With Strickland sharp, Bullets 108-82 winners 9 assists in 16 minutes help preseason victory

THE BALTIMORE SUN

FAIRFAX, Va. -- There was hardly anything inspiring about Rod Strickland's first week of training camp, from his being admittedly out of shape to his rather carefree play during scrimmages.

"I'm just waiting to get out and play against somebody," Strickland said when camp opened. "Really, I just can't wait until we start the season."

Well, Strickland will have to wait a good three weeks before the season begins, but in last night's preseason opener he showed exactly why expectations for the team are high during a 108-82 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University.

The game was billed as a duel between two former star New York City point guards, as Strickland (Truman High School, the Bronx) faced rookie Stephon Marbury (Lincoln High School, Brooklyn).

In reality, there was no battle as Strickland thoroughly outplayed the very raw Marbury during the brief time the two faced each other. Strickland scored just four points, but dominated the game with his passing as he finished with nine assists in 16 minutes.

Marbury had four points, five assists and four turnovers. He attempted 12 shots and missed 11.

"Game time you have to be prepared because you have another guy in front of you ready to compete, and you have to compete," said Strickland, who played against Marbury for the first time.

"I'm trying to get in shape out here, and trying to get myself familiar with the players around me."

Bullets coach Jim Lynam was obviously pleased with what he saw of Strickland.

"He's as good as it gets when it comes to pushing the ball and getting everyone involved," Lynam said. "And we have the guys who can finish."

One of those guys is Juwan Howard, but a sore shin forced him to miss this game. Chris Webber did play. And in 16 minutes Webber, who played in just 15 games last season, scored 19 points on eight-of-11 shooting. Five of Webber's field goals were dunks, including one on a fast-break feed from Strickland when the 6-foot-10 forward spun 360 degrees before slamming the ball in with one hand.

"I'm happy I'm playing with Rod, and I really can't say much

more," Webber said. "Just his penetration -- nine assists in [16 minutes] is great."

Also great was a Bullets defense that limited the Timberwolves to 37.3 percent shooting from the field. Both Strickland and Chris Whitney did a good job containing the Minnesota point guards. Whenver Strickland or Whitney got beat by Marbury's penetration, there was plenty of help as the Bullets finished with nine blocks.

"We did some things defensively that we've been spending a lot of time on," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We stopped them and did a good job getting the ball into Rod's hands."

Every Washington player in uniform saw action except for Ronnie Henderson, the team's second-round pick out of LSU. The decision not to play Henderson was apparent punishment for the 6-foot-4 guard bolting from camp without an explanation last week.

When the Bullets return from their two-game road trip that takes them to Amherst, Mass., on Sunday for a game against the New Jersey Nets, and to Indiana on Monday, they should have the services of Gheorghe Muresan.

The 7-foot-7 center, who was on the bench for last night's game, has missed all of training camp as he recovers from a hip flexor injury. He has been working out between two and 2 1/2 hours a day as he works to get back on the court.

"I'm working hard, doing a lot of work with my legs," Muresan said. "I don't know when I'll be back. I don't think I'll be ready by next week."

Pub Date: 10/12/96

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