One of the most interesting developments in basketball recently is the return
of Michael Jordan, who is with the Wizards now in a management/ownership
position.Â There are a lot of people who are saying he can't pull it
off.Â We're not among them.Â The Wizards have some significant
problems, starting with the salary cap, but they also have a number of boneheads
on their team, and highly paid boneheads, meaning they are hard to trade.Â
So what's a legend to do?Â
Well first of all, the reason Jordan is a legend isn't talent. It's willpower
and dedication. There are a lot of people with as much talent, believe it or
not, but none with the same will to compete.Â We still say Bill Russell is
the greatest NBA player ever - 11 championships is irrefutable - but in our era,
only Jordan, Bird and Magic approach his level of intensity.
People have compared this endeavor to Jordan's baseball career, but that's a
flawed analogy. What it fails to account for is the phenomenal hard work and
effort that Jordan put in to become a better baseball player. He was the hardest
working man on the team, taking morning batting practice and working late.Â
He didn't become a great baseball player, but he started very late, and won
The same will prove true as he tries to revive the Wizards.Â This will
start to manifest itself in a couple of ways.
First, he will either intimidate, shame, or get rid of the current players.
Rod Strickland and Juwann Howard are the main problems, but when Jordan starts
showing up at practice and starts working on them, they'll either get with the
program or go to the end of the bench. A huge will is a fearsome thing to
oppose.Â Rod Strickland has made a second career out of being a pain, but
he'll have a hard time getting away with his normal BS.Â For Howard, this
is a godsend. A once-promising career has faded somewhat. Jordan will not settle
for less than 100 percent effort, and Howard will be held to the same standards
Steve Kerr, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman were.
There are some other players to work with - Mitch Richmond is the consummate
pro, Richard Hamilton has always seemed admirable, and Ike Austin is admired by
many, including Karl Malone. After that it thins out, though, and the cap is an
This is where Jordan's other assets come in. He's smart, he works very hard,
and he hates to lose at anything.Â Our bet is he'll do what he did in
basketball and baseball - he'll work hard at mastering the fundamentals, he'll
show up early and stay late, and he'll find players who he admires - meaning
hard workers who understand the game.
He has one slight problem, as
Larry Bird pointed out to Michael Wilbon - getting out to see players is a
problem, and he'll need to do that.Â It's hard to assess Chris Carrawell
when a stream of visitors is asking for autographs, or just gawking.Â
That's a tough issue and it won't get easier any time soon.
However, it's not insurmountable.Â What is very real is that this guy
will not quit.Â When Horace Grant was with the Bulls, the team wouldn't let
them lift weights together, because Grant was stronger than Jordan and the Bulls
were convinced that he would injure himself trying to out lift Grant.
The other question about this is simple: what is he after? Well clearly he's
after the juice you get from competing.Â Who is the best in the business?
It has to be Jerry West.Â That's Jordan's benchmark and target, and while
he's competing against every other team, Michael is about being the best.Â
He'll never say this publicly, but he's gunning for Jerry West, which is
fascinating. These guys were from different generations and couldn't compete on
the court, but will compete as executives.Â Aside from Jordan's general
competence as an executive, which we think is no issue, that's the story to
follow - watching Jordan, once again, stalk the best in the business.
Should be fun.