Jordan watches woeful Wizards run true to form

New minority owner gets off on wrong foot as team loses 5th in row

January 20, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Michael Jordan helped win six championships as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He is now 0-1 as the president of basketball operations and minority owner of the Washington Wizards.

Watching from principal owner Abe Pollin's box, Jordan saw his new team get embarrassed by the hapless Dallas Mavericks last night, 104-86, at MCI Center.

Accompanied by Pollin and minority owner Ted Leonsis, Jordan was later joined by President Clinton, who arrived for the final 10 minutes of the team's fifth straight defeat.

"I never anticipated the game being that way," said first-year coach Gar Heard, whose team's record dropped to 12-28.

"I thought we had a great chance to win. I'm very disappointed in the way we played tonight. This is one of the worst games of the season."

Said forward Juwan Howard: "It hurts to lose any time, especially on a day like today. It was a great day for this city and for this team, and we had to go out and spoil it with a loss. It was embarrassing.

It was depressing."

Playing without shooting guards Mitch Richmond and Richard Hamilton, the Wizards missed 50 of the 80 shots they attempted.

Down by only one point at halftime, the Wizards were outscored 34-18 in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 28 in the fourth quarter.

Richmond is on the injured list after cracking a rib last week, and Hamilton missed the game after attending the funeral of his grandmother.

"Without Mitch and Rip [Hamilton], we definitely missed their offense," point guard Rod Strickland said.

Most of the players felt that Jordan's presence was not a distraction, but center Jahidi White said, "I'm not sure, but it probably was."

While he didn't do his imitation of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and pull Heard into a training room for a private chat after the game, Jordan met with the team before the game. His message was obvious: No jobs are secure.

"He'll evaluate what's going on, no doubt about it," Strickland said.

Asked if looked forward to playing against Jordan in practice, Strickland smiled. "Definitely," he said.

Strickland has missed a number of practices this season for what have been called "personal" reasons and admitted earlier in the season that he doesn't work as hard in practice as he does in games.

That is in direct conflict with the philosophy Jordan espoused during his career with the Bulls.

Heard said before the game that he is looking forward to Jordan showing up for practice -- in shorts and sneakers.

"If they don't work hard, that will be their quickest ticket out of town," he said.

Heard didn't seemed concerned about his own job security, which might be in question if things continue to go badly for the Wizards.

Though Heard seemed confident about retaining his job, the fans were not as supportive of the new coach.

"He [Jordan] should get rid of the coach, and coach himself," said Howard Sampler, a builder from Washington, D.C.

"He should get rid of some of these scrub players, too. I'd like to see him coach. He has a better eye for the game than anybody else."

Said James Gant, a building engineer who was sitting a few rows below Jordan last night: "I think he [Heard] should be packing his bags right now and calling the moving van."

Sitting in a courtside seat, Tom Ellmer surveyed the small crowd that got increasingly smaller as the Mavericks built their lead.

"I think this is a heck of a way to welcome Michael to Washington," said Ellmer, who works in Arlington, Va.

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