Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan said yesterday he felt no ill effects from playing four games in five days last week, not even in his surgically repaired right knee.
After following up a 30-minute outing against the Lakers on Friday night with a 31-minute, 12-point performance Saturday against the Cavaliers, Jordan said he feels better about finishing the season in good enough health to make an impact in the playoffs.
"I have had no swelling; I haven't had any problems with it," Jordan said after practice. "The back-to-back games and my minutes felt good. We had the day off [Sunday] and the knee recovered well. I could get up . . . without creaking, limping or whatever. I felt good physically. That's a positive."
So far, the gentle handling of Jordan -- daily therapy sessions, limiting his practice time in training camp and playing him for less than three-fourths of games off the bench -- has proven to be the precise prescription. He struggled with tendinitis and discomfort last season, eventually undergoing surgery and halting his season at 60 games.
Jordan is averaging 14.7 points in 26.7 minutes this season, second to guard Jerry Stackhouse (25.5 points per game). Jordan's minutes have steadily increased, but for now the ceiling appears to be around 30 minutes, according to Coach Doug Collins.
Jordan has played 10 and 11 minutes, respectively, in the fourth quarter of Washington's last two games, combining for 18 points and four assists.
"He had a lot more on Saturday night [against Cleveland] than I thought he might have," Collins said. "It was a very emotional game Friday night against the Lakers. He played 30 minutes, which was right at the max we want for him. It was the fourth game in five nights, but I thought he was the guy in the fourth quarter. We ran our offense through him, and he was able to finish the game off for us by getting the ball to the right people, and when he needed to score he scored for us. As we progress, that's what we're going to want more and more, to run our offense through him in the fourth quarter."
Said Stackhouse: "The first three quarters are the first three quarters. The fourth quarter is when you win games. He looks like he's holding up well."
Jordan has not worn any type of support on his knee, but he is wearing orthotics in his Air Jordans, which help keep his feet aligned and alleviate undue pressure on his knee. Jordan also is about five pounds lighter than he was last season, when he weighed between 215 and 218 pounds.
Jordan has altered his conditioning methodology, figuring that his excessive training last season may have contributed to his knee problems.
"I've changed my whole regimen," Jordan said. "I still do my upper body work. In terms of my legs, my lower half, I've been working with [team trainer] Steve Stricker. I've got some new exercises that have helped me maintain the strength in my knees. It helps me get loose before the game. Right now I go in and get treatment after practice. Everything's been going well. I'm going to stick with my program."
Jordan said he doesn't see himself entering the starting lineup anytime soon, leaving the heavy lifting to Stackhouse and others. In fact, Jordan said he's getting just as much enjoyment watching the team he's helped build -- he was President of Basketball Operations for 19 months before un-retiring before last season -- as he is playing.
"Jerry is the future, other players are the future," Jordan said. "Coming off the bench gives me a chance to look at what the future may be but at the same time I get to look at what gives us a potent basketball team."
Wizards Note: Stackhouse was named the NBA's Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 29 points and 5.8 rebounds and helping Washington to a 3-1 record. Stackhouse was selected over Orlando's Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill and Detroit's Richard Hamilton, the player Washington traded to acquire Stackhouse in the offseason.
Stackhouse is averaging a team-high 25.5 points per game and has led Washington in scoring in all seven of its games.