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Jordan to be evaluated Wednesday

3/4/2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan's minutes kept climbing, even
after he turned 40. On Tuesday, his body revolted and sent him out
of the game in the second quarter.

Jordan departed with spasms in his lower back, just when the
Washington Wizards had taken their biggest lead over the Toronto
Raptors. With Jordan gone, the Raptors won 89-86.

Jordan, who was not available to comment after the game, will be
evaluated Wednesday. Coach Doug Collins said it will be a
"game-time" decision whether Jordan will play Wednesday night
against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We're not going to give up, regardless of who's hurt,"
Collins said. "Michael would be sorely upset if anybody in that
locker room felt like that we could not win just because he's not
playing. We will not do that as long as I'm the coach."

Jordan hasn't missed a game this season, and the Wizards can't
afford to lose him now. The loss put them one game behind Milwaukee
for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Oddly, the injury came in what was supposed to be Jordan's 40th
birthday game, scheduled for Feb. 17, but a snowstorm forced it to
be postponed.

"That's how fate works," Collins said. "We shouldn't even
have been playing."

Jordan is averaging 19.7 points, but he has played with extra
intensity over the last few weeks to try to get to the playoffs one
more time. He was averaging 27.3 points and 43.8 minutes since
turning 40 before Tuesday's game.

But the birthday postponement means the Wizards must play six
games in nine days. Last week, Jordan was hit just above his
surgically repaired right knee in a collision with Indiana's Reggie
Miller. He didn't miss a start and scored 35 points in 50 minutes
two nights later in an overtime victory over Houston.

"Michael wants to play every game as if it's his last, and
that's the way we're going to do it," Collins said. "If we're in
a game we've got a chance to win and I tell Michael, 'I'm going to
sit you down four minutes to rest,' I'm going to be lasered."

Collins said Jordan told him recently: "Don't treat me like
there's going to be something left at the end."

The Raptors took advantage of Jordan's absence to win their
third in four games from the Wizards this season, including 84-75
on Jan. 14 when three Toronto players were on 10-day contracts.
Jordan was so upset after that loss he refused to talk to
reporters.

Voshon Lenard, 0-for-6 entering the fourth quarter, scored all
14 of his points in the final 12 minutes. Vince Carter had 24
points and tied a career-high with six steals, including one that
kept the Wizards from getting off a potential game-tying shot at
the final buzzer.

"Six steals?" Carter said. "Sheesh. This was a fun game to be
a part of. As a player, you live for these moments. In the crunch
time, you're looking for somebody to score and a guy steps up --
that's what it's all about."

Lenard made consecutive 3-pointers that gave the Raptors a
five-point lead with 3:29 to play. The Wizards cut the lead to one
twice, but Stackhouse missed a driving, left-handed layup that
would have given Washington the lead with about 20 seconds
remaining.

"I blew it tonight," Stackhouse said. "Hopefully I don't
tomorrow."

Jordan appeared to hurt himself when he twisted his body just
before making a pass near the free throw line in the second
quarter. The pass was intercepted by Alvin Williams, and Jordan
stumbled as he started to run downcourt. He left the game during
the next stoppage.

Jordan put his hand on his lower back as he walked into the
tunnel with 4:34 remaining in the half. The Wizards were leading
40-33, but the lead was gone by early in the third quarter.

Jordan had four points in 15 minutes when he left. Stackhouse
scored 21 points for the Wizards, who won three straight last week
to work themselves back into the top eight. Now they've lost
back-to-back games to Miami and Toronto, both with losing records.

Jordan missed 22 games last season with knee injuries, mostly
from the wear and tear of working himself into shape for his second
comeback from retirement.

Game notes
Wizards forward Etan Thomas had eye surgery Tuesday and is
expected to miss another five to six weeks. Thomas broke the socket
around his left eye when he took an elbow in the face against New
Jersey on Feb. 21. ... Wizards forward Charles Oakley delivered a
mighty kick to an advertising board and glared at coach Doug
Collins when he was taken out in the second quarter. Oakley did not
return to the game. "I was brought here to play, but I have to
deal with it," Oakley said. "I signed a contract. We've got 22
more games to go, and that'll probably be the end of my career.
Whatever. I'll have to deal with it after that." ... Wizards guard
Larry Hughes returned after missing six games with a sprained right
ankle and scored 15 points in a reserve role. ... The Wizards were
0-for-11 from 3-point range. ... The Raptors have won eight of
their last 12.

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