|Wednesday, October 10
Updated: October 11, 10:58 PM ET
MJ makes impact in preseason debut
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Michael Jordan began his comeback by blocking the first shot of the game.
Welcomed with a huge, warm ovation in the first game of his comeback, Jordan had a sellout crowd gasping with excitement just 18 seconds into the game when he swooped into the lane from the foul line and swatted away a shot by Pistons forward Ben Wallace.
Jordan went on to miss his first shot, a 3-pointer, and make his second -- a 20-foot jumper over Corliss Williamson -- for the first points of the game.
He played the opening 8:08 of the first quarter and the first 8:25 of the second, scoring eight points on 4-for-8 shooting with three rebounds, two turnovers, a steal and the block. He did not play in the second half.
"I thought it lived up to its billing," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's not one to make timid entrances, never has been."
Used as the primary ballhandler for most of his minutes, Jordan showed off a few perimeter moves to free himself for jumpers. He had one chance to dunk the ball, but instead dropped in an alley-oop layup off a pass from Courtney Alexander.
Matched defensively in the first quarter against Williamson, a small forward, Jordan was beaten once on a backdoor play and failed to box out on another play, leading to a tip-in by Williamson.
Pistons reserve guard Jon Barry got the best of him on two plays in the second quarter, driving around Jordan for a reverse layup and then popping open for a 3-pointer from the corner when Jordan did not fight through a screen.
"I'm going to make him respect me. He don't respect me," Barry turned and said to his coach, Rick Carlisle, as Jordan looked on with a smile.
Fans crowded beneath the basket and snapped photos during warmups as Jordan worked up enough of a sweat to make his bald head glisten. A sellout crowd of 22,076 at The Palace of Auburn Hills cheered loudly for Jordan as he was the last Washington player introduced.
"Boos would not surprise me. Cheers is certainly a respectful thing, and I appreciate that, but I'm just going out there to play the game and hopefully I can go out there and do something," Jordan said prior to the game.
Jordan's decision to play in Washington's first preseason game saved the Pistons from a ticket refund nightmare.
Had Jordan not played, the Pistons were prepared to let fans exchange tickets for Thursday night's game for tickets to one of the two Wizards-Pistons games during the regular season. But with only 2,000 tickets remaining for those games, supply would not have met demand.
Jordan, after announcing Wednesday that he would sit out games against the Pistons and Miami Heat, changed his mind three hours later, after the Wizards received a phone call from deputy commissioner Russ Granik.
The final 2,000 tickets for the game were sold out by Thursday morning, team spokesman Matt Dobek said.
"I didn't know the expectations of the fans," Jordan said after the Wizards' shootaround. "Once I got the response of everybody in terms of tickets and whatever, I felt compelled to play from that standpoint. I don't want to disappoint anybody."
Jordan was not expected to play past the first quarter against the Pistons, yet it still marked his first time on an arena floor and his first public appearance in an NBA uniform since he played his final game for the Chicago Bulls in June 1998.
The Wizards play in Miami on Saturday night.
Jordan, citing his lack of conditioning, had planned to sit out the first two preseason games. His reasoning, he explained, was that the Wizards will be playing two games in Miami and Detroit during the regular season.
"The league called and said all these people are expecting Michael to play," coach Doug Collins said. "I talked to Michael and he knew he should do it."
Jordan said he looked at the games as a chance for Collins to evaluate some of the young players.
"He knows what I'm capable of doing, but obviously the fans want to see me play at least some minutes, so I opted to do that instead of not playing," Jordan said.
The Wizards have been on the road for more than a week, holding training camp in Wilmington, N.C., before flying to Detroit on Wednesday.
They will play seven of their preseason games on the road, including stops in Grand Rapids, Mich., University Park, Pa., Greenville, S.C., Toronto and Uncasville, Conn. Their one home preseason game, against New Jersey on Oct. 20, is not yet a sellout.
All eyes will be on Jordan at each stop, with everyone eager to get an early gauge on how he looks at age 38 after a three-year absence from the league.
"Am I nervous? No. I'm very confident of what I'm capable of doing," Jordan said. "Obviously there are high expectations about what I can do and what I can't do, and that's something I've always had to deal with.
"I've got to go out and play my game and take my progress the way I'm trying to take it, and nothing counts until Oct. 30. I know that, and I'm pretty sure people expect me to be in top form right now, but I don't expect myself to be there. I've still got some time to get to that point."