- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

BOSTON The Washington Wizards are set to announce today that they have come to terms with free agent guard Larry Hughes, according to an NBA source close to the negotiations.

The terms of the deal were not known as of last night. The Wizards have approximately $4.5million in exceptions available to them, but they are trying to avoid long-term deals.

Hughes, who spent last season struggling at point guard with the Golden State Warriors, is a natural shooting guard. Just what his role with the Wizards will be is uncertain. Washington is set at that position with Richard Hamilton, whom coach Doug Collins said is the only player on the roster guaranteed to be in the starting lineup when the season tips off.

Hughes was a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) by the Philadelphia 76ers at the 1998 NBA Draft. He was traded to Golden State on Feb.16, 2000, along with Billy Owens, as part of a three-team deal also involving Chicago.

Hughes averaged 12.3 points and 4.3 assists last season for the Warriors. He scored 44 points in a game against Denver two years ago.

The Wizards already have a pair of point guards in Chris Whitney and Tyronn Lue. However, both are under 6-foot-1, and the Wizards have been searching for a taller point guard to fill that role.

They had targeted Chauncy Billups, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he came to terms yesterday on a multiyear deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Wizards found out earlier in the day that they also had lost out in their attempt to get Los Angeles swingman Devean George, who re-signed with the champion Lakers.

So desperate were the Wizards for help at point guard that they traded Courtney Alexander to New Orleans for the 17th overall pick in this year's draft, then drafted Maryland shooting guard Juan Dixon with hopes of converting him to a point guard.

Signing Hughes, however, does not guarantee the Wizards that they have solved their problems at the point. Hughes was traded to Golden State from Philadelphia when the 76ers decided that he could not play point guard alongside Allen Iverson.

In Golden State, the experiment also was a failure. The 6-5 Hughes spent most of last season at the point, earning 56 starts in 73 games. However, when the Warriors realized that Hughes was not a natural point man, they replaced him with Gilbert Arenas.

Last year there was somewhat of a battle between Whitney and Tyronn Lue for the Wizards' point guard position. Based on his experience, Whitney won the job. Now that Lue is more familiar with the team's offense, he should push Whitney even harder.

Christian Laettner, owner of the largest salary on the roster (three years remaining on a $21million deal), might not start at power forward after a horrible season in which he was the team's seventh highest scorer (7.1 points) and played in only 57 games. Popeye Jones, who took over that position, is looking for a new contract and might not be back.

Note Bobby Simmons' 22 points led five players in double figures as the Wizards (1-2) earned their first victory in the Pro Summer League, 88-63 over Orlando. Kris Lang scored 14 points and Dixon added 12. The Wizards outrebounded the Magic 42-23.

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