Washington Wizards starting point guard Rod Strickland will not be allowed to play in tonight's preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and will be fined for missing yesterday's practice without notifying team officials.
The disciplinary action against one of the Wizards' star players upholds new coach Gar Heard's policy that all players--regardless of status--will have to adhere to team rules.
Since Strickland was not "officially" suspended, he will not be docked a game's pay of roughly $111,000. The amount of the fine is unknown.
"He didn't show up for practice," Heard said. "I'm disappointed because he's letting his teammates down. . . . I can't let one guy, I don't care who he is, interfere with what we're doing on the court. If a guy is late or misses practice he's going to be treated the same way.
"The guys knew from Day One. I explained that to them up at Shepherd College. It's not going to be tolerated. It's not a message. It would happen to anyone if the same thing happened."
Added General Manager Wes Unseld: "Gar and I both agree a total commitment by all involved in the Wizards organization is necessary for the success of the team. Everyone in the organization has been made aware of that fact."
Strickland and his agent, David Falk, could not be reached for comment. Strickland is expected to meet with Heard before practice Friday. It will be determined then if Strickland will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Cavaliers at Baltimore Arena.
Strickland, 33, was excused from practice on Tuesday to attend a funeral in New York. Heard said Strickland left a message with the team trainer yesterday afternoon saying that he was still in New York because he missed his flight back to Washington.
Strickland's explanation, according to a team source, did not sit well with management. Wizards officials believe that with three airports in the New York area with flights leaving every half hour, getting to Washington in time for the 11 a.m. practice should not have been a problem. In his three previous seasons here, Strickland has missed some practices and been late to several team functions, although his attendance record improved last season.
Strickland and forward Juwan Howard have been the only starters to not miss a practice, scrimmage or preseason game until yesterday. Guard Mitch Richmond, center Ike Austin and power forwards Michael Smith and Aaron Williams have missed time because of injuries or excused absences.
Last April, Strickland was arrested on drunk driving charges. His court date regarding the matter is Oct. 27, when Washington has a preseason game against the Celtics in Boston.
With Strickland unavailable to play tonight, Chris Whitney will start at point guard. Reggie Jordan will back up Whitney. Laron Profit and James Collins also might see some time at point guard. Jordan, Collins and Profit are in a battle for a roster spot and were scheduled for extended playing time before Strickland was disciplined.
Wizards Notes: Williams continued his comeback from back spasms. He practiced extensively yesterday and could play tonight. . . .
Rookie center Calvin Booth participated in limited drills but remains hampered by a sore right hamstring. He said he was not sure if he would play against Cleveland. If he can't play, Jahidi White will be the only center on the team. Austin is not making the trip because of a strained hip flexor.
The shortage of centers means that at least one power forward will have to play center. Gerard King, Jason Lawson and Jonathan Kerner, all fighting for a roster spot, could all get playing time in the middle. . . .
Richmond (strained right hamstring) said he expects to be healthy enough to face the New York Knicks Monday in Albany, N.Y.