- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

Coaches often say having too many players is never a problem. Now the Washington Wizards will get an opportunity to test that theory.
The Wizards got medical clearance yesterday for the returns of injured guards Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond in time for tonight's game at Atlanta. Richmond has missed 24 games since suffering partially torn ligaments in his left knee Dec. 2. Strickland has missed 13 games because of tendinitis in his left shoulder, sore hamstrings and a one-game suspension.
"It looks like they've gotten to the point where they feel they can make contributions to our team," Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It's hard for us to gauge exactly where they are, but we're going to try to integrate them as fast as possible."
Don't expect to see either one in the starting lineup anytime soon. Point guard Chris Whitney, who is questionable for tonight's game because of a sprained left ankle, worked out yesterday with the first unit and expects to start against the Hawks.
"I'm dressing, playing, the whole nine," said Whitney, who sat out Tuesday's victory over the Charlotte Hornets. "The other night I couldn't do it physically, so I didn't play. I think I'm all right, so I'm gonna give it a shot."
Hamilton said he would not make a decision on Whitney's availability until right before tonight's game against the Hawks, whom Washington beat Sunday afternoon.
"Anytime you have an injury like that, it's always wait and see," Hamilton said. "You admire a guy like Whitney for wanting to be involved. Quite naturally, I have to talk to everybody involved to make sure that we're all on the same page. But you admire him because, if the bone is not sticking through the sock, I believe Whit is going to try to play."
With Whitney hurt, the Wizards switched backup shooting guard Richard Hamilton to the point, and he responded with 22 points and six assists. Hamilton actually relishes the opportunity to play the point. Following yesterday's practice, he said he had no problem filling in for Whitney if necessary.
However, if Whitney is able to play, Hamilton likely will return to the bench to give the Wizards some scoring punch off it, with Felipe Lopez probably starting at shooting guard.
"I don't mind having to play the point," Hamilton said. "That way I have the ball in my hand and can get directly involved with the play. I mean, I'm a [shooting guard], but if the team needs me to play some point, it's a welcome opportunity for me."
Strickland left practice without commenting on how he expected to be worked back into the lineup. His unhappiness with the organization was highlighted when he was benched Dec. 29 for missing two practices, a doctor's appointment and a team flight to Miami.
He has expressed his desire to be traded somewhere, preferably New York, before the Feb. 15 deadline. However, moving Strickland and his $10 million contract will be more difficult if he is not able to showcase his ability to potential suitors.
Richmond, who has missed more games in a season only when he sat out almost half of the 1992-93 season for Sacramento with a fractured thumb, said he felt fine physically. Richmond said watching the team struggle has been a burden.
"It's been mentally and physically draining," Richmond said. "You always try to cheer your teammates on and hope they can come out of whatever they're going through. I just want to be able to contribute for the rest of the season, and hopefully we can do well from here on out."
To make room for Richmond on the active roster, the Wizards placed shooting guard Laron Profit on the injured list. Strickland was never on the injured list.


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