So where is he?
Where's Jordan already?
Is he coming, or what?
It's sort of like "Where's Waldo?" except nobody here wants to pick Jordan's face out of a picture--they want to see him in the owner's box, in the flesh, his bald head gleaming.
I went to MCI Center yesterday. I sat through a boring Wizards-Celtics game on the off chance that Jordan would show up. I prowled the arena's back hallways asking security guards, "Is he here? Have you seen him?" I wasn't the only one on Jordan Patrol. All the local TV and radio outlets had people there for the same reason. A radio station in Chicago sent a guy all the way here as well. Even Wilbon was there, interrupting valuable shopping time! All of us, waiting for Jordan.
Jordan was here, Tony. He played four minutes, but failed to score.
Not Reggie Jordan, stupid. Michael.
Getting Michael Jordan to run the Wizards would be the second best thing that could happen to this franchise. First, would be signing Michael Jordan to play for the Wizards. (And third would be restoring the rightful name "Bullets.")
The story has been out there for a week now, and it's generating more excitement for this franchise than anything since the day Chris Webber and Juwan Howard were signed in 1994. But nobody seems comfortable talking about it. It seems to make everyone squirrelly.
Abe Pollin isn't talking. Ted Leonsis isn't talking. Jordan isn't talking.
Lighten up, people. This is basketball, not the Aldrich Ames spy case.
The fact is that everybody in Washington wants this story to be true. They want Jordan to come here.
"To do what?" somebody at the game asked me skeptically.
His point was that Jordan wouldn't get on a plane and fly to Croatia to see a prospect. He said Jordan couldn't scout games or go to tryout camps--he's too famous for that. He wondered if Jordan would work the phones like other GMs do. Or was this all window dressing?
"What will Jordan actually do?" the man asked me.
"At this point it doesn't matter," I said. "All he has to do is bless us."
Michael Jordan may not know the first thing about the salary cap or how to acquire talent. But if he's willing to sign on with the sorry Washington Wizards, that alone would give folks here hope. Who cares if Jordan does the work? He can hire somebody to do the work. We're talking about an act of faith. All Jordan has to do is say, "I'm in."
Michael Jordan could sell 5,000 tickets a game just by walking in the arena and sitting in the owner's box. People just want to see him. He's the biggest draw in the NBA, even if he's not playing.
There's no point worrying what Jordan might or might not do over the next five years. Look at today's NBA standings under "Last Place, Atlantic Division." There you'll find the Wizards at 12-27. As R. Zimmerman so accurately put it, "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose."
(I interrupted my last column about the Redskins to talk about the Wizards. Turnabout is fair play: The Tampa Bay game is four days old now, and you don't need me to tell you it was one of the Redskins' best overall games of the season. I don't know that Brett Conway would have made that 52-yard field goal, but the disappointment over not getting the chance to attempt it is so profound that it appears not only will Dan Turk have to go, but Matt Turk will have to go too. I'll miss him. And I'll miss him too. Talk about getting the hint. Yesterday, Matt Turk actually left his car running at Redskin Park while he went inside to attend a team meeting. He left the meeting early, and bolted out of the parking lot--but not before saying he had been treated badly by the Redskins, and he wants to go somewhere else. Then, since he had his motor running, he headed on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes his way. Matt Turk, born to be released! Thank you. Thank you very much.)
I don't know what's holding this Jordan deal up. It surely doesn't seem to be Abe Pollin, who understands how much the value of his franchise would appreciate if Jordan went to work here. Pollin seems to own the high ground. From all reports he is eager to bring in Jordan to please the fans--willing to do so even though wherever Jordan goes, he brings his agent, David Falk, the Bird of Prey, who has done so much to wound Pollin's franchise in recent years.
So if Pollin isn't holding this up, perhaps Falk is trying to extract too high a price for Jordan's services from Leonsis. It's no secret I believe Falk has gone out of his way to hurt the Bullets/Wizards over the years. Falk attempted to punish the Bullets during the Juwan Howard negotiations, teasing them with Juwan, dangling Juwan like a carrot on a stick. Falk got Juwan a ton of money from Miami, and then when David Stern declared a mulligan, Falk got a ton from Washington. But the fallout can be felt in the boos Howard hears at most home games.
Still, I have no doubt Falk could greatly help Jordan succeed here. Falk is a very powerful player, a broker of vast influence. He has a number of clients Jordan would find attractive. Falk might maneuver them to Washington--and Falk could help unload two of the Wizards' most expensive contracts, the contracts of his clients Rod Strickland and Howard. (I trust the NBA will tell Falk that he can't represent management and labor in the same negotiations. But Falk's fingerprints are all over the NBA. When David Stern rounds up the usual suspects, he sends a limo for the Bird of Prey.)
If Falk isn't holding things up, perhaps it's Leonsis, who seems to want to quash the story, if not the deal. There is some danger for Leonsis here. Thus far he has been seen as an ebullient, Falstaffian figure. But if this deal falls through because Leonsis couldn't reach a financial settlement with Jordan, Leonsis could be seen as a tightwad--the reputation that dogged Pollin for years. This is easy to say because it's not my money, but from a fan's perspective no amount of money is too much to secure the seductive Michael Jordan. When was the last time you saw people hand-letter signs urging a team to hire a GM?
Leonsis has had a good ride since buying the Capitals, and staking a claim to the Wizards. His marketing for the Capitals has been creative and fun. But nobody's coming to see them. Leonsis and partner Jonathan Ledecky haven't added any big-name players, and the team took 42 games to get to .500. Hiring Jordan--making him a partner in the Wizards--would go a long way to giving Leonsis bona fide credentials as someone who cares about fans in Washington. Again, it's an act of faith.
It's not often we get Michael Jordan on a platter.
What a shame it would be to lose him.