- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

It is 3:22 in the morning.

Do you know where Rod Strickland is?

As it turns out, he is on the side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean trying to walk a straight line.

That is not alcohol on his breath. That is mouthwash.

Strickland can't seem to win on or off the court.

He was arrested in November after he refused to leave a nightclub that had been shut down by fire marshals.

He probably knew he shouldn't be on the roadways. You knew he shouldn't be on the roadways. Stay, go. Go, stay. Either way, he runs afoul of the law.

To put it another way, Strickland's basketball numbers are going down as his arrest numbers are going up. His season comes out to 13 points and 7.3 assists a game and two brushes with the law.

"Do you know who I am?" Strickland asked the arresting officer in 1997.

They know who he is now. He is the point guard with the erratic driving habits in the early morning hours.

Most point guards take it one assist at a time. Strickland takes it one hour of community service at a time.

In his defense, he possibly was only guilty of being a black man in a gold Lincoln this week.

In 1997, he claimed he was only guilty of being "a black man driving an expensive Mercedes-Benz."

That might have worked as a defense, except the arresting officer was guilty of being "a black man driving a so-so police cruiser."

In an attempt to articulate his concerns, Strickland called the officer a mother, and he didn't mean Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Seeing is not always believing with Strickland. He was pulled over in 1999 after police said he ran three stoplights in the District.

Red usually means stop, and green usually means go, depending on a person's blood-alcohol content or degree of colorblindness.

Strickland wants out of Washington in the worst way. The feeling is mutual, all the mothers in the area included.

His departure would save everyone some time, aggravation and paperwork, local police and team officials in particular.

Washington knows more about his dietary habits than it ever really wanted to know. He has several hot dogs before the game and an untold number of cold drinks after it. If you are what you eat and drink, Strickland is working on being pickled.

If it means anything, Strickland was driving hurt at the time of his arrest. He has sore hamstrings and a beat-up left shoulder. Either impairment could have contributed to his vehicle "swerving in a dangerous fashion."

So now he can't drive to the basket, and he can't drive on the roadways. He has too many issues, as screw-ups are euphemistically called in 2001. He has too many needs. His entourage should start with a doctor, chauffeur, lawyer and babysitter. At least the latter is not as unusual as it might seem. Jack Haley, who used to admire Dennis Rodman's tattoos, is the precedent in the NBA.

Michael Jordan's aura apparently is not having its intended effect on Strickland. At his unveiling a year ago, Jordan suggested his background would inspire the Wizards.

Strickland has not punched out Tracy Murray since Jordan assumed control of the team's operations, but that could be because Murray is with the Nuggets.

To be fair, Strickland has not put his shorts on backward for a game, either. That is progress of sorts, if Jordan is inclined to measure the good with another drunken-driving charge.

Timing is everything, and if Strickland's timing were any worse, he would qualify as incorrigible.

Time never has been one of Strickland's strengths. There is Eastern Standard Time, and there is Whatever Time Strickland gets around to showing up.

What do you buy a point guard who earns $10 million a season?

That's easy: a $12.99 Timex wristwatch.

Even by his modest standards, Strickland is pushing it. He is coming off the "hat trick" of indifference: a missed practice, a missed doctor's appointment and a missed flight to Miami all in one day.

While his teammates are on the road, struggling to avoid the worst record in the NBA, Strickland is on the road, too, with outstretched arms, trying to touch his nose with his index fingers. Handcuffs function as the jeers in this arena.

Believe it or not, most NBA players go a career without one DUI charge. Strickland can't seem to go a season without one. They say practice makes perfect, and Strickland aims to perfect the drill with age.

He refused to take the Breathalyzer. The darn police. Then they charged him with that as well.

Or as William Head, Terry Allen's agent, once noted after his client's red Ferrari ended up wrapped around what was believed to be a reckless tree: "The police write down all the bad stuff."

The police never write down all the days and nights Strickland manages to avoid their safe-driving tips.

He'll toast to that.

Strickland undoubtedly is feeling the strain of a lost season. He is hurt, and sometimes he wakes up with a headache, and all the evidence against him is not what it seems.

He has been unfairly targeted by the Wizards, media, NBA, police, fire marshals, mothers and even a former girlfriend who apparently could not take a punch.

As far as conspiracies go, this one is possibly massive enough to pique Oliver Stone's interest.

Otherwise, until Strickland and the Wizards resolve their philosophical differences, Washington's motorists have an added element to negotiate this winter.

Snow, ice and Strickland equal a run on bread, milk and toilet paper.

He could be out there on a road near you, practicing his one-legged stand for a police officer while trying to stifle the urge to hiccup.

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