Hey, kids, do you know what time it is?
It's time for Michael Jordan to let loose with one of his patented fire and brimstone blasts at his teammates. Something like, "I've got my golf clubs loaded in the car. So if you guys don't want to play basketball anymore this season, one of you can caddy for me, and somebody else can caddy for Charles Barkley. It's no skin off my nose. I've already got six rings, and an underwear deal."
Another Jordan explosion is the Wizards' best chance now.
Doctor's orders: One outburst every few days (and call me if swelling persists).
Excuse me, Tony, but when are you going to get to the Denver game? What a mess, huh? Up 13, down 28; closed down 16. That wasn't a basketball game -- -that was the Dow. Remember that movie, "Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead"? That's the Wizards' life story.
Oh, ye of little faith.
Twice, Jordan has blown up. And twice it has worked. He skewered his teammates after a loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden -- basically called them loafing dogs. They could hardly say a word in rebuttal, considering Jordan scored 39 points and dove on the floor for a loose ball, banging his chinny chin chin. (Let's see Calvin Klein do that. Oops, he almost did.) And they responded by winning two of their next three.
Then he sauteed them again after the Wizards opened this recent six-game road trip with losses to Phoenix and Golden State. If I remember correctly, he said, "I'm not going to waste my breath on these guys -- I could be smoking a nice cigar." (That's the new millennium version of, "Let 'em eat cake.") And wouldn't you know it, the Wizards immediately pulled off a showstopper: back-to-back wins in Portland and Seattle on successive nights!
If only The Jordan Rules worked this way for parents, too. How great would it be if you could tell your kid, "You call these grades? I had an order of clams casino last night that could have gotten better grades than these. Look at all these C's and D's. What are you planning to do with your life, go into the vitamin business?" Imagine if you could be like Mike and uncork a tirade like that, and your kid would respond with an A on the next test. Oh, please. Like it ever happens that way. When I yell at my kids, either they ignore me or yell back. Hmmm, maybe Jordan would come to my house and yell at my kids. Who am I kidding? If Jordan made that "caddy" threat, my son would quit school to be on his bag.
Sadly, the magic doesn't last. Jordan's scoldings have a limited shelf life. (So being a parent is similar to being Michael Jordan after all -- except without all the Hanes underpants.) So far the shelf life is two W's. After that, the Wizards tumble down the rabbit hole. For example, after the glorious double in Portland and Seattle, they got beat by the Lakers (understandable) and Denver (gaaacckk!). They lost to Denver by 16 points. At one point, Denver was 28 points ahead. And this was after the Wizards led by 13. That's a 41-point swing! Denver is awful. Nobody blows a 13-point lead against Denver. "Dogs Playing Poker" could hold a 13-point lead against Denver. Don't tell me you're tired at the end of a long road trip. What tired you out most, ordering room service? That's a hideous loss. There's only one thing you can say after a loss like that, and Jim Mora said it: "Playoffs? You're talking about playoffs?"
And yet we are talking about playoffs. Which is why it was surprising that Jordan didn't light up the Wizards after the Denver game. Far from it, Jordan was publicly mellow, saying, "We go home, get some rest and get ourselves back into a good rhythm of playing." A good rhythm? What is this, a tango contest? Come on, Mike, become indignant. Hurl invective. Being both management and labor you've got wide latitude. Say something tartly funny about Kwame or Stackhouse or LaSooz! Smack somebody. Anybody. Go give the trainer a zetz. Do it like you did it in Chicago. Do it for Wilbon! (Actually, Jordan said something quite tart in Denver. In expressing doubt LeBron James would have an immediate impact in the NBA, Jordan said, "He's played against high school kids who probably are under 6 feet and have the talent of sportswriters." I content myself with the thought that long after Michael Jordan can't dunk a basketball anymore I'll still be able to conjugate a verb in the passive pluperfect. So there. And by then I'll have a Depends deal.)
The Wizards are fighting with the Milwaukee Bucks to see which team can stink like month-old carp and still back into the playoffs. It's hard to tell who's winning. Milwaukee may be ahead in the standings, but just last week the Bucks lost in Denver also. The trade that delivered Gary Payton and Desmond Mason to Milwaukee was supposed to make Milwaukee a contender. But the Bucks are so far under .500 since then that they might have done better trading for Peyton Manning and Desmond Tutu.
I know the remaining schedule seems to favor Milwaukee, because the Bucks have games with downtrodden teams like Cleveland, Chicago, Toronto and the Clippers. But what convinces you the Bucks can win these games? If Miami wasn't on their schedule, they wouldn't beat anybody. C'mon, if the Bucks were any good they wouldn't be fighting the Wizards for eighth place. The Wizards have games against weak teams, too: Miami, the Knicks, Cleveland and Atlanta (twice). Just think what it would mean if the Wizards rise up and beat Sacramento here on Wednesday night.
You're right. Probably nothing at all if they lose in Atlanta on Thursday.