By Michael Lee
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
PHILADELPHIA -- It may have felt like a bigger reunion if the Washington Wizards weren't missing so many pieces. And it may have felt like a "How-do-you-like-me-now?" moment for both Eddie Jordan and the Wizards, except it was only a meaningless preseason game that will be long forgotten when the regular season begins next week.
For the first time in more than six years, the Wizards looked down at the opposite end of the bench and attempted to beat Jordan, the man who led the franchise through its best four-year run in the past three decades before getting fired last November. The Wizards emerged victorious, 90-89, after a comedy of errors in the final seconds -- JaVale McGee missed a layup with 14.5 seconds left, Nick Young fouled Philadelphia's Willie Green with one second left and Green was called for fouling Mike James on a three-point attempt with 0.3 of a second left.
But the Wizards had a more encouraging development before the game, when forward Antawn Jamison lifted weights for the first time since suffering a right shoulder subluxation last week in Cleveland. Jamison said he has regained almost his full range of motion. "I can do just about anything," said Jamison, adding that the team medical staff is prohibiting him from shooting. "I can put my hand over my head. Right now, it's me being patient and going with the plan as far as the medical doctors are saying and the training staff. I feel pretty good."
As for the Wizards and Jordan, both sides have obviously moved on without much remorse. The Wizards are now led by Coach Flip Saunders and Jordan has taken the reins of a playoff team less than 150 miles up the road from where he previously lived in Potomac. One of the best benefits of his new job with the 76ers is that can maintain a simple commute from his other home in Princeton, N.J., where he lived during his years as an assistant with the Nets. "Heck, I sleep at the office half of the time anyway," Jordan said with a laugh.
The Wizards arrived at Wachovia Center in a position that Jordan had grown all too familiar with, with several of his best players absent or sidelined. Jamison sat at the end of the bench in a lavender sport coat, recovering from his shoulder injury. Gilbert Arenas and the newly acquired Mike Miller were back home in Washington, recovering from the flu. Saunders said that Miller and Arenas had fully recovered and were expected to practice tomorrow.
Jordan had coached eight of the Wizards in the building on Tuesday, but few spent much time making of big deal of the encounter. Jamison caught up with Jordan while riding a stationary bike an hour before the game. "Eddie is my man. He got me to two all-star [games]," Jamison said. "It would've been nice to be out there talking trash a little bit, but I told him I'll see him in the regular season.
"When people get fired, you realize that you're messing with people's livelihood and their opportunity to get paid," he said. "But to see them bounce back and come into a good situation is awesome as well. During the regular season, they are going to try to make it tough for us, and we're going to try to win the game as well."
Caron Butler waited for the 76ers to break from their pregame huddle to give Jordan a hug. Before the game, Jordan spoke about the special bond he shared with both Jamison and Butler, with whom he vacationed with in the Bahamas this summer. "Those relationships are everlasting," Jordan said. "They are both great human beings, first. They are professionals. They are leaders. They have a great desire to play at a high level. They respect the game and they respect human relationships."
Brendan Haywood often had a rocky relationship with Jordan, but it was able to improve after two summer meetings in North Carolina. Haywood played down facing Jordan on Tuesday, but he played inspired ball as he made his first four shots using his full offensive arsenal. He finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, at one point glaring in the direction of the 76ers bench after grabbing a rebound, dunking with two hands and hanging on the rim.
Arenas, no doubt, would have liked to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday, with the professional relationship between him and Jordan souring near the end. Arenas has criticized Jordan since Saunders has taken over but when asked about him on Tuesday, Jordan again said he wasn't offended by the words of his mercurial point guard. "It's all about entertainment with him, shock value, and he does a good job doing it," Jordan said. "But you can't get caught up with it personally."