A Washington Wizards team mired in controversy with a police investigation of its two top scorers suffered a serious blow to its playoff chances yesterday, when it was learned point guard Rod Strickland will miss the rest of the season with a torn muscle in his left quadriceps.
Strickland, the league leader in assists (10.5) and the team's third-leading scorer (17.8), suffered the injury late in the first half of Tuesday's 103-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls. After a steal, he pulled up hurt as he drove to the basket. Strickland made a brief attempt to play in the second half.
"It's disappointing to Rod and the team," said Wizards general manager Wes Unseld. "Strickland was having an All-Star year, and his contributions will be greatly missed."
With Strickland out, the playoff chances of the Wizards, who are two games behind the New Jersey Nets for the final Eastern Conference berth with six games left, are greatly diminished. In addition to leading the league in assists, Strickland entered last night fifth in the league in total minutes played (3,020), fourth in double doubles (42) and tied for first in triple doubles (three).
It was just more bad news for an underachieving team. Allegations of sexual assault were leveled against Chris Webber and Juwan Howard on Monday in the wake of an overnight party at Howard's Montgomery home after Sunday's win over the Orlando Magic.
Montgomery County police are looking to interview both players, but neither player -- both returned home early yesterday -- has been interviewed by police.
Though Strickland will miss the last six games, he will take with him his first NBA assist title. Jason Kidd, who is second in the league with 9.0 assists, would have to average 30 assists over his last six games to finish ahead of Strickland.
"To be close to winning the assist title means a great deal to me," Strickland said after Sunday's win. "I think that was a goal that, when I first came here, I felt I could accomplish with all of these guys here. It's something I really wanted to do, and I'm happy to be in the position that I'm in. I always said I'd rather win an assist title than be an All-Star."
Strickland, who made $3.45 million this season, is a free agent after the season. He said on Sunday that he'd like to return to the Wizards.
"Do I want to be back? Yeah," Strickland said. "However, I'm going to do whatever it takes to make the best decision for myself. Obviously, I will talk to the Wizards. But what happens after that, I don't know." With Strickland out, the point-guard duties will fall to Chris Whitney and God Shammgod. Neither has been used much this season.
Pub Date: 4/09/98