Jordan: Big Men Are Key for Wizards
Posted Oct 7 2001 12:00AM
White, Thomas can take rebounding pressure off teammates
WILMINGTON, N.C., Oct. 7 (AP) -- The spotlight has been locked on Michael Jordan from the moment he announced his return. On Sunday night, the five-time league MVP diverted some attention to the Washington Wizards' big bodies.
"We need their rebounding," Jordan said after White and Thomas participated in their first full scrimmage of camp. "Their rebounding is very crucial for us right now. Without those guys, it puts a lot of pressure on Popeye (Jones) and Christian Laettner and some of the guards."
The scrimmage was opened to the media with six minutes remaining, but Jordan sat out the last 12 minutes. He sat between assistant coaches John Bach and Brian James while shouting out instructions to his teammates.
Eventually, Jordan walked to the end of the bench and stood with his arms folded, barking instructions in coach-like fashion.
Jordan said Thomas, acquired in a trade last season from Dallas, had his best practice.
"He really was a force on the boards and showed some offensive capabilities," Jordan said. "We knew when we got him in a trade, he could very well be a diamond in the rough. Tonight was good sign of that. He showcased some high potential."
After a sloppy Saturday night scrimmage, Wizards coach Doug Collins canceled the Sunday morning practice at Trask Coliseum on the UNC-Wilmington campus.
"Now we're getting into the dog days of camp, where guys are itching to play that first exhibition game and have to push themselves through," Collins said.
Jordan, who iced down both knees after Saturday night's practice, said his knees felt fine Sunday. He has three scheduled practices remaining before taking the court in an open scrimmage Tuesday night. The team opens the exhibition season Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.
"I'm still trying to get into shape," said Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington. "Obviously, for the time I'll be on the court, I'd like to play well and play within what my capabilities are at this stage. I know with this hometown crowd, everybody will want to see me at midseason form. But by no means am I there yet."
Of course, preseason form may be good enough.
"He was the same ol' Mike," Jones said. "You had better run and double team him. If you don't, he'll score on you. He was very aggressive today at going to the basket with the basketball."