After missing the last eight games with a sprained right pinkie, Washington Wizards rookie Richard Hamilton was activated from the injured list yesterday and will play in Wednesday's game at Cleveland. To make room for Hamilton, rookie guard Laron Profit was placed on the injured list with tendinitis in his left knee.
"I never missed eight games my whole college and high school career," Hamilton said. "It's frustrating when you're sitting on the sideline watching, and you know you can go out and play and help the team out. I'm ready to come back and contribute the way I can."
The slender shooting guard averaged 8.9 points in 20 games--six of which he started--before injuring the finger on his shooting hand in a collision with teammate Reggie Jordan during practice in Phoenix. Though Jordan, who replaced Hamilton, is a strong defender, he's not nearly the same offensive threat as Hamilton, Washington's first-round draft pick.
Because of Jordan's lack of offense and Washington's bench failing to score consistently, some starters--particularly shooting guard Mitch Richmond--have logged more minutes than Coach Gar Heard would like. Hamilton's return should help.
"He'll give us another offensive guy off the bench who can give us some points," Heard said. "When I have to rest Mitch, I have somebody who can score."
That is, if Hamilton is not too bothered by his hand or the rust gained from inactivity. Hamilton cannot fully bend his pinkie or palm a basketball. Any contact hurts him, and the sprain has caused Hamilton to catch crisp passes with his left hand more than his right.
He will wear a splint that somewhat immobilizes the pinkie and third fingers. But he won't wear protective padding, fearing it would be too cumbersome. His shooting touch and ballhandling may be altered, but Hamilton said the discomfort is not severe enough to keep him from playing. His conditioning is not a concern because he has been able to run and participate in nonshooting drills.
"It's still a little weak but I'm comfortable enough to come out and play," Hamilton said. "Hopefully I'll get all the rust out in practice. Hopefully, when the game comes I won't worry about my finger and I'll come out and play. If I think about my finger, maybe I'll play rusty."
The biggest question may not be how well Hamilton plays but how much he plays. While he was on the bench, the Wizards (10-18) won five of eight games, and breaking up a rotation Heard has shortened to 10 players won't be easy because the team is winning.
"We've been playing well," Heard said. "I don't know whether I'm going to change the rotation completely the next couple games, but Richard will get some time."
Hamilton actually was cleared to play three games ago, but because he hadn't practiced much, Heard did not want to rush him back, especially since Washington was in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
"The team is playing great the last couple games," Hamilton said. "I know I can come out there and help them out. I'm not going to come out and say I'm going to hurt them. I can help them but they're winning. So when they feel I can play, I'm for it."
Wizards Notes: Forward Tracy Murray has flu and did not practice yesterday. . . . Knicks forward Kurt Thomas, suspended by the NBA for two games for his Saturday altercation with Pacers guard Jalen Rose, will miss Thursday night's game against the Wizards at MCI Center. Marcus Camby likely will get many of Thomas's minutes.
CAPTION: Rookie guard Richard Hamilton is set to return after missing eight games with sprained right pinkie.