PHILADELPHIA - Sounding more like the team executive he was the past couple of years rather than the team's star player he has been this season, Michael Jordan said yesterday that he expected the Washington Wizards to look into making a deal before the NBA's Feb. 21 trading deadline.
"I think there are still some holes we must continue to try to improve on," Jordan said before the East team practiced for today's NBA All-Star Game here at the First Union Center. "So we will entertain deals. I don't think we're at a point where we can say that we're pretty set with our roster.
"You don't want to mess with the chemistry. The one thing we have to take into consideration is that we don't want to mess up what's working right now."
The Wizards enter the All-Star break riding a five-game winning streak, currently the longest in the NBA. At 26-21, they are tied for fifth with the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference. Does Jordan consider the Wizards a contender now in the East?
"Can we contend? I'm pretty sure that on any given night we can contend," he said. "The thing we have to understand is, `Can we do it over a five- or seven-game series?' ... Philly is the team to beat.
"I'm not going to sit here and say that we contend with them at this time in a seven-game series. I think if we continue to improve, we can make a move or two, we can make a run at them. Getting to the playoffs is still our first goal."
The Wizards might choose to shore up the one position at which they seem to be thinnest - power forward. Popeye Jones has started there for most of the past two months while Christian Laettner has spent considerable time on the injured list.
Jordan, who will turn 39 on Feb. 17, has not rethought his position about playing past next season. When asked yesterday if he could envision himself playing "three, four more years," Jordan joked, "No. No. Slow your roll."
He then repeated what he has said recently.
"Next year is definitely something I want to pursue," said Jordan, who signed a two-year contract to play for the Wizards for the veteran minimum of $1.1 million annually. "Outside of next year, I'm not even thinking that far."
Jordan, who along with Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson was fined $10,000 by the NBA for not showing up to Friday's interview session, shared the podium with the league's reigning MVP and will gladly share the ball with Iverson and the other East players today.
"I don't think I have to prove anything with these young kids, it's not my style of game at this stage of my career," said Jordan, who'll be playing in his 13th All-Star Game. "For them it's their showcase. I was there once, I don't have to be there any more, but I'm happy I'm here."
So is Iverson, who won All-Star MVP last year in Washington.
"I know it's going to be fun," Iverson said. "It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life, something that my son will get a chance to enjoy. He's 4 years old and we sit around the house and he'll say, `You're Allen Iverson, and I'm Michael Jordan.' We play one-on-one together."
Said Jordan: "I hope Michael Jordan wins."
Iverson, who will wear No. 6 in honor of former Sixers great Julius Erving, said he plans to play a different role today.
"I don't think this team needs me to score like my Sixers team," he said. "I'm going to let the game come to me. I'm going to play and have fun, try to create some highlights, try to throw a couple of lobs, try to get assists to Mike."
Jordan shook his head and smiled.
"It won't be a lob, I can tell you that right now," he said.