Six-Time Champ Goes Back to Camp
Posted Oct 2 2001 12:00AM
Jordan tips of training camp with his new team
WILMINGTON, N.C., Oct. 2 (AP) -- Michael Jordan practiced twice Tuesday behind closed doors. The only witnesses were his teammates, his coaching staff, some state troopers and a few college students.
"He was awesome," one young woman said as she emerged from the gymnasium doors.
A pack of reporters and cameramen didn't get to see Jordan do anything more than cheer from the bench. The Washington Wizards let the media watch the final 15 minutes of practice, by which time Jordan had already finished playing in two scrimmages.
Jordan spoke with the media for a few minutes, standing behind a protective barrier of folding chairs arrayed in a semicircle.
"I had a good time today. I'm pretty sure I'll be sore, but it was fun to be out there and be a part of the drills. It's a quick way to get back into shape," Jordan said.
At 38, Jordan is at least four years older than every other player on the team. The Wizards have six rookies and two one-year veterans among the players on their camp roster. One player, Kwame Brown, was 2 years old when Jordan was a rookie in 1984.
"It's hard to compare to the Chicago Bulls," Jordan said of the team he led to six championships. "It's different because you have a lot of young players -- guys who don't know what to do because it's their first year."
Jordan had said he would probably not take part in both practices as the Wizards hold two-a-days during the first week of training camp. But he played in both Tuesday, sitting out the final 20-25 minutes of the morning session by design, according to assistant general manager Rod Higgins.
Brown described Jordan as being about 90 percent effective mentally, while other teammates said they were most impressed by Jordan's passing skills.
"All you had to do was get to the open area and he was finding you. He was making some great passes, he was scoring. He looked great," forward Popeye Jones said. "Hey, I was on his team, and I don't know if you guys saw the scoreboard, but we won."
Coach Doug Collins said he was concentrating on getting the ball to Jordan in the low post and letting the offense run from there.
The rest of the Wizards are trying to get comfortable with the idea of playing alongside a teammate who had a hand in acquiring most of them over the past two seasons when Jordan was the team's president of basketball operations.
Higgins said Jordan was keeping his in-practice comments to a minimum, giving a pointer here and there. Brown, who entered the NBA straight out of high school and was drafted first overall last June by Jordan, said he didn't "have time to catch myself taking it all in, because then he'll catch me doing something wrong."
The Wizards arrived Monday night in Jordan's hometown, this city on the coast of North Carolina, and held a team dinner.
"Last night, he didn't say a lot in the group setting. In fact, he really didn't say anything, but I'm sure there's a method to the madness," Higgins said.
"He probably wants to take a step back, and coming from a different professional situation, going back between the lines, it's a different role for him. Our coach is going to be the voice for the team, and he wants to let Doug do that," Higgins said.
More than 200 students from UNC-Wilmington lined up outside the arena Monday night for a chance to get free tickets to an open scrimmage next Tuesday. Local television crews covered the arrival of the team's charter plane and led their late newscasts with footage of Jordan descending an airplane staircase.
A media crowd of about 100 covered the first day of practice.
"Obviously I've created a lot of havoc, but when I'm on the court I don't think about you guys. I'm just thinking about being the best basketball player I can be," Jordan said to reporters. "I can't control the hype. I just want to play."