Wizards cut Strickland loose

Troubled point guard gets $2.5M buyout, is waived

Pro Basketball

March 02, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

The Rod Strickland era in Washington is over.

The recalcitrant point guard and the Wizards reached agreement on a settlement announced yesterday that gets Strickland, who had played sparingly over the past two months, off Washington's roster and frees him to latch on with another team for a playoff run.

In a prepared statement, Michael Jordan, the Wizards' president of basketball operations, announced that Strickland, 34, had been waived and that both sides had agreed on a buyout for next season, the final year of his four-year, $40 million contract.

The club was obligated to pay $5 million to buy out Strickland for next season, but Jordan and Strickland's agent, David Falk, who represented Jordan when he was a player, reportedly settled on a $2.5 million payout.

Falk told the Associated Press last night, "Rod only wants to go to a playoff team" and claimed "six or seven" were interested.

Strickland, a 12-year NBA veteran, got the Wizards to release him before the league deadline for playoff eligibility. Once he clears waivers, he will be a free agent, and Washington will be obligated to pay his salary for the rest of this season - no matter what team claims him - as well as the $2.5 million buyout.

Still, from Washington's perspective, getting rid of Strickland's salary and attitude, plus last week's trade of forward Juwan Howard and the 2 1/2 years remaining on his $105 million contract, were necessary steps in reversing the team's fortunes. The Wizards own the league's next-to-worst record at 13-45.`This is another step for us in preparing the Wizards franchise for the future," Jordan's statement said. "This move will give us more salary-cap flexibility."

Strickland reportedly could be headed to Miami as a backup to oft-hurt Tim Hardaway or back to Portland, which dealt him to Washington in July 1996, to spell Damon Stoudamire. The Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers could be interested, too.

The New York Knicks, Strickland's first NBA team, had been shopping for a point guard, but general manager Scott Layden told AP last night that having just traded for ex-Knick Mark Jackson and Baltimore native Muggsy Bogues, "we feel good about where the team is."

Strickland's release ends one of the most turbulent terms in Wizards history. At times one of the league's most gifted point guards - he led the league in assists in 1997-98 and needs only two assists to pass Bob Cousy for eighth on the all-time NBA list - Strickland was engulfed in repeated controversy with Washington.

He was suspended for a December 1997 fight with former Wizard Tracy Murray and has been arrested three times on drunken driving charges, with one case dropped. He still faces driving-under-the-influence charges from two months ago in Northern Virginia.

Strickland and former Wizards coach Gar Heard clashed over the guard's conditioning, and he vowed to be in better shape for this season. Jordan and new Washington coach Leonard Hamilton repeatedly praised Strickland during training camp for his improved outlook and dedication.

By late December, however, Strickland's relationship with the team had become strained again. On Dec. 26, Strickland overslept, missed a practice, and was benched for the first quarter of the next night's game. He expressed surprise at the extent of the punishment and skipped a practice, a scheduled doctor's appointment and a flight to Miami two days later.

Strickland, who averaged 12.2 points and seven assists in 33 games this season, had played in only four games since Dec. 27, complaining of ailing hamstrings and a left-shoulder ailment. He was placed on the injured list last Thursday. Jordan said he attempted to trade Strickland last week but found no takers.

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