With three potential starters and a reserve sidelined with injuries and the start of the regular season two weeks away, Washington Wizards Coach Gar Heard expressed mild concern yesterday about his team's early-season cohesiveness and conditioning.
Guard Mitch Richmond (strained right hamstring), center Ike Austin (strained left hip flexor), power forward Aaron Williams (back spasms) and backup small forward Randell Jackson (hip pointer) may be unable to practice or play for a week or more.
All four players may be unavailable for Thursday night's preseason game against the host Cleveland Cavaliers.
With five preseason games left, Heard said he had hoped to begin solidifying his rotation and utilizing players the way they will be used in the regular season. Instead, he has been forced to start rookie Richard Hamilton at shooting guard and Jahidi White at center. Michael Smith, who may end up starting, has been the starting power forward for nearly a week.
As a result, the bench rotation has been disjointed. Heard also has been forced to wait to make cuts so he has enough players for practice.
There will be a period of adjustment for Richmond when he returns, even though he shouldn't have much of a problem learning the plays, Heard said. Although Heard said he came to camp in good shape, Richmond already has missed more than a week of practice, three scrimmages and Washington's 88-84 preseason victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
"I don't want him to go out and try to practice and hurt himself and have to sit out a couple weeks," Heard said. "We're going to let him sit out as long as it takes for that thing to heal."