Now that Michael Jordan is in the Washington Wizards' starting lineup, some of the plans the coaching staff had entering the season might have to be scrapped.
There will be times he will line up at small forward, something Coach Doug Collins wanted to avoid because he felt Jordan got worn down last season having to match up against some of the bigger players at that position. Gone also is the notion that opposing teams would have to decide whether to counter Jordan off the bench with a backup player or keep a starter in the game longer.
"I think all that was [bunk], really," Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse said.
With Jordan, 39, joining the starting lineup for the first time this season in Saturday's 95-94 loss to Philadelphia, Washington (6-10, loser of six straight) actually could be in a more advantageous position, some with the team said. With Jordan and Stackhouse as scoring threats on the wings, the Wizards have a two-pronged attack. Before, teams could load up on Stackhouse because Bryon Russell, who now will come off the bench, wasn't a top option in the offense.
Of course, an expanded role means Jordan's minutes must be watched. He played a season-high 37 and scored 16 points in the loss to Philadelphia, but Collins said he wasn't worried about Jordan's workload because the team doesn't play again until Tuesday, when it gets a visit from the Milwaukee Bucks.
"My personal opinion is having him coming in so early [off the bench] kind of disrupted things if we had something going," said Stackhouse, the starting shooting guard who may be asked to play some small forward since he and Jordan are interchangeable. "If Michael's in the game and we're rolling, we don't have to worry about subbing [him] in. If we need to make a change, then we can bring guys off the bench.
"But there's not that sense of urgency [to make player substitutions] if Michael's already in the game. There was a sense of urgency when he's on the bench to get him in the game."
The early shakeup in the rotation -- Jordan replaced Russell anytime between the six- and 10-minute marks -- was a main reason Russell went to Collins late last week and suggested he come off the bench.
Russell agreed with Stackhouse that the team would have better continuity if Jordan started because things got disjointed when Russell would play a handful of minutes, then give way to Jordan, who had to take time to get going and for his teammates to adjust to him.
"I thought it would be better," said Russell, who started the first 13 games. "We're on a [six-]game skid and something needed to be changed. I figure that I'm a team player and I'm all about winning. It ain't all about starting. It's about finishing. Whatever we need, I want us to have out there."
Jordan said that as a starter, he and Stackhouse can set a better tone. The duo played well together as starters Saturday, especially driving to the basket, and they combined for 54 points.
"I felt like I could control what the team was doing," Jordan said after Saturday's loss to the Sixers.
Added Collins: "We really did the same things. I thought we got into a nice rhythm to get started. He and Jerry played well together. I just tried to get Michael out after about eight minutes."
With Jordan as a starter, Washington will open with a more offensive-based unit, then bring in a more energetic, defensive group led by Russell, Jared Jeffries, Tyronn Lue, Etan Thomas and Juan Dixon. Collins said he would rotate power forwards Christian Laettner or Charles Oakley based on the matchups.
"If you get guys coming in the game focused and moving the ball and hitting good shots, it doesn't matter who's in the game," Stackhouse said. "We've got a lot of capable players when we do the right things and do the things we're supposed to. It's just a matter of us moving the ball, getting good spacing and getting good shots."