Be like Mike: Even he has to talk to media now

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Michael Jordan doubtless will be upset to learn that he'll again have to give interviews to folks not named Ahmad Rashad, as the NBA has moved to put the thaw to Jordan's latest cold shoulder to the media.

His Royal Airness, as he'd likely rather be referred, abruptly stopped talking to reporters last week after he was criticized for his play at the end of Game 1 of the Bulls series with the Orlando Magic, not to mention his decision to switch uniform numbers and sneakers before Game 2.

When players from both teams followed Jordan's lead, Brian McIntyre, the NBA's vice president of public relations, quickly met with officials from both teams to put the kibosh on the sealed lips.

Jordan, who talked to the cloying Rashad after Sunday's game, but to no one else, has put the league in another untenable situation by placing himself above the NBA law, which says players and coaches will make themselves available to the media after games.

Jordan even stiffed TNT's Craig Sager on Wednesday after Game 2, which is even more troubling for the league, since Turner Sports is paying a lot of money for the rights to games as well as access to players afterward.

But what else is new? Give Jordan credit at least for being consistent. He played by his own rules before he retired, and he's being just as obnoxious and arrogant on this tour of the league as well.

Olympian deal

USA Basketball has announced a telecast/marketing deal with ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and Champion, the athletic wear manufacturer, for coverage and sponsorship of the U.S. women's basketball national team, the nucleus of which is expected to compete in Atlanta next July at the Summer Olympics.

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry eight exhibition games between the national team -- which will be chosen in tryouts beginning Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo. -- and prominent NCAA teams, college all-star teams and international squads during the fall and next spring.

ABC, the parent company of ESPN, will televise two games next spring, and Champion will advertise on the telecasts on all three networks while acting as sole sponsor for the team's training camp this fall and providing uniforms and warm-ups for the team.

Playoff packaging

From the world of Turner Broadcasting tonight comes an NBA tripleheader, with three Game 5s from conference semifinals. TNT will have the Orlando-Chicago matchup, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers-San Antonio contest.

On TBS at 10:30 p.m., the Phoenix Suns play host to the Houston Rockets, with Cleveland Cavaliers coach and former telestrator czar Mike Fratello in the Atlanta studio during and between games.

Speaking of Turner and the NBA playoffs, the ratings are in from the weekend, and they look impressive.

Friday's Magic-Bulls game got a 6.7 rating and was seen in 4.3 million homes. The Lakers-Spurs game, which followed, got a 5.1, which is pretty good for such a late hour. Over 32 playoff games, TNT/TBS is averaging a 3.5, up 35 percent from last year.

The sixth game of the Pittsburgh-Washington opening-round NHL series airs tonight on Home Team Sports at 7:30, and ESPN and ESPN2 will air Game 6 of the New York Rangers-Quebec series, also at 7:30.

For the record, the Caps and Penguins air on ESPN2 everywhere else, except in this area because of the blackout, but you will get highlights of that game during the Rangers-Nordiques contest, as well as "NHL2Night," hockey's answer to "Baseball Tonight" on ESPN2 afterward.

Say cheese, Rocky

During tonight's "Tuesday Night Fights" series at 9 o'clock on USA, the network debuts a semi-regular feature, "The Art of Boxing," showcasing photos of personalities -- well-known and otherwise -- from around the sports, taken from the book, "The Prize Fighters."

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