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Monday, September 24, 2001
Updated: September 25, 12:18 PM ET
MJ's wizardry set to begin

By Dan Shanoff
Special to Page 2

Those who criticize Michael Jordan's return to the NBA are just jealous. If he were suiting up in their team's favorite uniform, it would be a different story. As a long-suffering Washington Wizards (nee Bullets) fan, I couldn't be more thrilled -- or optimistic.

Naysayers who question whether MJ and the Wizards will even break .500 are crazy. Here's the real 82-game skinny, keeping an eye on the "72-10" mark:

2001-02 MJ Preview
Date   Game   Inspiration   Result   Record
Oct. 30   @ New York

  Return to basketball "Mecca."   Energized by MSG, MJ drops a "double-Knickel" on Spike & Co.   1-0
Nov. 1   @ Atlanta   Shades of '92 Olympics -- abuse Toni Kukoc.   Kukoc as a defender? Please.   2-0
Nov. 3   vs. Philadelphia   Outplay AI.   Iverson tries to do too much; MJ out-thinks him.   3-0
Nov. 4   @ Detroit

  Remind world that Jerry Stackhouse is still no MJ.   Detroit is actually worse than the Wizards.   4-0
Nov. 7   @ Boston   Sports Guy's naysaying.   Sports Guy wishes MJ wore a Celtic-green No. 23.   5-0
Nov. 9   vs. Golden State

  Back in D.C., in front of now-frenzied faithful.   Outduels fellow UNC alum, Antawn Jamison, 50-45   6-0
Nov. 11   vs. Seattle   School young gun Rashard Lewis.   Glove yaks after loss.   7-0
Nov. 14   vs. Milwaukee

  "Ray Allen will school him."   Yeah, so? MJ guards Big Dog.   8-0
Nov. 16   vs. Utah   Confirm memory of previous "Last Shot."   Same as last time he saw them.   9-0
Nov. 20   vs. Charlotte

  Suddenly Jamal Mashburn thinks he can play?   "MJ Mashes Bugs; Streak at 10."   10-0
Nov. 22   @ Indiana   Seeing Isiah "All-Star Freezeout" Thomas on sideline.   Sends Bender and Harrington back to nursery school.   11-0
Nov. 24   vs. Boston   "Is that Sports Guy still talking about me?"   Another shellacking; Paul Pierce cries.   12-0
Nov. 27   @ Cleveland

  Early-round playoffs, early 1990s.   Jumaine Jones is the new Craig Ehlo.   13-0
Nov. 28   @ Philadelphia   Incessant Sixers yapping   Exactly why they signed Tyronn Lue.   14-0
Nov. 30   @ Miami

  Pat Riley. 'Nuff said.   Riles is looking for Charles Smith.   15-0
Dec. 1   vs. Orlando   I'm in better shape than Grant Hill.   T-Mac gets greedy; MJ drops in buzzer-beater.   16-0
Dec. 4   @ San Antonio   To posterize Tim Duncan.   Injured Admiral eases previous matchup issues.   17-0
Dec. 6   @ Houston   Stevie Franchise likes to jaw.   Glen Rice is even easier to guard than Danny Ferry.   18-0
Dec. 8   @ Dallas   A courtside Mark Cuban begs for autograph.   "That's M-A-R-K, right?"   19-0
Dec. 11   @ Memphis   Guarded by a haughty rookie from Duke.   A new venue gets its virgin MJ rack-up.   20-0
Dec. 12   vs. Miami   It's easy to want to mess with Riley again.   Don't take LaPhonso Ellis for your fantasy team.   21-0
Dec. 14   vs. New York   For Patrick.   Houston. Spree. It doesn't matter.   22-0
Dec. 16   @ Toronto

  Bout of Vinsanity.   Tough matchups. Road game. No one's perfect.   22-1
Dec. 19   vs. Atlanta   Coming off first loss.   More Kukoc abuse.   23-1
Dec. 21   @ Orlando   Tiger Woods in the front-row seats.   Mark O'Meara sports Chris Whitney jersey.   24-1
Dec. 22   @ New York   Finally found original Air Jordans that fit.   Coal in Woody Allen's stocking.   25-1
Dec. 26   @ Charlotte   Reunited with extended NC family for holidays.   First 60-point game since return.   26-1
Dec. 27   @ Indiana   Jalen Rose is too big for baggy britches   As usual, road crowd cheers for Wiz.   27-1
Dec. 29   vs. Charlotte   None. Bored with Hornets.   MJ lounges through 20 minutes in blow-out win.   28-1
Dec. 31   vs. New Jersey   Ringing in the D.C. new year.   MJ starts party early thanks to blow-out win.   29-1
Jan. 4   vs. Chicago   Oh, God, where to start?   Eddie Robinson realizes he made a free-agent mistake.   30-1
Jan. 8   vs. L.A. Clippers   Poster-children for the "new" NBA.   The "D" in "D-Miles" doesn't stand for "Defense."   31-1
Jan. 11   @ Milwaukee   Always disliked George Karl.   Call the ASPCA. More Big Dog abuse.   32-1
Jan. 12   vs. Minnesota

  Garnett left the Nike fold for And1.   Wally Szczerbiak is playing defense. Take a guess.   33-1
Jan. 15   vs. San Antonio   How many ways to smack around Danny Ferry?   Wiz frontcourt too thin. Trade help on way?   33-2
Jan. 16   @ New Jersey   Rod Thorn could have traded up to make MJ the '84 No. 1 pick.   Keith Van Horn gets an intro to The Jordan Rules.   34-2
Jan. 19   @ Chicago   The statue outside the stadium.   Fans, NBC get what they want. Jerrys routed.   35-2
Jan. 21   @ Minnesota   Doesn't like the looks of Joe Smith.   Plays a half in easy win.   36-2
Jan. 22   vs. Philadelphia   Scoring race with AI.   Jordan 43, AI 40.   37-2
Jan. 24   vs. Cleveland   Should be one he sits, but MJ plays for pride.   A win. 38 points. But 34 shots.   38-2
Jan. 26   Phoenix   Battling Penny for Comeback Player of the Year.   Too much Air Marion for MJ's tired 38-year-old legs.   38-3
Jan. 29   vs. Detroit   Doug Collins wants a little payback.   Pistons wish they still had Dumars in uniform.   39-3
Jan. 31   @ Cleveland   Wants to impress Drew Carey.   Cleveland doesn't rock.   40-3
Feb. 1   vs. Atlanta   Unimpressed with Jason Terry.   Doubles up the Hawks' main man by 20.   41-3
Feb. 3   vs. Indiana

  Did we mention Bender needed to be schooled?   Isiah can try any lineup he wants; same result.   42-3
Feb. 5   vs. Toronto   Payback in MJ's house.   Crushes Carter's spirit.   43-3
Feb. 7   vs. Sacramento

  C-Webb spurned MJ on free-agent trail.   Peja on wrong end of shootout.   44-3
Feb. 12   @ L.A. Lakers

  Teach Kobe a lesson.   Can't do it guarding Rick Fox.   44-4
Feb. 14   @ Sacramento   Love for the game.   Kings' run-n-gun antics show too much love.   44-5
Feb. 15   @ Phoenix   End team's first skid.   Where's Thunder Dan? MJ hits for 50 in win.   45-5
Feb. 18   vs. Houston   Belated birthday gift to self.   Present in form of triple-double.   46-5
Feb. 20   @ Detroit   Doug Collins still has issues.   Boy, is Detroit terrible.   47-5
Feb. 21   vs. New Jersey   Never liked Byron Scott.   Kerry Kittles more fragile than MJ.   48-5
Feb. 23   vs. Miami

  'Zo enjoys D.C.   Less so now.   49-5
Feb. 24   @ Miami   Lacking. Road trips are a pain.   Riley takes one back.   49-6
Feb. 27   vs. Portland   Reunited with "Little Brother" Pippen.   Shrugging shoulders. Nailing 3s. Just like '92.   50-6
March 1   @ Chicago   Never liked Bulls scout B.J. Armstrong.   Fans cheer MJ louder than Tyson Chandler.   51-6
March 3   vs. Orlando

  Does he need a reason every night?   Apparently so. Magic steal one in D.C.   51-7
March 5   vs. Chicago   "Ruin my dynasty, eh?"   50 points can't heal wrecked-dynasty wound.   52-7
March 7   vs. Detroit   Yet another win for Coach Doug?   Pistons are season-long punching bag.   53-7
March 8   @ Orlando   Win one in ours, we'll win one in yours   MJ too much for hobbled Hill.   54-7
March 10   @ Boston   Is that Sports Guy still talking?   Wiz win by 40 in laugher.   55-7
March 11   vs. Boston   Sports Guy sporting Jahidi White jersey next to Robin Ficker.   Next day, same result.   56-7
March 13   @ L.A. Clippers   Clipper gear only team outselling Wizards.   Odom toughest L.A. matchup of the year.   56-8
March 15   @ Seattle   Goes to the Egyptian Theater for revival of "Space Jam."   Lights out, Rain Men.   57-8
March 16   @ Portland   Bonzi Wells has too much attitude.   Blazers have too much dysfunction.   58-8
March 18   @ Golden State   Larry Hughes' ridiculous new 'do.   50 for his peeps in Oakland.   59-8
March 20   @ Denver   Getting over road-trip hump.   George McLeod-as-defender is just the tonic.   60-8
March 21   @ Utah

  Memories of "Last Shot", Part II.   Not enough to stop another pair of old-timers.   60-9
March 24   @ Toronto   Last day of brutal road trip.   72-10 seems that much more impressive.   60-10
March 26   vs. Denver   Back home, need to end two-game skid.   Glad it's the Nuggets.   61-10
March 29   vs. Milwaukee   Scott Williams gave up on Bulls.   Bucks still looking for an answer to MJ.   62-10
March 31   vs. Dallas

  Juwan Howard's homecoming.   MJ guards Juwan himself; not so hard.   63-10
April 2   vs. L.A. Lakers

  Plays mind-games with Phil; guards Kobe himself.   Wiz win biggest game of season.   64-10
April 3   @ Milwaukee   Maintain 72-win pace.   Looking too far ahead.   64-11
April 5   @ Charlotte   Pressure off 72-win pace.   Breeze past Hornets.   65-11
April 6   vs. Memphis   Jason Williams' showboating for 20-win team.   More punishment for Battier.   66-11
April 9   @ New Jersey   Keen on "Comeback Player of All-Time" award.   MJ maintains league-leading 31 ppg average, then rests.   67-11
April 10   vs. Philadelphia

  Duel for home-court advantage.   Home-court advantage secured.   68-11
April 12   @ Philadelphia   MJ sits. Charles Barkley howls on TNT.   Sixers win meaningless one.   68-12
April 14   vs. Indiana   MJ planned to sit; Dick Ebersol calls in personal favor.   MJ plays for first half, drops 24 on Rose.   69-12
April 16   vs. New York   70 wins in comeback season; critics eat crow.   As it began, it ends. Finals await.   70-12

Dan Shanoff is a regular contributor to Page 2.