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M.J., Barkley: Same rumor, varied sense

Odds and ends from the NBA beat:

— It's not hard to understand why Michael Jordan might consider yet another comeback.

Which is not to say I believe he's considering such a move. It seems like everytime his wizardness is seen with a basketball in his hands, someone starts a rumor about a comeback, which is pretty much what Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly did last week.

Jordan quickly denied that report, as did his agent, David Falk, who deemed it "foolishness."

But if he did, it would make sense.

Remember, he's a part-owner of the Wizards. As such, his first challenge was to unload the unwieldy salaries of veterans Rod Strickland and Juwan Howard, thus clearing salary-cap space to make some personnel moves that might help the ailing franchise.

With that accomplished, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to think he might next turn his attention to bringing the Wizards' fans back.

And what could bring them back faster than the lure of seeing M.J. play, even a 38-year-old Jordan who hasn't played in two years.

NBA rules stipulate he'd have to sell his interest in the team before returning to the court, but that's no real obstacle. Majority owner Abe Pollin would no doubt be more than willing to buy back Jordan's interest, then re-sell it after fan interest had been rejuvenated.

— A return of Charles Barkley, on the other hand, is strictly a joke.

He might be more serious about it than Jordan, but it's still a joke.

Anybody who saw Barkley play the last couple of years knows that even in what he considered to be playing shape, he was way out of shape and way off his game.

When he finally retired he was a mere shadow of the player he'd been in his prime, unlike Jordan, who was still a spectacular player when he walked away.

Besides, Barkley has been a refreshingly candid delight as a broadcaster, offering his own blunt insights on just about anything.

He's much more valuable to the league behind the microphone.

— Bucks coach George Karl, like Barkley not one to shy away from speaking his mind, recently offered some suggestions for improving an All-Star event that attracted its lowest TV ratings ever this season.

He thinks the league should stop regular-season play a day earlier and have the eight best teams come to the designated All-Star city to compete in a single-elimination tournament for a substantial cash prize, provided by sponsors.

Karl thinks such a tourney would generate "a final four mentality."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have already have something very similar to what Karl proposes — the playoffs?

Besides, players make so much money it's tough picturing them giving up their All-Star break for the kind of bucks a sponsor likely would provide.

But here's one idea that would be easy to do: Play the All-Star game one week after the championship game, as the NFL does. They could still let the fans vote, but don't start the voting until midseason.

It might not result in a more interesting game, but it would make it more likely that the game featured actual All-Stars. It might eliminate certain players who play their best ball in the first half of the season, get voted to the All-Star team and promptly disappear.

Ultimately, though, adding more bells and whistles to the All-Star game isn't going to make more people tune in. What will is players who people can relate to, who people can like.

You know, players like Jordan and Barkley.

Hey, there's an idea. . . .