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SAM SMITH, Chicago Tribune, on MICHAEL JORDAN & ACRIMONY:
WASHINGTON _ An 82nd consecutive sellout crowd stood and cheered Monday night as the last two minutes of another Washington Wizards loss wound down.
It was, perhaps, the symbolically appropriate ending for Michael Jordan's final home game in his second basketball residence: loving appreciation and defeats. This final, mostly subdued and lackluster home game for Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform felt more like closing the summer cottage.
"Thanks for the memories, Michael," one fan's sign proclaimed.
Who can forget that baseline jumper in that loss to New Orleans in December?
But Jordan finishes his career on a dysfunctional morass of a basketball team apparently sunk by the weight of Jordan's celebrity and their own frustrations dealing with it.
There will be no dramatics this time, no famous pose, no memorable moment. Which is really just fine, thank you, with the one who matters in this.
"I had no expectations for my ending," Jordan said. "Everybody, I'm pretty sure, would like to see me hit the game-winning shot in the Finals. To some degree that is the dream ending. But to a competitor, sometimes not being as successful is a great sendoff. To know you've got to move on to do other things and in other ways that will be just as successful. That's how I look at this."
What that will be remains unclear. Jordan conceded there's no certainty he'll remain with the Wizards.
"Thursday, probably Friday I'll send in my retirement papers," he said. "I'll have discussions with management here. Hopefully things will go as smooth as I expect. If not, I have other options."
The ominous-sounding threat is in keeping with an ongoing power play that many believe will lead Jordan to the new Charlotte franchise.
League sources say Jordan's agent, David Falk, has inquired around the NBA in recent weeks about possible options for Jordan and leverage for negotiations after Jordan is through playing in Washington.
The reason is said to be a split in the organization between the Jordan faction and original owner Abe Pollin and his top executive, Wes Unseld.
Unseld was calling around the NBA around the trading deadline telling general managers if they wanted to deal, contact him. That has led Jordan to wonder how much authority he'll have if he returns to the front office and whether it will be a nest of intrigue and back-stabbing.
Pollin, although polite and respectful during a presentation in which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave Jordan a flag flown over the Pentagon on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, is said to resent Jordan's handpicked staff. Pollin, with his team struggling in a new building, always felt pressured by NBA higher-ups to take on Jordan as a partner.
Jordan's presence produced record revenues for the franchise, but his underachieving team apparently was a haven for bitterness and antagonism toward Jordan and coach Doug Collins.
Speaking steadily, but with seething emotion, Collins suggested the players rebelled at Jordan and quit rather than see Jordan succeed.
"Michael cannot carry a sub-par team at 40," Collins said. "Michael at 25 would have made the playoffs. This team never mixed or fit the whole year. Let's hope we can make changes.
"Guys said (Jordan) took away from their games. They're going to find out what he brought. Sometimes you'd better be careful what you wish for. (Disrespect) was insidious. I have a reputation. Anytime there's a flare-up, it's me. But sometimes you need to look at the players. It won't happen next year. Trust me."
What will happen is unclear. Jordan insists he's done playing, and it's uncertain whether he'll remain. If he doesn't, it's unlikely his staff will stay. Most players have long-term deals, and it's essentially a team Jordan assembled to fit with him.
It didn't. It wasn't harmonious or effective. And so, as always, Jordan leaves with fanfare and even more intrigue.
"If I had to grade myself from "A' to a failing grade, I would say I'm right at average," Jordan decided. "I …