Washington Wizards shooting guard Mitch Richmond, who has been sidelined with a strained right hamstring, practiced yesterday for the first time since the second day of training camp. Forward Lorenzo Williams went through his first full workout since the summer. Point guard Rod Strickland was moved back into the starting lineup.
The Wizards finally are coming together, albeit not completely. Center Ike Austin (strained left hip flexor) and power forward Aaron Williams (right thigh bruise) may not play in the Wizards' final three preseason games--all on the road--this week.
Austin and Aaron Williams are projected to be healthy enough to play in the season opener against the visiting Atlanta Hawks Nov. 2, but without having much game time, the cohesion Coach Gar Heard hoped for early on may be a problem.
"I'm not going to try and rush anything," Heard said of his injured players.
All of the injured except rookie center Calvin Booth (sore right hamstring) will travel to Albany, N.Y., where the Wizards will face the New York Knicks tonight.
Strickland, who played 14 minutes as a reserve Saturday night in Washington's 112-99 victory over Cleveland, will start. Strickland did not start against the Cavaliers because he had missed two practices and an exhibition game last week for personal reasons.
Richmond is not expected to play tonight but should in games with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday and Thursday.
"It felt pretty good," Richmond said of his hamstring yesterday. "I came in early, and worked out with the strength coach and did some running drills to get my wind. That's where I'm hurting right now. In fact, I worked out for 45 minutes straight and everything in my body felt good except for my wind."
Washington yesterday released center-forwards Jason Lawson and Jonathan Kerner--both training camp invitees--to reduce their roster to 18. The Wizards have to pare the active roster to 12 by Nov. 1 but can place three players on the injured list. Lorenzo Williams, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, and Booth likely will start the season on the injured list.
Heard said he could have reduced his roster to 15, but decided to retain the extra players because of the team's injuries and so he could take a final look at them.
Power forward Gerard King, appears to have locked up a job with the Wizards and probably will open the season on the active roster.
The next three games are crucial for small forwards Derek Grimm and Randell Jackson as well as for guards Reggie Jordan, Laron Profit and James Collins. There is a chance that Heard could cut both Grimm and Jackson, and go with Juwan Howard and Tracy Murray exclusively at small forward.
Should Heard release Grimm and Jackson, it would open up a roster spot to keep two of the three guards still in contention.
There has been some question about whether Booth has shown enough promise to warrant a roster spot, but Heard said the 6-foot-11 player from Penn State likely will be retained.
"Potential-wise, he's got it," he said. ". . . Calvin can do some things you don't teach."