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Strickland Signs With Wizards

February 4, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rod Strickland agreed to a contract with the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, ending the latest round of nasty negotiations between the team and agent David Falk.

The free agent point guard, who led the league in assists last season, is to report for his first practice Thursday, just one day before the Wizards open their season at Indiana.

The agreement was reached after Wizards owner Abe Pollin intervened in the negotiations for the first time during a lunch with general manager Wes Unseld.

``He wanted Rod to know that we wanted him,″ Unseld told WRC-TV. ``Against my best wishes, he told me to interject something else into the deal. He’s the boss. I did it.″

Falk had been asking for a five-year deal worth $55 million _ $10 million less than his original offer. The Wizards were offering a three-year deal worth $27 million guaranteed, plus two more years worth $23 million if Strickland met certain performance incentives.

The compromise: a four-year, $40 million deal with $35 million guaranteed, according to The Washington Post. The Wizards have the option of buying out $5 million of the $10 million fourth year if Strickland fails to meet certain incentives.

Falk had contended that any player of Strickland’s caliber should have his entire contract guaranteed. The Wizards balked at committing five years of salary cap money to a 32-year-old player who has had his share of off-court problems.

Strickland averaged 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 10.5 assists last season, but he also was convicted of drunken driving, missed team functions and regularly was late for practices and games. He would sometimes get sick on the bench after gulping a quick junk food supper before tip-off.

Earlier this week, Falk said Strickland had ``completely changed his lifestyle.″ Unseld was not impressed, and said if a deal wasn’t reached by the first game, the negotiations would cease and he would bear the responsibility if the team played poorly.

Strickland joined Juwan Howard (twice) and Rex Chapman as Falk clients who have held difficult, sometimes bitter, and very public negotiations with the Wizards.

Last week, Falk released a statement from Strickland in which the player asked: ``Is this any way to treat a productive employee because he exhibits loyalty?″

An angry Unseld said he hoped the atmosphere wasn’t ``too poisoned.″ Each said it was the other’s turn to make a move.

With Strickland and Mitch Richmond, acquired in a trade before the lockout, the Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the league. Without Strickland, the starter would have been Chris Whitney, mostly a reserve during his five years in the league.

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