Itís been 15 years of upheaval for the Washington Bullets and Wizards. There has been one general manager or director of operations after another. There has been one coach after another, one bad trade after another, one bad draft after another, one bad scouting decision after another. The last thing the franchise needs is to start from scratch one more time.
Michael Jordan certainly isnít the leagueís best basketball executive yet. He drafted Kwame Brown and traded for Jerry Stackhouse; both look like bad moves so far. But thereís nothing Jordan hasnít got better at over time, even hitting a baseball. He had served no front-office apprenticeship when he arrived in January 2000, but he has now.
Already, heís smarter, tougher and more circumspect about the nuances of running a basketball operation than he was three years ago, or even 18 months ago. Just as we know now it was the wrong call for the Wizards to give up on Chris Webber so early, it would be equally stupid to give up on Jordan the executive now. Thatís why when Pollin and Jordan meet Wednesday, Pollin needs to tell Jordan what he wants, why he needs to stay ó and then ask him to get to work immediately.
If Pollin lets Jordan walk because some utterly unaccomplished players think Jordan was too hard on them, that would be such a shame. In a conversation Tuesday night Jordan said, ďIt doesnít bother me that certain players want to disassociate themselves from not making the playoffs.Ē
Is it true, as the New York Times reported, that Jordan yells at players who sometimes in turn resent him' Of course it is. Jordan himself said Tuesday night, ďIf Iím yelling and screaming, it means guys arenít doing their jobs. These kids have been traded two and three times by the age of 25, 26 years old. Why would you spend any amount of time listening to them' Theyíve been traded, usually, because thereís something inadequate. If Iíve yelled at them ó and I have ó itís to try and make this organisation better. ďI played hurt and sick and I dived on the floor and Iím 40 years old. The purpose of being tough on players is to raise the bar. Iím not trying to break this organisation down. Iíve wanted to set some new standards and set the bar high.Ē
You donít need bifocals to read between these lines. Stackhouse, just to name one player who was upset with Jordan, was on his third team at age 27. His practice habits were lacking. The offence was changed at least twice to accommodate what he wanted to do offensively. Stackhouse blamed Jordan for having the ball too much. And those criticisms, sadly, helped define Jordanís final days as a player. But as Jordan said, ďI didnít entice him to curse his coach and curse the referees. I have never done that. Part of what Iím screaming and yelling about is to stop garbage like that, and to have better practice and work habits.Ē
Any Wizard who is misguided enough to think the team will be better with Jordan off the floor probably ought to be traded, if for no other reason than to bring in people who arenít delusional.