- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

For the longest-tenured Washington Wizard, the time finally came when there just wasn't enough room for him.

Chris Whitney had ridden out all the tough times the franchise had endured over the last seven losing seasons without much complaint, parlaying a pair of 10-day contracts he signed in March 1996 into a productive career. But with the Wizards finally looking forward to a playoff season, Whitney's time in Washington ended suddenly yesterday. Already on the outside looking in at point guard and sidelined with a hip flexor injury, Whitney was traded to the Denver Nuggets for veteran forward George McCloud.

During the offseason, the Wizards signed Larry Hughes and drafted Juan Dixon, making Whitney expendable. By shipping Whitney to Denver, the Wizards are giving him an opportunity to get significant playing time, though the young Nuggets likely won't make the playoffs this season.

Whitney, entering his 10th season, had appeared in every regular-season game in four of the past six seasons. Last season, his first as a full-time starter, he started 81 of 82 games at point guard and averaged a career-high 10.2 points.

Whitney went into training camp optimistic that he could keep his starting position, or at least compete for playing time. However, the strong all-around play of Tyronn Lue, Hughes and Dixon meant that Whitney, not known as a strong defender, would struggle to get minutes ahead of them, let alone start.

Another indication that Whitney's days in Washington were numbered came in the first preseason game, when coach Doug Collins held him out against Philadelphia to give younger players more minutes.

Then, on or around Oct.15, Whitney reaggravated a hip flexor injury he originally sustained during training camp, and the injury forced him out of the next five preseason games. He played only in the second game against Philadelphia, failing to score in 12 minutes.

Whitney leaves as the franchise's all-time leader in 3-point field goals and the only player remaining from the franchise's days as the Bullets. An excellent free-throw shooter, he averaged 6.5 points and 2.8 assists over nine seasons

"Chris Whitney is a warrior," general manager Wes Unseld said in a statement. "He has given absolutely everything he could to this organization both on and off the court over the seven years he has been here."

The salaries were about equal in the trade Whitney is due to make about $3million this season and McCloud about $2.6million. McCloud can become a free agent at the end of the season.

In McCloud, the Wizards get a 12-year veteran joining his sixth NBA team. The 6-foot-8 small forward had his career-high scoring average of 18.9 with Dallas in 1995-96 and averaged 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds last season, his third in Denver.

McCloud, a solid 3-point shooter for most of his career, has averaged 9.0 points and 3.1 rebounds for his career, but his shooting percentages have dropped in his last two seasons. In 2001-02, he made just 35.8 percent from the field.

The Wizards' roster remains at 17, meaning they must cut two players by Tuesday. Washington (5-2) plays its final preseason game tonight in Boston against the Celtics and opens the season Wednesday at Toronto.

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