Strickland will make his point

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

The Raptors filled a void yesterday by agreeing to terms with veteran point guard Rod Strickland. Strickland, a 1998 all-star, will be in Toronto today to undergo a physical and if all goes well, he'll sign a contract to the end of the season.

The 16-year NBA veteran also will be available for the playoffs if the Raptors make it into the post-season.

The Raptors have been hurting at point guard with Jalen Rose undergoing surgery to repair a broken left hand on Feb. 10 and Alvin Williams having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Feb. 27.

Both are expected to be out for at least three more weeks.

Coach Kevin O'Neill has had to rely on the limited triumvirate of Milt Palacio, Roger Mason Jr. and Jannero Pargo, who likely will be waived to make room for Strickland.

At 37, Strickland's best days are behind him, but the New York City native has put up some decent numbers with the Orlando Magic this season, averaging 6.8 points and four assists in 46 games and 19.9 minutes.

The Magic waived Strickland, who was on the all-rookie team back in 1989, earlier this week after he expressed a wish to be sent to a playoff-contending team. The Raps fit that bill despite a record of 26-35.

"I've really been impressed with the way he has played this season. I thought he played very hard for Orlando," Raptors GM Glen Grunwald said last night. "We have some good, young players at that position, but with Alvin and Jalen out, we need some experience."

The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets reportedly also expressed interest in Strickland, but Grunwald said the former DePaul standout really wanted to come to Toronto.

Strickland does come with some baggage though, having been nailed for unlawful entry and battery, driving under the influence and reckless driving. But the Raps are taking a chance his wild days are over.

The Raptors also are still interested in helping out their depleted frontcourt by acquiring 6-foot-11 power forward Vin Baker.

The NBA Player's Association filed a grievance on Baker's behalf last month after the Boston Celtics terminated the final 21/2 years of his contract for missing 10 games while on suspension for violating terms of his alcohol treatment program.

Baker's grievance will be heard on Monday by arbitrator Roger Kaplan, and the two-time all-star is hoping Kaplan will free him to sign with the team of his choice. The Knicks and Miami Heat have also expressed interest.

The Raptors would like to have Strickland in the lineup tonight at the Air Canada Centre when they face Eastern Conference rivals New York at 7 p.m.

Both clubs are fighting for a playoff spot. The Knicks (27-35) currently sit one spot ahead of Toronto (26-35), but New York is a team in a bit of turmoil, having lost eight of its past 10.


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