Jordan practices behind closed doors as training camp opens

Wednesday, October 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) _ How did Michael Jordan look on his first day of training camp? Publicly, at least, he looked like a guy sitting in a chair.

Reporters didn't get a chance to see Jordan do anything but watch from the sidelines Tuesday as the Washington Wizards held their first day of training camp.

Anyone sneaking a peek through the windows could see Jordan handling a basketball, sometimes dribbling, sometimes shooting. He wore a white Wizards practice jersey with the uniform No. 23.

But when the doors finally opened at 8 p.m. and a media mob got a chance to watch the final 15 minutes of a scrimmage, Jordan had already finished playing.

For those absolutely starved for Wizards tidbits, we offer the following: Tyronn Lue hit a shot from halfcourt at the final buzzer after zipping the length of the court through nine players for a layup with about two minutes left in the scrimmage.

As for Jordan, he buried his head in a towel when rookie Kwame Brown missed a free throw. He yelled something at someone. He chewed gum.

He did not, however, give anyone with a camera or a notebook any kind of glimpse into the state of his game.

His teammate, Popeye Jones, described what he saw:

``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,'' 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.

Brown described Jordan as being about 90 percent effective mentally, while other teammates said they were most impressed by Jordan's passing skills.

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.

Assistant general manager Rod Higgins said Jordan kept his 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.''

Jordan spoke with the media for a few minutes after practice, standing behind a protective barrier of folding chairs arrayed in a semicircle.

``I had a good time. 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 on their camp roster.

``It's hard to compare to the Chicago Bulls,'' Jordan said. 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-to-25 minutes of the morning session by design, according to assistant general manager Rod Higgins.

The Wizards arrived Monday night in this city on the coast of North Carolina and held a team dinner.

``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.''