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Thursday, September 16, 2004
Guard team's most experienced player


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bernie Bickerstaff found a veteran leader to serve as a role model for his expansion team.

The Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday signed shooting guard Steve Smith, who owns career averages of 14.7 points and 3.2 assists and has converted 1,107 3-pointers in 892 games.

"Steve Smith is the consummate professional, both on and off the court, and he will be a great leader for our young team," said Bickerstaff, the Bobcats' general manager and coach.

One of the NBA's most likable players, Smith won the 2002 Sportsmanship Award and the 1998 Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. Most recently, he donated $2.5 million to Michigan State, his alma mater, to build the Clara Bell Smith Student Activity Center in honor of his late mother.

"He is the kind of person we want our team to be about," Bickerstaff said.

Smith, 35, played for the New Orleans Hornets last season and averaged 5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 71 games. He shot 40 percent from 3-point range and 93 percent from the free throw line. Smith saved his best for the playoffs, drilling five 3-pointers and scoring 25 points in Game 1 of the opening round series against the Miami Heat.

The 6-foot-8 Smith was a member of the San Antonio Spurs' championship team in 2002-03, averaging 6.8 points in 53 games. He also played for the gold-medal winning United States national teams at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the 1994 World Championships in Toronto.

Selected fifth overall in the 1991 draft by the Heat, Smith played there until he was traded to Atlanta two games into the 1994-95 season. Smith led the Hawks in scoring four of the next five years and was named an All-Star during the 1997-98 campaign, when he averaged 20.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Smith also played two years apiece with Portland and San Antonio. With the Spurs in 2001-02, he led the NBA in 3-point percentage at 47 percent.