Although Mitch Richmond is playing better and is almost completely recovered from a sore left knee and strained right hamstring, Washington Wizards Coach Gar Heard said rookie Richard Hamilton will continue to start.

"We got a pretty good streak going," Heard said. "Mitch will play a lot more, but I'm going to start Richard and bring Mitch in. We'll take it game by game. I think you'll see a lot more of Mitch.

"You can see every game Mitch is beginning to look like the old Mitch. He's doing a lot of things he couldn't do six, seven games ago. Richard gives us a spark initially, and with Mitch coming in, he can get into the flow of the game and I can get him going a lot longer."

Heard left open the possibility that Richmond could be inserted into the lineup at any time.

Posting Solid Numbers Center Ike Austin had been on a tear the four games leading up to tonight's game in Charlotte. He had averaged 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds, and he blocked three shots against the 76ers on Wednesday.

"Ike's numbers have been good," Heard said. "I've been getting on him defensively a little bit because he is letting his man catch the ball too easily. His rebounding has been really good. If I can get him to fight more aggressively on defense in the post, I'll be completely satisfied with him."

Austin's backup, Jahidi White, has struggled of late. Since suffering a pinched nerve late last week, which caused him to miss two games, White has been out of sync, missing easy layups and dunks that he executed routinely during the early part of the season. White has played just 17 minutes in the two games prior to tonight's, grabbing two rebounds and scoring six points.

White said he has to get going because Washington will need him against Charlotte's and Miami's big interior players.

"There's nothing wrong with my neck at all, I was just rushing to get myself into the game as early as possible," White said. "I picked up stupid fouls and had to come back out of the game. "I've got to make sure I go out and play smart. . . . I've got to concentrate on playing team ball and emotionally get back into the groove of things."

Mission Partially Accomplished

Early last week, forward Juwan Howard said he wanted to shoulder the offensive responsibility of turning around the Wizards' losing fortunes. Washington won both games since he made his case to Heard, but Howard has scored just 16 total points--eight points each against Vancouver and Philadelphia--and grabbed four rebounds.

Howard has averaged eight shots per game in 29.5 minutes in the past two games. . . .

Heard and Hornets Coach Paul Silas, who was a leading candidate for the Wizards' coaching job last season after Bernie Bickerstaff was fired, played against each other in the 1976 NBA Finals. Heard played for the Phoenix Suns; Silas for the Boston Celtics. Tonight's game was their first matchup as head coaches. Both had been longtime NBA assistants.

Wizards vs. Miami Heat

Where: Miami Arena.

When: 7:30.

Television: WBDC-50.

Radio: WTEM-980.

Records: Wizards 4-9, Heat 9-3.

Injuries: Wizards G Laron Profit (tendinitis left knee), F Lorenzo Williams (recovering from knee surgery), C Calvin Booth (strained right hamstring) are on the injured list; Heat G Tim Hardaway (jammed right knee) is doubtful, F Otis Thorpe (fractured right thumb), F Tim James (sprained left ankle), G Harold Jamison (strained left hamstring) are on the injured list.