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Open mind, open question

Jordan not conceding Wizards' starting job just yet

Posted: Monday September 30, 2002 3:21 PM
Updated: Monday September 30, 2002 3:51 PM
  Michael Jordan Michael Jordan has come off the bench in just 18 of his 970 career games. AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan isn't ready to give up his spot in the starting lineup just yet.

Jordan said Monday he'll keep an "open mind" about the possibility of playing this season as a backup for the Washington Wizards, but he would prefer to be on the floor at tipoff.

Speaking for the first time since last week's announcement that he would play this season, Jordan also outlined a new plan to help him last the season: He's overhauled his workout regimen, and he probably won't play in any exhibition games.

The Wizards open training camp Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C.

During the summer, Jordan and coach Doug Collins discussed the possibility of No. 23's coming off the bench to save wear and tear on his knees.

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"Obviously there's been some conversation in terms of what my position will be," Jordan said. "I think even Doug at this moment has determined that. I do have an open mind in terms of making some adjustments.

"But for the most part I go in with the idea that I want to play minutes, important minutes. If Doug feels, after seeing me play and seeing how the development of our team is, that I can possibly support the team better coming off the bench, I will entertain that thought."

"Then again," he added, "if I'm playing well enough to start, hopefully I can get to that point, too. Nothing's been determined. Until training camp happens, no one knows."

Jordan said he wasn't sure he would play this season until about three weeks ago because of new pain in his surgically repaired right knee. Doctors diagnosed that Jordan's joints were out of alignment and fitted him with shoe inserts, which did the trick.

When he ended his second retirement a year ago, Jordan said he planned to play all 82 games. This time he would only say: "I expect to play the whole season. That's my motivation. That's my challenge."

Jordan also has higher hopes for a team that could have an entirely different starting five than on opening day a year ago. Offseason additions include Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Bryon Russell.

"We definitely should be in the playoffs," Jordan said. "We really, on paper, have changed the facelift of this team."

Jordan will turn 40 in February. Asked if this would be his last year, he said his primary objective was to fulfill his two-year contract with the Wizards.

"After this year, it'll be 'after this year,"' Jordan said. "I never want to say 'never' again. When I do say it, I'm going to say it 100 percent, not 99.9 percent. But I'm focusing on this year."

Related information
It's official: Jordan to return to Wizards
SI's Marty Burns: Jordan's quiet return
MJ gets shoe insert to help knee pain's Washington Wizards Preseason Preview
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