Smith unfazed about small forward
Smith unfazed about small forward
Guard says he will move to help Hornets
Saturday, July 16, 2005
By John Reid
LAS VEGAS -- Two weeks ago, the talk was that the Hornets' J.R. Smith and Chris Paul could become one of the best young backcourts in the NBA.
That was then.
Now it looks like Smith won't be spending as much time in the backcourt as some envisioned. Smith, last year's top draft pick, could be moved to small forward instead of joining Paul, this year's top draft pick, as a starting guard.
The Hornets agreed in principle Thursday to a three-year contract with Lithuanian shooting guard Arvydas Macijauskas, considered by many NBA scouts to be one of the best perimeter shooters in Europe.
Smith said the organization made the right move.
"We're just doing what we can to better our team, because nobody wants what happened last year (18-64 record) to occur again," Smith said. "They can put me at point guard or center; it doesn't matter as long as I'm on the court. I don't care where I'm playing at to help my team."
As a rookie last season, Smith started the final 56 games at shooting guard and averaged 10.3 points. He was selected as the Western Conference's top rookie for three consecutive months, starting in January.
At this week's Vegas Summer League, Smith played all five games at shooting guard and finished as the second-leading scorer in the tournament, with a 20.6 average.
But it's unlikely the Hornets plan for Macijauskas, 25, to come off the bench next season. Under NBA rules, the Hornets can't specifically discuss Macijauskas until Friday, the first day free agents can start signing contracts.
After the Hornets reached deals to re-sign backup small forward Bostjan Nachbar and backup center Chris Andersen, the team targeted a free agent capable of starting next season.
The Hornets initially focused on signing a small forward. Before the free-agency negotiating period began, General Manager Allan Bristow said that was the team's primary need.
The Hornets were unsuccessful in their pursuit of free agent Bobby Simmons, although they wined and dined him in Las Vegas 10 days ago, riding him in limousines and putting him up in first-class accommodations in an executive suite at Caesars Palace. Simmons, considered the top available small forward, agreed to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Then, the Hornets focused their attention on Macijauskas, whom they've been targeting for the past two years. Macijauskas made at least 53 percent of his shots in eight of the nine seasons he played in Europe. During the 2000-01 season, when Macijauskas played for Lietuvos in the Lithuanian Professional League, he averaged 18.7 points and made 62.9 percent of his shots. He also showed his perimeter-shooting strength in the Olympics, when he scored 24 points in a loss to the United States in the bronze medal game in Athens last summer.
"Having a pure shooter like him will open up a lot of things for us," Paul said. "He just better be ready to run, because that's what we're going to do. I'm going to push the ball."
There is a chance Smith will play some at shooting guard when Macijauskas is not in the game, and Coach Byron Scott has said in the past that his Princeton offense requires players to play multiple positions.
"I've played small forward before, and I know all the plays," Smith said. "I'm going to be spending a lot of time now working on my midrange shot. We're just doing what we've got to do to get good players who want to be with us. Everybody I know on this team wants to be here. That's what we need, and I'm trying to be one of the leaders."
The deal for Macijauskas was reached Thursday afternoon after the start of the Hornets' final Vegas Summer League game against the Detroit Pistons. Macijauskas' agent, Marc Fleisher, walked over to Scott, who was seated on press row, and told him Macijauskas was going to be a Hornet.
"Every team needs shooters. We'll see how good he is," Hornets center Maciej Lampe said.
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John Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3405.
Hornets forward J.R. Smith
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