For Jordan's pains, Wizards lose, 102-89

Knee tendinitis slows star as Rockets' shooting gives Washington a headache

Pro Basketball

February 19, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Here's a bit of consolation for virtually everyone outside the 18- to 34-year-old demographic that advertisers crave: Not even Michael Jordan is immune to the aging process.

The man acclaimed by many as the best basketball player ever turned 39 Sunday, and the same aches and pains that weigh down commoners get to Jordan as well, as evidenced by his play yesterday in the Houston Rockets' 102-89 victory over the Washington Wizards at the MCI Center.

Jordan, suffering a flare-up of tendinitis in his right knee, had just 11 points in 36 minutes and all but declared himself out of tomorrow's game in Detroit, which would be his second missed game of the season.

"I'm 39, and I'm taking my body through a lot," Jordan said. "It sends me signals, and I have to listen. I can't go against it, as much as my competitive nature is to go out and force it. Then, I just break my body down even more. I'm looking at the long range, so I'm taking this break, because I didn't have the All-Star break and this will give me a chance to get some treatment and relax."

Jordan said the knee ailment, which slowed him in the early portion of the schedule, was triggered after he bumped into teammate Etan Thomas during Thursday's loss at Sacramento.

Jordan and Wizards coach Doug Collins declared the ailment wasn't serious, but with Washington in the midst of a stretch of five games in seven days, including a pair of back-to-back contests, the pair said an ounce of prevention now could keep Jordan fresh for the stretch drive.

"The competitive nature is to try to gut it out, but if you're looking at the long haul and what this team is trying to do and how successful we're trying to be down the road, you have to use your head a little bit," said Jordan. "It gives our team a little chance to go out and live out on their own a little bit without the father being around. It's one of those things where you have to take that chance and take that day off."

Said Collins: "We have 30-plus games to play, and we can't let this stretch of seven days ruin our season, because we don't do what we need to do."

As for yesterday's game, the less said about it from a Wizards standpoint, the better, particularly the second half when the Rockets shot a blistering 61 percent.

Houston (18-34) dealt the Wizards their third loss in four games since the All-Star break doing precisely what Washington wanted the Rockets to do, namely taking jump shots.

The Wizards (27-24) set out to keep the younger, quicker Rockets from posting them up and getting into the lane, so they dared them to shoot from the perimeter. Houston took the dare, as three starters - Cuttino Mobley (31 points), Kenny Thomas (21) and Steve Francis (20) - not only posted 20 or more, but also hit at least half their shots.

"You don't know where to help from because they space the floor with shooters, and any one of them can hurt you," said forward Popeye Jones, who had 11 rebounds. "It's one of these teams that plays you unorthodox. They give you matchup troubles.

"We played hard, and we really were focused on getting this game. We knew it was going to be a hard matchup. We watched the film on them, and they really don't run any plays. They just come down and run isolations, and that was a tough one for us."

Indeed, Francis, the former Maryland All-American, who was honored at Cole Field House before Sunday's Terps-Duke game, said he nearly begged out of yesterday's game because of the lasting effects of migraines that have afflicted him since October.

Francis, who had 16 points after halftime, said he ultimately decided to play because he had purchased 135 tickets for family and friends.

"It's tough dealing with it [headaches]," said Francis, a Takoma Park native. "It's something that you have to deal with. Everybody has their ups and downs. I have to deal with it myself. I said I got to go out there. I have to at least go out there."

Too bad for the Wizards he did.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Detroit Pistons

Site: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.

When: Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m.

Radio: WTEM (980 AM)

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