His (Fresh) Airness

If Michael Jordan suits up again for the NBA, will that suit his fans?

Neither do current NBA youngbloods like Iverson, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. Asked during the recent league playoffs about the possible return of Michael Jordan, they were universal in their awe -- and maybe, just maybe, their fear -- of the man who once carried the league on his back. "You aren't gonna get me to say it's a bad idea," the usually cocky Iverson said, his eyes widening like a child's. "He is the man. And if he comes back, we'll all have to be ready for him." In fact, the only NBA star who was publicly willing to say His Airness might no longer be prepared to soar was outspoken Philadelphia center Dikembe Mutombo.

As if in reply, national columnist Gene Wojciechowski asks a plain and reasonable question: "Can you think of many two-guard match-ups where [Jordan] wouldn't [still] have the advantage?"

Meanwhile, NBA commissioner David Stern obviously sees a Jordan return as the Second, or rather the Third, Coming. "The thing I like about [the dispute] most, frankly," Stern said during the NBA finals, "is that after all of us are busy with our own romantic notions, the guy who is the best basketball player on the planet decides he may want to play what he does best and loves the most. And suddenly, [we] fans are saying no, no, remember The Shot."

Of course, Jordan resurgent would go a long way in repairing the NBA's current image as a collection of punks and bad boys who show insufficient knowledge of the game's fundamentals and scant respect for its history. Stern's chosen metaphor is aptly antique: "No one told Fred Astaire to stop dancing. Why should we tell Michael to stop playing basketball at the highest level that he possibly can?"

Besides, if he can't cut it on the hardwood anymore, there's always baseball.

Defying the odds and their own ineptitude, your Colorado Rockies squeaked out a 7-6 win Sunday over Arizona ace Randy Johnson. That may have been the highlight of their season, turning Randy into the Big Eunuch for an afternoon. Otherwise, Colorado's third major refurbishment in three years has yielded exactly two pieces of fruit -- Mike Hampton has a sparkling 9-3 record, and Denny Neagle is 6-2 -- while the new boys in the bullpen are retelling an old story in the middle and late innings. To wit: Throw the thing up there and blow the lead.

Ever vigilant, GM Dan O'Dowd is about to go on another deal-making binge (Adios, Pedro; enjoy your night, White). But that's like Stevie Wonder going to the doc for reading glasses. No amount of O'Dowdian tinkering and tuning will save the day: At this point, the angry, disordered Rox have virtually no shot at catching the D-Backs or the Giants for the division title. As for a wild-card slot, dream on. That will go to a club that manages to play .530 ball.

Oh, well. Tune in the All-Star Game July 10 and see if Todd Helton can hit one out.

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