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Archive for Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Jordan makes preseason debut

Wizards’ wonder scores eight points in Denver exhibition; says he was ‘pleased’ with performance

October 22, 2002

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— Michael Jordan made his preseason debut Monday night, hitting his first shot after coming off the bench during the second quarter of the Washington Wizards' game against the Denver Nuggets.

Jordan had sat out the Wizards' first five exhibitions to rest his surgically repaired right knee, but he was growing concerned about getting his timing back for the regular season.

"I moved well and I don't think I favored anything," Jordan said after the Wizards' 96-73 victory. "My timing was off, but it's going to take some time to adjust. I'm pleased."

Jordan entered the game with 7:13 left in the second quarter and played the rest of the period. He hit a turnaround jumper about three minutes after entering. He was 1-of-3 in the first half.

He played the first 7:15 of the third quarter, scoring a team-high six points in the quarter, including a steal and fast-break layup on the other end.

He finished with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting with one rebound, one assist, one foul, two steals and two turnovers.

Coach Doug Collins said before the game that he planned to play Jordan about 14 minutes. Jordan also will play in Washington's final two exhibitions. The regular-season opener is Oct. 30 in Toronto.

"The thing I heard all summer was not to overdo it early and just gradually keep working on it," Jordan said. "The things I've done to this point allowed me to feel good for those 15 minutes. I'm not going to do something stupid like playing 20 minutes.

"So I'm sticking to the game plan. My minutes will increase in the next game and the following game, and I'm sure that when the season comes, I'll work my way into it."

Jordan, who turns 40 in February, said before training camp he probably wouldn't play in any exhibition games. But earlier Monday he said he felt great, and his appearance gave Collins a chance to shore up his rotation.

"We've been practicing, and Michael came up to me and said, 'My timing is off. I want to get some kind of timing before we have to go to Toronto and play.' And I agree with that completely," Collins said.

Collins said Jordan primarily would be a sixth man this season. Such a move is designed to alleviate the wear and tear of last season when Jordan came out of retirement.

"We've got to keep Michael's minutes down. We let it get away from us last year," Collins said. "We got off to a horrible start, and we played him too much. We can't break him down early."

The Nuggets were expecting Jordan to play Monday night. They advertised his visit to Denver and promised fans a regular-season ticket if he didn't play.

The Nuggets also offered the Wizards a $200,000 incentive if Jordan played Monday night. If he would have sat out, Washington would receive only $50,000.

"I would never do this for the sake of money," Jordan said. "My decision to come back is merely for the sake of trying to get my rhythm and timing back.

"I couldn't care less what was being paid or what someone was making."

Jordan had been practicing with the team every day.

"As much practice as I've been getting, sometimes it doesn't resemble a game," he said. "At least I get to burn my lungs here in this altitude and get some type of game running."

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