Mitch Richmond played in his first preseason game tonight and the Washington Wizards got a glimpse of the one-two punch he and rookie Richard Hamilton could provide at shooting guard.
Though their roles were reversed--Richmond came off the bench--the tandem combined for 26 points in Washington's 97-92 loss to the Boston Celtics before an announced crowd of 15,144.
Hamilton finished with 19 points, 13 coming in a spectacular second quarter. Richmond added seven points, all in the first quarter. Though Richmond's point total was roughly a third of his average, he came through the game unscathed in 14 minutes of action.
"I thought it was a good stretch," Richmond said. "The next game I'll play the same or a little bit more. We've got three or four practices before the first regular season game then I'll be back for good. Once I warmed up and went up and down, I was more worried about somebody picking me hard more than my hamstring."
Though Richmond was back, the Wizards still were minus two definite starters and one potential starter. Center Ike Austin (strained left hip flexor) did not make the trip. Power forward Aaron Williams, who Coach Gar Heard said could start in the season opener, did not play because of a bruised right thigh.
Point guard Rod Strickland was in Washington because his trial on drunk-driving charges was not finished when court adjourned Wednesday. Strickland's trial is not expected to end until Thursday at the earliest. He faces up to 15 months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines should he be found guilty on three different counts.
Strickland is not expected to be at Thursday night's preseason finale against the Celtics in Springfield, Mass.
Chris Whitney, who started in place of Strickland, barely missed a contested three-point shot with eight seconds left, allowing Boston forward Antoine Walker (game-high 27 points) to seal the victory with two free throws. Otherwise, Whitney had a strong game, recording 14 points and a game-high nine assists.
"I thought overall we had good effort," Heard said. "We had some things we need to work on defensively and more than anything else, rebounding. We have to do a much better job on the boards. That is a major concern. They got too many easy shots when the game was on the line. Way too many second shots."
Boston outrebounded Washington, 36-34, but the Wizards' allowed the Celtics six offensive boards in the nip-and-tuck final period. Though Heard said it was good for his team to experience a tight game, he said he wished it were his starters who were on the floor at the end.
Richmond played just two minutes early in the fourth quarter. He was kept on the bench for the majority if the game so he would not aggravate his hamstring. Richmond had not played in any of Washington's previous four preseason games and just started practice this week because of his hamstring injury.
He started rusty, got winded quickly and committed three turnovers, but he did not seem to have any significant problems fitting into the offensive and defensive schemes.
"We been running over the plays a little but it took me two or three seconds to know which play they were calling," Richmond said. "Other than that, I was cool."
Hamilton, who was dazzling in transition, is expected to start Thursday night. That likely will be the first-round draft pick's last start for the foreseeable future.
"It's going to be different coming off the bench," Hamilton said. "I know what I have to do what it takes to make this team better and that's backing up Mitch. I was just excited seeing him out on the floor tonight. I can learn so much from him."