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Amid Uncertainty, Capitals Applaud

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan (AP)
By Jason LaCanfora and Athelia Knight
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2000; Page D9

In addition to Michael Jordan's affiliation with the Washington Wizards, he became a partner in the investor group that owns the Washington Capitals. However, it was not immediately clear yesterday how much involvement, if any, he would have with the NHL team.

Capitals players seemed to welcome Jordan's participation in Lincoln Holdings LLC, the partnership led by American Online executive Ted Leonsis and businessman Jonathan Ledecky that owns the Capitals, although they said they knew little about what effect it might have on the team.

"I know he's a basketball guy and not really a hockey guy," Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson said. "I don't know if it's going to have anything to do with us at all. I doubt it. I think they're trying to keep the organizations pretty much separate, so I don't see any changes in our organization with him coming in. But obviously, I think it's good for the Wizards. He's a guy who knows how to win championships, and to have a guy like that in your organization is huge."

Johansson isn't a big basketball fan, but it's impossible to escape Jordan's aura, even in his native Sweden. Right now, Magic Johnson may be the most popular basketball player there – he occasionally suits up for a Swedish club team he owns – but Jordan still is a megastar.

"He's huge over there – he's really big," Johansson said of Jordan. "Basketball is not such a big sport, but if there's one basketball player everyone knows, it's him. Magic is playing there right now and it's still kind of a small sport there, but everyone knows who he [Jordan] is."

Said Capitals rookie center Jeff Halpern: "He's the guy everyone wanted to be. I followed his career pretty closely. I just hope he'll shoot around down in that practice gym [at MCI Center] and we'll get to see him every now and again. I think it's really great for the Wizards. It's great for Washington. It would be great just to see him shooting around one day. I wouldn't mind meeting him – I'd probably be speechless – but I think it's great for both teams. I'm sure he'll be happy with Washington and Washington will be happy to get him."

Meanwhile, Jordan's involvement with the Wizards also could give him a hand in running the WNBA's Washington Mystics, although Jordan said he preferred to concentrate solely on the the NBA team for now.

"I can only handle one issue at a time," he said. "That really hasn't been presented to me at this particular time. I can only evaluate one [team] at a time. I think someone has to handle that instead of me. I've got to deal with men's basketball right now."

Wes Unseld, general manager of both the Wizards and the Mystics, said he expects to continue his role with the women's team.

"My job as of right now is still the general manager for the Mystics, and I will continue to do that," Unseld said.

The WNBA's teams are collectively owned by the 29 NBA teams. As majority owner of the Wizards, Abe Pollin is the operator of the Mystics, who finished last season 12-20, the league's second-worst record.

"We welcome whatever involvement Michael might have," WNBA President Val Ackerman said yesterday. "I hope we can make him as excited about women's basketball as he clearly is about the NBA."

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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