Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Good Riddance, MJ
Tonight is the night MJ finally(?) rides off into the basketball sunset. Though I guess since the world is round and spinning all the time, it's always sunset somewhere, so he always has a chance to ride off into it. Perhaps that explains his third basketball incarnation. That or an urge for more tail from across the nation.
(Ed.: I know I promised drive-in and David Cross, but those'll have to wait a bit.)
After two years, it's time to hold basketball sportswriters accountable for their ridiculous statements like: "MJ will will this team into the playoffs"; "Michael will not let this team lose"; "Michael makes everyone around him better." And so on. Of course, it'd be easier to hold writers accountable if I had any of their actual quotes, but you know who the usual suspects of MJ worship are: Michael Wilbon, David Aldridge, and everyone at NBC and ESPN. It's also the hack local sports columnists who echo public sentiment and repeat age old wisdom (spelled c-l-i-c-h-e-s).
So, I put it to you:
Yes, the team has improved its won-loss record, though nowhere near the level of 1997-98 in the Webber/Howard era. They've gone from a .300 ball club to a .450 ball club. And, yes, they've sold out their games, improving the team's financial position. But, the premise behind MJ's return was that would teach these players something about how to be better basketball players themselves so that when he left they would be better than if he had never been there. Right now, his effect is that of a talented basketball player joining the team. Next year presents the real test. Is there any reason to thing next year's team is any better than a .300 ball club? If so, is it possible then that they might have performed better this year had MJ not taken so many shots from younger, better players.
Oh, and while I'm bitching about the Wizards, let me ask this question: If Abe Pollin was concerned about the message that naming a team the "Bullets" promotes, why the Hell did they have throw-back jersey night and why are the jerseys for sale?
I grew up a Washington Bullets fan, and I will always be one. As consistently sub-par as the team has been between 1980 and 2003, I still like Abe Pollin and Wes Unseld. But, the organization seems to have a nostalgia problem. Let's trade for an aging Moses Malone! Let's trade for an aging Bernard King! Let's get Michael Jordan! They all played pretty well for the Bullets/Wizards. And they generated fan enthusiasm and probably ticket sales. But, they have not built a successful team or acquired skilled basketball talent on the verge of stardom. The last Bullets draft pick to contribute well over several years was Greg Ballard. The last really productive player over several years was Tom Gugliotta. The last under the radar guys were Mahorn and Ruland.
It's frustrating to watch a team make so many disastrous decisions (paging Kenny Green!), and I believe we're doomed to more of the same after Michael leaves. But, I know they will not get better as long as he's with the team, nor are they likely to get better as long as Unseld--as much as I love him--is in charge of player personnel. So, good riddance, Michael!
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