Bullets' Strickland struggles with game, own expectations Teammates are confident,regardless of poor shooting

December 02, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

The question caught Rod Strickland completely off guard. The Washington Bullets point man was asked how he felt about his being a "good floor general" so far this season.

"Man, I'm playing [lousy]," Strickland said. "Floor general, nothing."

During his time in the locker room after Saturday's 103-99 loss to the Houston Rockets, Strickland never raised his head. Instead, he chose to focus on the floor, contemplating a 5-for-16 shooting night that he felt was the reason the Bullets lost the tight game.

Strickland missed several wide-open jumpers in the fourth quarter, when the Bullets lost a 10-point lead and the game. The fact that he had a season-high 11 assists was little solace.

"I don't know what's wrong," Strickland said. "Make some shots, make some shots and the game is over."

Asked if he is enduring the toughest stretch of his career (over the past five games he has hit just 21 of 61 shots -- 32.7 percent), Strickland responded quickly.

"Without a doubt, by far," he said. "By far."

That Strickland was beating up on himself was a surprise to his teammates, who are happy to have one of the game's top floor leaders.

XTC "I hope he doesn't get down on himself, because he has a great game -- even when he's not playing his best," Chris Webber said. "It's not his fault."

For Strickland, it could simply be a matter of adjusting to a team where both Webber and Juwan Howard like to handle the ball on the break, taking the ball out of Strickland's hands more than he is used to.

But that doesn't explain why Strickland is missing open jumpers (he's shooting 43.5 percent from the field -- his career season-low is 45.4 percent). He said the misses were not related to a shoulder bruise he suffered recently.

"I got to take the shots, but I've got to make some of them," Strickland said. "I promise, I'm going to make some of them. But right now, I'm in a stretch where I can't make [any]. And it's hurting us."

Howard said it might be time for the Bullets to pull Strickland aside, and let him know that no one is blaming him for the team's inconsistencies. Both Howard and Webber know that even when he's not at his best, Strickland is better than any point guard the Bullets have had in years.

"I feel he's playing great for us, but I can only respect what he says," Howard said. "I still feel he's one of the premier guards in this league. We'll all support him, no matter what."

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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