“He’s retiring,” Newble said, “so I can say that.”
In his first game ever with no playoff meaning, Jordan played as if the game mattered as much as the rest. He scored 17 points and made a thrilling go-ahead shot over Newble in the final minute, but Newble was in his face as he missed the final one in the Hawks’ 101-100 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Told of Newble’s postgame boost, Jordan let out a hearty laugh, the kind one hears from someone who has just four days left until retirement.
“He can say that, obviously,” Jordan said. “We won’t see him again. He can say anything he wants to say right now. That’s pretty cool.”
Newble had a big game, stuffing in an offensive rebound with 8 seconds to go for the last of his career-high 21 points. Jordan’s 13-foot fadeaway had given the Wizards a one-point lead with 18 seconds left, and it was a 20-footer that was off the mark at the end.
“I had a decent look, but I didn’t feel I was comfortable to shoot the ball,” Jordan said. “But when no time on the clock, I had to put it up.”
Jordan, whose Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention Friday night, played 30 minutes, his fewest in more than a month. Coach Doug Collins said he would rest Jordan because he wanted “these other guys to have to play to try to win a game.”
He should have known better. Jordan wanted to be there at the end.
“I wanted to play to win,” Jordan said.
A strong statement considering that in Jordan’s previous 1,069 regular-season NBA games, his team was always in the running for the postseason. The Bulls made the playoffs all 13 seasons Jordan was in Chicago, and a knee injury kept him out of the final games after the Wizards were eliminated last season.
Jordan missed his first four shots and was called for a reckless charge in the first quarter, but he was the go-to player down the stretch. His flying one-handed dunk off a beautiful feed from Christian Laettner ignited a late comeback from seven down with 2:59 to play.
Jason Terry also scored 21 points for the Hawks, who have won five of six and got their 34th victory, surpassing last season’s total. Ham, who has been fighting the flu, was 5-of-6 and had 12 points.
“Incremental progress,” coach Terry Stotts said. “I think the progress we’ve made the last couple of months is encouraging.”
Laettner led Washington with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wizards tried to feature Kwame Brown, but he had an awful game. He twice missing easy layups off offensive rebounds from his own missed shots and couldn’t bring the rebound off Jordan’s final miss. He was booed at thehalftime buzzer and made just 2 of 13 shots and finished with six points.
How does Collins feel about returning to coach the Wizards next season? It depends on whether Jordan returns to the front office. “As long as Michael’s a part of this and wants me to be here, I want to be here with him,” Collins said before the game. Does Collins still want the job if Jordan isn’t around? “That’ll be discussed,” the coach said. … Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse missed his second straight game with right knee tendinitis. Collins said he wasn’t certain whether Stackhouse would play in the final two games. … Glover was ejected from the game for tackling Larry Hughes around the neck from behind to stop a breakaway layup with 1:44 to play. Hughes lay on the court dazed for a few seconds, but he stayed in the game. … The Hawks were 9-for-16 from 3-point range. The Wizards were 0-for-5. Washington has been outscored 369-102 in 3-pointers over the last 17 games. … Atlanta forward Glenn Robinson missed his third straight game with a strained Achilles’ tendon. … The Wizards wore their 1970s “Bullets” uniforms for the second consecutive home game, marking the 25th anniversary of the 1978 NBA championship team. They are 0-2 in the throwbacks. … The Hawks had lost fourstraight in Washington. Their last win here had been on Nov. 28, 2000.