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December 06, 2001

Jordan? Time to move on
By Dan Patrick

I am convinced that Michael Jordan is working out toward a goal. He wants to get into the best shape possible. And Michael does not go on the "Subway" diet. Or take his turn on the Stairmaster or the treadmill. He plays basketball.

Michael Jordan
Is Michael Jordan planning to give up the business suit for a jersey?
Jordan is working out to find out if he can still play NBA-level basketball. He wants to see if he can get close to where he was when he left. Then he will make his comeback decision. All of this chitchat is fine. And everyone has weighed in: Abe Pollin, Mitch Richmond, Phil Jackson, Mario Lemieux and Ted Leonsis. But it's all speculation now. Michael doesn't have to make any decisions now. He's not gearing up for the playoffs.

And Michael himself has touched on the issue. He's still leaving that .1-percent chance for a return. Why do that if you're not at least thinking about a comeback? He probably doesn't know right now anyway; he's still working out to see where his skills are. But if he likes what he sees of his game, that .1 percent will come in handy.

People trying to connect the dots on the quotes from people around him and his options to return to the NBA need to remember that Michael has a lot of options. He can divest himself from his holdings with the Wizards. And then he is a free agent. He could go to the Wizards. Or the Lakers. Or the Spurs. The only reason to come back is to win a championship so he would probably look at the top teams.

You have to assume he is coming for one or two years. How compelling is that scenario for potential free agents to come to the Wizards, if he decides to play there? Is that enough to convince Chris Webber to sign?

I spoke to Jason Kidd about Jordan's return recently. Kidd said, "We need to move on. And let the new young players have their time."

He's right. If Michael Jordan comes back, it would set the league back a bit. Tickets would move. TV ratings would soar. But the game, the league, would suffer. The new young players would be pushed aside while Michael played. All sports need the renewal that occurs when veterans retire and All-Star teams and championship teams have new and fresh faces. Michael Jordan has given the NBA and its fans more than any one man could be expected to. He has nothing to prove and can only tarnish his reputation by coming back.

If finding salary-cap room and negotiating contracts does not inspire him, he should seek another job. But he really shouldn't go back to his old one.

NBA writers and columnists often refer to the "Bird-Magic era" and the "Michael Jordan era." We are now in the "post-Jordan era." And it would be better for the league if it stayed that way.

Let's move on.

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