Jordan, Barkley hope to play as Wizards teammates next season

NEW YORK, Reuters

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, retired superstars for the time being, used the occasion of the NBA Draft on Wednesday to say they hope to return as Washington Wizards teammates next season.

Jordan, part owner and president of the Wizards, broke two ribs during the intense workouts he has been having to see if he can compete in the game he dominated until retiring after the 1997-98 season.

“My ribs are feeling a lot better,” he told Barkley, a commentator on the TNT cable network, after the Wizards made high schooler Kwame Brown the top pick in the draft.

“I’m just glad his little ribs are all right,” said Barkley.”He’s been whining about it for two, three weeks now.”

As the fans at Madison Square Garden roared with laughter at the exchange shown on a big video screen, Jordan jokingly warned Barkley:”I’m still the boss, I have a bunch of players coming to Washington, D.C., and I may not need another.”

Said Barkley: “I’m not sure I would even consider coming unless you up the ante.”

“Yeah I think maybe staying with TNT is your best bet,” said Jordan.

Commissioner David Stern, who later told the demonstrative fans this was the “most intense” draft he had ever presided over, then said from the dais: “I’d like to interrupt the Michael and Charles show to announce the next pick.”

Jordan and Barkley, close friends, have played cat and mouse with the media for months over their possible returns.

But later, Barkley, while signing autographs for fans, told Reuters in a more serious manner: “I’m working out. I’m working towards playing. I want to play. Michael wants to play.”

And on the subject of those tender Jordan ribs, Barkley said: “I think they’ll be OK. He wants to play.”