- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2000

Rod Strickland picked a fine time to have a mid-life crisis.
When he was thinking retirement, the Wizards were thinking they needed to file a missing persons report.
First he wanted to leave the team. Now he wants to stay. First it was the coach's fault. Now it is his fault. He sometimes doesn't want to practice with the team. Now he wants to practice all summer. He is retiring. He is not retiring.
See the pattern?
Strickland does not know whether he is coming or going, which is not what you want in your point guard. You want high assists, low turnovers and great vision from your point guard. You want, in the perfect basketball world, the occasional triple-double.
If your point guard is hurt, you want him lending support from the bench. You do not want him contemplating life's mysteries from an undisclosed mountaintop.
You want a point guard, not a philosopher. You want 15 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. You do not want a dissertation on the meaning of life.
That job is already taken by Phil Jackson of Los Angeles.
Basketball is an elementary game. You shoot the ball, you rebound the ball and you play defense when the opposition has the ball. Basketball, however, becomes incredibly complex if you are standing on a mountaintop trying to determine what it is all about.
Here's a hint: It is about outscoring the opposition. In the NBA, the team that scores the most points inevitably is credited with the victory. Sorry. This may be Basketball 101 to you, but to Strickland, who does not know whether he is coming or going, this is potentially beneficial material.
Going to the mountaintop is never a good idea if your presence is required at a game. Even Jackson, the Zen master who communes with Native American spirits and burns incense to help Shaquille O'Neal hit a higher percentage of his free throw attempts, never goes to the mountaintop on game night. Even in the offseason, he only goes home to Montana where, presumably, he dances with the wolves and laughs privately at the notion that he is considered a deep thinker.
Of course, by being in the NBA, Jackson does not have a lot of competition when it comes to deep thinkers. To be honest, Jackson is not that deep. He did back Bill Bradley, although it's hard to say if his political support came about only on Geronimo's say-so.
Fortunately, the NBA has room for only one Zen master. Two would be beyond insufferable, in case Strickland was wondering.
Strickland was more fun in the good old days, when he merely put his shorts on backward. He could show up five minutes before tip-off, inhale a hot dog, put his shorts on backward and still put up efficient numbers.
But now, he is 33 years old, and maybe he is discovering you are what you eat and maybe you play like you practice, and maybe when you combine the two over a period of years, you one day learn you are not aging as well as you would like.
Strickland indicates he is looking forward to next season, which is about all you can do when your team has languished among the have-nots all season.
He plans to be in good physical condition by the first day of training camp, which would be different. He has been to the mountaintop and looked out below and decided that basketball does not have to be a root canal. Why, basketball can be incredibly fun, especially when you are due to earn $10 million next season.
Believe it or not, in gymnasiums across America, some people play the game for its aerobic benefits and enjoyment. In fact, some people actually pay money to be in a gym. If asked, they probably would be willing to take Strickland's spot on the bench at no cost to the Wizards. This is how it works in the real world.
In the NBA, however, when the going gets tough, the tough sometimes go to a mountaintop to wallow in self-pity.
The team is losing, uncertainty is in the air, and being injured is no fun, no fun at all, and no fat contract can change that.
It's a tough situation. To earn your paycheck, you have to sit on the bench and watch your team play for about two hours.
Even watching is not mandatory. Strickland could sit on the bench with his shorts on his head.

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