It looks like the Washington Wizards' season may be going down the tubes. Recently, the Wizards' star player, Michael Jordan, even criticized his teammates in the newspapers. After a bunch of tough losses, Jordan accused his teammates of not hustling. He said, "It's very disappointing when a 40-year old man has more desire than 25-, 26-, 23-year-old people, diving for loose balls, busting his chin, doing everything he can to get this team in the playoffs. . . . "
Wait a minute. Everything Jordan says may be true, but I am not sure that he is being a good leader, or a good teammate, by blaming everybody else on the team for the Wizards' problems. Think about it. How would you like it if, after a tough, last-second loss in a soccer match or a basketball game, the best player on the team started pointing fingers and telling everyone that you and your teammates were the reasons that the team lost the game? I thought that part of being on a team was that teammates were supposed to win and lose together.
Nobody -- not the pros or the kids on the playground -- wants to listen to a teammate saying how he played so great but how everybody else messed up. Of course, what is Michael Jordan, or a kid on a regular rec league team, supposed to do if another player on the team isn't trying his hardest?
First, it is usually the coach's job to make sure that everyone is playing his best. So players, and especially kids, should hesitate before they get after a fellow player. And kids should never criticize a teammate because he is not "good enough," as long as the teammate is trying his hardest.
But if the coach won't do anything about a lazy player, I think a player can always pull a teammate aside and tell him that he is letting the team down. Still, there is a big difference between talking to a teammate in private and yelling at a teammate in front of everybody else. That's really embarrassing. And that is what Jordan did when he told reporters that he didn't think the Wizards were hustling.
Finally, if you criticize a teammate, you'd better be ready to listen to what your teammates have to say about you. Teammates don't want to listen to some big shot mouthing off if they aren't allowed to say anything bad about the big shot. Nobody's perfect, not even Michael Jordan. So Michael Jordan should be ready to listen to the other Wizards tell him that maybe he is playing too many minutes or taking too many shots. That's only fair.
Wizard guard Larry Hughes came close to letting Jordan have it when he told reporters that "it does take time to learn how to play effectively with a player who dominates the ball." Ouch! On most playgrounds, "dominating the ball" is called being a ball hog.
Maybe Jordan's scolding the Wizards will save their season. On Tuesday night, the Wizards played better and beat the Orlando Magic, 106-105. Still, I'm not so sure. It seems to me that teams work better when teammates are passing the ball instead of passing the blame.Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids. Write to him at KidsPost, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071. Or e-mail (with "The Score" in the subject field): firstname.lastname@example.org.