Jordan makes statement with 51

Monday, December 31, 2001

WASHINGTON -- After a few weeks of describing his comeback as part of a plan to turn the Washington Wizards into a winning franchise, Michael Jordan reminded everyone that it's also about Michael Jordan.

A six-point game tarnish his legacy? No way. He came back to throw down 51 Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets.

"I had the six-point game," Jordan said. "And I knew with that game, that poor outcome, people were going to say, 'Well, maybe it wasn't a great idea.' And now I'm sure they're going to say less -- and understand that I can still play this game at 38."

Jordan felt he had to make a statement on two fronts: that his career-low performance against Indiana last week wasn't a sign that he's washed up, and that the Wizards' two-game losing streak wasn't the start of another long skid.

He delivered on both counts. The Wizards won 107-90, avenging a loss in Charlotte three days earlier.

"Everybody's anticipating three, maybe four losses in a row," Jordan said. "So taking the leadership was important."

Jordan made 21 of 38 shots from the field, 9 of 10 free throws and had seven rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes in his 39th regular-season 50-point game. Sunday morning he was up Sunday morning for a workout with his trainer before an afternoon practice ahead of Monday's game with the first-place New Jersey Nets.

"I go into tomorrow's game knowing that I've found my shot, I've found my rhythm, and hopefully when asked, I can perform," Jordan said. "I don't think I can do (50 points) every night, but I think I can be a threat and a force out there for 38 minutes."

Jordan resumed his daily workouts a few days ago after suspending them for three weeks because of his sore knee.

"I feel a lot better," Jordan said. "My knee's getting better."

Jordan scored the Wizards' first 13 points against the Hornets, giving coach Doug Collins worry and delight at the same time. For a while, it seemed Jordan would score 70 -- and that Washington would lose.

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