12 record. Jordan stated that the team stunk. Critics said that Jordan was trying to do too much. It was also said that the team was relying on him to do it all. The team was accused of watching him in awe and not playing with him. Too much respect of the super-stars talent resulted in poor team play and losing ways. Adjustments were made due to intention and circumstance by Jordan and coach Doug Collins that resulted in the superstar receiving reduced playing time.

The reasons were two fold for Jordan, to rest and recover form injuries. The time off helped stimulate the team to do more for themselves and make mental adjustments and develop team chemistry. The irony is it was Jordan who as president of the Wizards hired his former Bulls coach Collins to take the helm of the team.

When Jordan returned to the line-up he took fewer shots the team took more responsibility for themselves creating more team play… that has freed up Jordan's game. The results were astounding as the Bulls reeled off nine straight victories to climb from last place in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division to third and positioning themselves for playoff contention. At the time they were ranked seventh of the eight available Eastern Conference playoff positions.

Jordan's game is still suffering. Prior to his 51 point outburst his once flawless shooting skills were dull. His once high arching shot was been replaced by a more flat trajectory. That could have been a result of his being away from the game so long and not using his basketball muscles. His exercise on the golf course is not the same as the physical requirements needed to play in fast paced NBA competition. Golf muscles are not the same as basketball muscles.

Though early in the year he ranked in the top ten in NBA scoring Jordan also led the league in shots taken (now he's ranked 2nd) and his .400% field goal shooting percentage was his lowest ever. His .411% shooting during the 1995-96 campaign is his lowest ever in the league. His basketball skills were rusty after he returned from taking almost two years off to play professional baseball. Again many muscles used to play basketball are different from that used to play basketball.

Jordan's friend, former NBA star Charles Barkley said Jordan shouldn't return to the NBA game. Jordan has proved his critics and Barkley wrong and he has yet to return to top form. It will take time for Jordan and his Wizards to develop total team chemistry. Richard Hamilton is stepping up his game that helps in take the scoring load off of Jordan. It gives the Wizards more weapons for the opposition to contend with.

Team adjustments are falling into place. As an executive Jordan took high school player Kwame Brown as his and the NBA's overall number one draft pick. Brown has yet to develop and adjust to the fast paced NBA play. He has to improve his skills and gain confidence in the physical NBA competition. For sure, Brown is finding out that there is a big difference between high school and the fierce NBA action. He's finding out the NBA ain't no Disneyland. It will take Jordan's leadership to help develop Brown's transition to NBA maturity.

Rookie Brendan Haywood has made the adjustment more quickly but he is older and has had the benefit of college playing experience. The remainder of the team is adjusting to each other, the rookies and Jordan to establish team chemistry. Coach Collins is faced with the task of finding what lineups function best against certain match-ups.

The comeback for Jordan to hopefully regain the form he had when he helped lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships remains a work in progress. It will take at least until the mid-season all-star break for Jordan to be in decent physical condition providing he avoids injuries. He no longer flies through the air with the greatest of ease. His once great acrobatic dunking abilities may never return. He doesn't have the legs he formerly had. Once his muscles strengthen strength so should his shot continue to improve. His overall performance should improve. His age will improve as well since February 17th will be Jordan's 39th birthday.

The mental adjustments the Wizards have to make to solidify a strong team game should fall into place. By then the team will have a better feel for each other and know each other's best shooting spots and moves. It's safe to assume that he will never be like the younger edition of Michael Jordan but with all of his flaws an older Michael Jordan at half speed is still better than the majority of younger NBA players.

The Wizards Jordan era is starting to show the results. The first major adjustment was the mental adjustment. The second is the team chemistry. The third is for the old man (as many in the sports media repeatedly refer to) to regain his form as best as a 38-year-old man can. Its no secret, the older one gets the longer it takes to get in shape. The bottom line is an old, not as sharp as he once was, Jordan can still dominate and determine the results of a game.

With all of these seemingly know it all young bucks in sports media running their mouths about things they know nothing about Jordan is serving up a meal of crow for them to eat. Many of these critics who have a fat Big Mac(Donalds) @$$ and a beer belly, haven't a clue what getting in shape is all about much less how to be a champion. Perhaps Jordan should serve his critics a side of fries.

Jordan is receiving the same lack of respect as then Saint Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil received a few years ago as being too old to do the job. Vermeil defied his critics and led the Rams to the NFL Super Bowl championship. If the critics are correct and Jordan's diminished skills are so bad then how can one explain that an old 38 going on 39-year-old man who after three years away from NBA competition can score 51 points in a game and be one of the leading scorers in the league? What does that say for the play of the new NBA?

The bottom line is if the Wizards and Jordan continue to improve they will make the playoffs and that's where…..JORDAN RULES.


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