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MJ’s comeback not the question, Wizards are

Why are people criticizing Michael Jordan for coming out of retirement?

Are they jealous? Do they really believe he’ll taint the last image we have of him, burying that game-winning shot against Utah to win the 1998 NBA Finals? Are they upset because he didn’t return to the Bulls? Are we too accustomed to the NBA without Jordan? Do his detractors really believe that an “Air” in judgment will leave him crippled for life?

While MJ was wearing out NBA defenders in the ’80s and ’90s, checking the Bulls’ WGN TV schedule was an essential part of the fall and winter routine. Since Jordan retired I can’t recall taking any interest in NBA games until playoff time. In Jordan’s absence, Shaq, Kobe and Allen Iverson haven’t elevated their play enough to interest many fans until April.



Now the intrigue for the league’s Oct. 30 opening night is at all-time high.

Of course, Jordan must still perform. And I think many in the media think he will.




But there are many questions the 38-year-old scoring machine must answer beyond his performance in his first game in three years.

Can he still lead the league in scoring. Will he knock down his fallaway jumper more than 50 percent of the time? Can he still electrify us with a cache of dunks? Does he have another pet shot up his sleeve? Can he still take it to the basket when SportsCenter-minded defenders are playing him for his jumper? Can he still break the 60-point barrier, or will he raise his legend even higher by breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game scoring record?

More important than his own talents, can Jordan convince the rest of the Wizards to play winning basketball? For a club that only won 19 games last year, that means Jordan must produce an additional 23 victories? Is he still consistent enough to do that?

Remember that Bulls team that he embarked his NBA career with in the mid-1980s? The 1984-85 rookie of the year eventually carried them on his back to the playoffs. Will he try to do that with this bunch of no-name Wizards, or will he try to get his young team involved in trying to turn things around?

Can Jordan make the 6-6 Richard Hamilton into the next Scott Pippen? Will Courtney Alexander bury the outside shot like the Paxsons and Steve Kerr. Will 6-foot-11 Kwame Brown, fresh out of high school, transform into Bill Cartwright in Jordan’s presence? Will Michael Smith or Loy Vaught gobble up rebounds like Dennis Rodman? Certainly they won’t act like or dress like him.

Can Jordan and Doug Collins get Christian Laettner to play like he did at Duke since Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson couldn’t?

Will Collins let Jordan run the team like he did when Collins coached the Bulls at the start of MJ’s electrifying career?

Will Jordan resist trying to trade for Pippen or coax Rodman out of retirement if things start out sluggishly?

Most of all, will Jordan continue to work on his own game, or will he soon be playing 36 holes of golf on game days.

Tune in Oct. 31 and find out the answers to these questions and more when the NBA becomes entertaining again.


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