Washington Wizards point guard Rod Strickland said he was wrong for not properly notifying the team when he missed practice Wednesday--an unexcused absence for which he was fined--but he did not apologize for missing practice that day or on Friday.

"I had some personal issues I had to deal with, and I definitely should have handled things better in regards to the team," Strickland said today after a light workout before the Wizards' preseason game with the Cleveland Cavaliers at Baltimore Arena. "It's something I had to work out. It's a part of life. I had to deal with some things, and the team had to deal with things the way they had to deal with them.

"I can't say anything about how they decided to handle things. They have every right to do whatever they want. So far, they've been supportive and I appreciate that. They could have blasted me and I really couldn't have said anything.

"Things have been real positive, and I didn't want anything bad to come up. I just had to handle some things."

Strickland would not say why he missed practice or where he was, although he was believed to be in his home town of New York. Strickland was excused from practice Tuesday to attend a funeral there. On Wednesday, he failed to tell the Wizards he would not be at practice until the workout was over. He contacted the team trainer.

Strickland was fined an undisclosed amount and was withheld from playing in Thursday's exhibition game in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

Strickland spoke with Coach Gar Heard by phone Friday to let him know he would not make practice that day. Heard said the absence was excused, and Strickland was not disciplined.

General Manager Wes Unseld and Heard spoke with Strickland again Friday night and this morning, and they said his explanations for missing practice were acceptable. Strickland dressed for tonight's exhibition game but Chris Whitney started at point guard. Strickland came off the bench with 6 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter and scored five points in 14 minutes. He looked rusty initially but eventually got into the flow of the game.

Unseld said any punishment of Strickland would be administered by Heard. Since no fines or suspensions are forthcoming, Heard could decrease Strickland's playing time. Heard has said he considers taking away a player's minutes the best form of punishment if the player did not abide by team rules.

However, it is unlikely that Strickland will find himself on the bench for a prolonged period because the Wizards open the season against Atlanta at home Nov. 2. The Wizards have three preseason games remaining and they need to start fine-tuning their injury-plagued rotation.

"I'll decide what I'm going to do later," Heard said about Strickland's playing time. Strickland's teammates said they were glad that he was back with the team, and some acknowledged his absence was a mild distraction.

"It really wasn't an issue about his effect on the team--it was an issue about Rod personally," Whitney said. "We're glad to have him back and we're glad that he's here. He's our leader on the floor."

Added forward Tracy Murray: "It was real quiet and solemn when he wasn't here. He keeps everybody live. It's good to have him back."

With Strickland having rejoined the team, three-fifths of the starters are fit to play. Shooting guard Mitch Richmond (strained right hamstring) is expected back Sunday.

But the news on center Ike Austin isn't as positive. Austin aggravated his strained left hip flexor in practice Friday while running and said he does not think he will be able to play before the team's final exhibition game Thursday against the Boston Celtics in Springfield, Mass.

In fact, Austin said coming back against the Celtics might be optimistic. He said he should be ready by the season opener against Atlanta, however.