- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

The Washington Wizards have suspended point guard Rod Strickland for one game and fined him $111,000 for missing practice yesterday, his second such absence of the week. The fine is the equivalent of 1/90th of Strickland's annual $10 million salary.

Strickland cut practice one day after he was benched for arriving at the conclusion of a two-hour-long practice Tuesday. As a result of the missed practice, coach Leonard Hamilton opted to start Strickland's backup, Chris Whitney, in the Wizards' 89-82 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday at MCI Center.

However, as of last night the Wizards had yet to notify Strickland of his suspension and fine because they were unable to make contact with him. According to sources, Strickland missed a 1 p.m. doctor's appointment that the team had set up for him.

Also, Strickland did not show up at Baltimore Washington Airport for the team's 4:30 p.m. flight to Miami, which would have given him an opportunity to at least make contact with the team. Because he is suspended, Strickland would not have been able to travel with the team anyway.

"Prior to the season, I told our players that they would be held accountable for their actions and that they would have very specific rules to follow," Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan said. "Rod violated the team's rules, and as a result of that he's been suspended."

The Wizards were not the only ones unable to contact Strickland yesterday. His representatives also were unsuccessful at reaching Strickland, who is averaging 13 points, 7.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the 5-24 Wizards.

Starting small forward Tyrone Nesby said that the Wizards can't allow the situation to become a distraction.

"It's kind of hard," Nesby said. "You sit back and wonder what's going on. We really don't know what's going on. We're just here to practice… . At the same time, we have to go out and play. Whatever is going on with Rod, we have to let them figure that out."

Strickland said earlier that he missed the practice because he caught an early flight from New York, where he says he spent the holidays with friends and family. He said he arrived at his Maryland home around 8 a.m. Tuesday but fell asleep, which caused him to be late for practice.

"I tried to take a quick nap and the rest is history," said Strickland, who was fined $2,500 for missing the practice.

However, things reached a boiling point following the team's loss to the Knicks, their fifth loss in a row and one that dropped them to their worst record ever after 29 games. Strickland did not play in the first quarter of the game and played just 18 minutes all night, finishing with five points and one assist.

Visibly upset in the locker room following the game, Strickland said that the punishment did not fit the crime, and the 12-year veteran in his fifth with the Wizards added that playing in Washington is "starting to become unbearable, without a doubt."

"What happened tonight I didn't deserve," he added.

This is not the first time Strickland has had problems conforming to team rules. Last season under former coach Gar Heard, Strickland suffered the same consequences he did yesterday when he missed a practice during the preseason. And in late October. Strickland was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor at a nightclub. Ultimately, those charges were dropped.

Strickland is in the third year of a four-year deal that can pay him $40 million over the duration of the contract. However, the Wizards could buy Strickland out for $5 million at the end of this season.

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