Jordan up, down in 1st action

8 points in 16 minutes are touched with rust

Pro Basketball

October 12, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - As the Washington Wizards walked onto the court at The Palace last night, the theme from an old television show was piped in to welcome Michael Jordan back to the NBA. Many of those who made it in from the rain and the massive traffic jam outside shouted his name and took his picture.

It was as if they had stepped into a time warp and, in some ways, they had.

They saw the home team, the Detroit Pistons, in the familiar red, white and blue uniforms that the infamous "Bad Boys" wore during the championship years. And they saw an old nemesis, Jordan, in uniform for the first time in three seasons and in one belonging to a team other than the Chicago Bulls.

As far as Jordan was concerned, the trip here for his new team's first preseason game was both encouraging and enlightening. The 38-year-old legend showed snippets of his former self, but so did the Wizards of theirs in a 95-85 defeat to the Pistons.

After saying he would sit out Washington's first two exhibition games, then changing his mind, but adding that he would only play limited time, Jordan wound up on the court for 16 minutes in the first half, finishing with eight points on 4-for-8 shooting to go along with three rebounds.

Jordan showed he was in better shape than he might have thought coming out of the team's training camp in Wilmington, N.C., but he also exhibited some rust on his once dominant game. He looked sharp at times, but also like a player making a comeback at an age when others are happy playing golf.

Not only does Jordan have some work to do before the regular season begins in 18 days, but so does new Wizards coach Doug Collins. Making his return after a three-year absence -- he was fired by the Pistons during the 1997-98 season -- Collins is still trying to find the right combination.

Jordan wasn't the only Wizard to look his age at times. Kwame Brown, the 19-year-old high school player who was the first player taken in the June draft, looked overmatched against players who would never be confused with Karl Malone, finishing with nearly as many fouls (five) as points (six) in 20 minutes.

It didn't take long for Jordan to demonstrate the kind of player he has become, and the kind of role he will play for the Wizards this season.

On Detroit's first possession, he switched off Corliss Williamson and swatted a shot past former Wizard Ben Wallace out of bounds. After his first shot -- a three-pointer -- missed weakly off the front rim, Jordan posted up the 245-pound Williamson but saw an entry pass by Christian Laettner knocked away.

Jordan took Williamson outside on the next Washington possession, hitting his first shot with a little more than two minutes gone in the game. Jordan then rebounded a missed shot by Jerry Stackhouse, dribbled upcourt and pump-faked Williamson again, this time hitting one of his patented, fadeaway jumpers.

With the Wizards ahead 16-11, Jordan went in for a dunk and was blocked by Wallace. He left with 1:52 left in the quarter after making two of five shots from the field. There was some thought that he was done for the night, but when the second quarter started, Jordan was back on the court.

Again missing his first shot and then firing a pass out of bounds off Brown's hands, Jordan hit another fadeaway over Michael Curry to pull the Wizards to within 29-26. He later took a backdoor alley-oop from Courtney Alexander and tipped -- not dunked -- the ball to make it 33-30.

What was also noticeable last night was that Jordan might not get the kind of calls he was accustomed to during his 13-year, six-championship carreer with the Chicago Bulls. He was called for an early foul and, shortly before he left for the night late in the second quarter, he was called for palming the ball.

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