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Wait Continues for Leon Wood : Basketball: While hoping for another NBA chance, former Cal State Fullerton star finds opportunity in South Dakota with the CBA.

HOW THEY'RE DOING: One in a series.

January 18, 1991|MIKE REILLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wood wasn't exactly excited about playing in Philadelphia. He was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft but says he was "picked by the wrong team."

"We already had four guards, plus Doc (Erving)," Wood said. "I didn't feel I should have been drafted by them. I've been playing catch-up ever since."

He tried to catch up in Washington, after the Sixers traded him to the Bullets in the 1985-86 season.

He played catch-up in New Jersey, where he played for part of the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons. He tried to catch up in San Antonio and Atlanta, where he played part of the 1987-88 season. And he played catch-up in Spain, where he spent the 1988-89 season.

Wood split time between New Jersey and the CBA's now-defunct Santa Barbara franchise last season. This fall, he was invited to the Minnesota Timberwolves' camp but was cut before the season began.

He started the season in Rapid City, playing nine games for the Thrillers before he was contacted by the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings signed Wood on Nov. 28 as a replacement for guard Steve Colter, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Wood quickly became a crowd favorite with his ability to shoot the three-pointer and push the ball upcourt.

Wood played in 12 games, averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 assists as the Kings went 5-7. Mainly a sixth man, he came off the bench to contribute 13 points and seven assists in the Kings' upset of league-leading Portland. He had 25 points off the bench two days later in a victory over Orlando.

Wood thought maybe, just maybe, he was finally getting the chance .

Then came Christmas Eve.

Dec. 24 was the 55th day of the season and the day on which all contracts became guaranteed. Wood's contract, which was worth about $80,000, apparently wasn't worth a full season's payment.

Wood was waived--again.

He was spending Christmas with his family in Los Angeles when he heard the news. Some friends called from Sacramento to let him know.

Kings General Manager Jerry Reynolds said the decision to waive Wood was a tough one.

"I don't like being the Grinch," Reynolds said. "It's tough to tell some guys, but on Christmas Eve? Some guys, it's not tough to tell. And when you have to tell a guy on Christmas Eve, and one that's done a good job, probably better than we could have expected, it's hard."

So where does Wood go from here?

Europe is a possibility.

"But it's very difficult for guards to get over there unless they know someone," Wood said. "All they want over there are tall players."

Returning to the NBA is a possibility.

"I'd like that," he said.

And returning to Los Angeles, to be with his wife, Tia, and daughter, Whitney, is a possibility.

Wood has a degree in physical education from Fullerton, and he wants to someday coach at the college level.

"For now, I want to keep playing basketball, then try coaching," Wood said. "I always keep coaching in the back of my mind. But I'm still so into it as a player, I haven't thought of it much lately."

WOOD IN THE PROS NBA

Avg. Avg Year Team(s) G Pt. Asst. '84-85 Philadelphia 38 3.2 1.2 '85-86 Phil.-Washington 68 7.8 2.7 '86-87 New Jersey 76 7.3 4.8 '87-88 San Ant.-Atlanta 52 7.7 3.3 '89-90 New Jersey 28 1.8 1.6 '90-91 Sacramento 12 6.8 4.1 Totals 274 6.3 3.1

CBA

Avg. Avg Year Team(s) G Pts. Assts. '89-90 Santa Barbara 40 15.6 10.8 '90-91 Rapid City 15 25.5 9.1 Totals 55 17.6 10.0

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