Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan said Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson called him "a week and a half ago" to offer his starting position in the NBA All-Star Game, a gesture Orlando's Tracy McGrady said Wednesday that he would be willing to make as well.
But Jordan said he told Iverson, "You go ahead and play." Jordan, who has said this is his last season as a player and thus his last all-star game, did not know of McGrady's decision to offer his starting spot until about 90 minutes before tonight's tip-off with the Milwaukee Bucks. He said he appreciated the gesture but, "I like it just the way it is."
Iverson and McGrady were voted by fans to start at guards for the Eastern Conference in the Feb. 9 game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Jordan was selected by coaches to be a reserve on the 12-man team. It is the first time Jordan made the team as a backup.
"That shows the type of people they are, what they know about the history of the game and about guys who have paved the way," Jordan said of McGrady, the NBA's leading scorer and the top vote-getter in the East, and Iverson. "I would have done it for Dr. J [Julius Erving] and I'm pretty sure Dr. J would have done it for somebody else. It just shows how much they care about the game and how much the game has evolved.
"I take it as a compliment but I would rather for them to play and start and let me come off the bench with no side deals."
Interestingly, Iverson's good-will gesture to give up his spot to Jordan came well before it was announced that Jordan was named to the all-star team. Reserves were announced Tuesday.
"I think you're seeing these young players realize not just the magnitude of what a great player Michael has been throughout his career and what he has done for this league but all of our salaries have about quadrupled because of what he's been able to do," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said.
Neither player had made an official request with the NBA to give up his position for Jordan. Collins gave up his starting role for John Havlicek in 1978 and Tim Hardaway gave up his starting position to then-retired Lakers guard Magic Johnson in 1992, who went on to win the game's most valuable player award.
Toronto's Vince Carter, who has missed most of the season with knee injuries, said Wednesday that he would not give up his starting role to Jordan because fans voted him to the team and he owed it to them and to the city of Toronto to play, despite his inactivity. Jordan said it was wrong for anybody to criticize Carter for not offering his position but added that Carter is in a tough spot, public relations-wise.
"It's unfair," Jordan said of Carter's situation. "It's a Catch-22. If he gives up his spot, the fans are going to be disappointed. If he plays, people are going to suggest he should have given it to me. Even me accepting Tracy or Allen's offer would make Vince look bad. That's not what it's about. Keep it the way it is. There's no bad person in this scenario. Vince is doing exactly what the fans suggested him to do."
White Might Miss Season
Collins said center Jahidi White, the primary starter for the previous three seasons, might not play at all this season as he recovers from a left knee operation he had last summer. The surgery was to repair an abnormal growth in the knee that also significantly affected the quadriceps muscles.
"I don't know that he's going to be able to go all year, as it stands right now," Collins said. "I would not bet on him right now being able to play at all this year. I just think he's having a tough time getting strength back in that leg where he can move. His weight is down, he's working hard. He just doesn't have any confidence in his leg. When we practice, he's fouling all the time because he can't move."