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Jordan's return takes next step

A news conference announcing his plans will be next week.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Michael Jordan said Monday night that he is one step closer to making a return to play for the Washington Wizards but that he is not fully convinced he will end his three-year retirement.

When told three news organizations were reporting he had all but confirmed his return to the NBA, Jordan told the Washington Post,"I didn't say that. I have not said it."

Jordan said Monday night that after rating himself a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 last week, he is up to an 8. He added that if he is not up to 10 in 10 days, he is unsure what he would do.

At a meeting with reporters earlier Monday, Jordan greeted a question about his comeback with a smile and then said, "I'm doing it for the love of the game. Nothing else. For the love of the game."

But later Jordan said he must still gauge himself in a final week's worth of scrimmages against NBA players before he is convinced, at age 38, he can endure an 82-game schedule.

Jordan, part owner and president of basketball operations for the Wizards, said he would make an announcement sometime next week.

For the first time since acknowledging in April that he was serious about coming back, Jordan dropped the conditional tense when talking about his basketball future. He didn't put a limit on how long that might last.

"I want to play for years," he said.

Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six championships, has worked out all summer preparing for the expected comeback with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan already has had his financial adviser, Curtis Polk, and the Wizards' lead minority owner, Ted Leonsis, meet with NBA officials regarding Jordan selling back his ownership shares to Leonsis.

The NBA does not allow for dual player-ownership. Jordan said that process has not been finalized and the meeting was only to give the league a blueprint of the proposed sale.

If Jordan plays, he must divest his ownership shares -- believed to be between 5 and 10 percent.

Jordan has tested himself and his game repeatedly in scrimmages against top-caliber NBA players, with league referees officiating.

The only question remaining is if the tendinitis in his right knee would limit his effectiveness.

Jordan, however, said the knee was sound. If it remains that way over the next few days, he said, "I'll be ready to go."

Asked whether NBA commissioner David Stern was as enthusiastic about his possible return, Jordan paused, then said, "I think he's 50-50."

Jordan understands the reluctance.

"He thinks he's got a good product," Jordan said, noting that last summer's NBA Finals between the Lakers and 76ers proved the league has a generation of younger stars.

"And," Jordan added, "he doesn't want to be dependent on Michael Jordan."

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