Friday, January 31, 2003

Jordan turns down starting All-Star spot

By Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE - Michael Jordan is just glad to be going to another All-Star game and doesn't mind watching the tipoff from the bench, either. Jordan turned down offers from Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson to relinquish their starting spots in the All-Star game.

McGrady, the Orlando guard who led the Eastern Conference in fan balloting, made his offer Thursday. Iverson made a similar offer in a private phone call a week and a half ago, Jordan revealed Thursday night before Washington's game against Milwaukee.

"It's not like I've never had a start. I've had plenty of starts," Jordan said.

Jordan said McGrady and Iverson are "entitled to" their starting status, but he appreciated the offers nonetheless.

"It shows what type of people they are, about the history of the game, about guys who have paved the way," Jordan said. "I would have done it for Dr. J. and I'm sure Dr. J. would have done it for someone else.

"That, to me, just shows how much they care about the game. I take it as a compliment, but I would rather for them to play and start and let me come off the bench."

Jordan said Iverson called him after the starting lineups were announced earlier this month.

"He said, 'If you don't mind, I'd like to step aside and let you start,"' Jordan recounted. "No one knew about it. He called me personally and I didn't make it known."

Precedent has been set for McGrady's and Iverson's offer.

John Havlicek started in 1978 because current Wizards coach Doug Collins stepped aside.

"I've always kidded him to this day that it was very difficult for a Sixer to step aside for a Celtic," Collins said. "But I would do it again in a minute.

"My feelings were John Havlicek was someone I'd grown up admiring my entire career and it was his last All-Star game. I was a young player and I thought I'd be in more of them," Collins said. "It's similar circumstances."

Tim Hardaway also sat in 1992 so Magic Johnson could start. Johnson turned out to be the game's MVP.

But Jordan said he's not bothered by not starting. In his previous 13 All-Star selections, the fans voted him in.

"I have no ill feelings," Jordan said. "I am very happy for them. If I hadn't done it for 14 years, OK, it's a different scenario. I experienced it for many years and I think it's something they should feel proud about."

The 39-year-old Jordan has said he'll retire after this season.

"I've got plenty more chances of being an All-Star starter," said McGrady, making his third All-Star game appearance. "It's about me being there and witnessing his last All-Star game. It's a blessing, man. It's an honor, too."

The game will be played Feb. 9 in Atlanta.

Jordan has averaged 20.2 points in 12 All-Star appearances, missing the 1986 contest because of injury, and was selected the game's Most Valuable Player in 1988, 1996 and 1998. In 1997, he had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for the only triple-double in 51 years of All-Star game history.

"What he's done to the game, for the game, he's very inspirational, especially for a guy like me who grew up watching Michael Jordan," McGrady said. "He's always been known for being an All-Star starter, so why not?"

Collins said the gesture alone shows the respect Jordan endears.

"These people realize what a great player Michael has been for this league," he said. "All of our salaries have quadrupled because of what he's been able to do the last 10 or 12 years. He's putting money in all our pockets.

"Not only that, but he's set a standard of excellence for everyone to shoot at."

Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl lauded McGrady for his offer.

"I think it's a great move," Karl said. "But I'm kind of ticked that Vince Carter didn't think of it."

Carter was selected a starter in fan balloting even though he's been hurt most of the season. But Jordan said he didn't begrudge the Toronto star for not stepping aside.

"It's a Catch-22," Jordan said. "If he gives up his spot, some fans will be disappointed. Even me accepting Tracy's or Allen's spot would make fans look bad. That's not the way it's meant to be. Keep it the way it is. There's no bad person in this whole scenario."

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