The Washington Wizards have signed forward Hiram Fuller and guard Donell Taylor. Both players performed with the Wizards' summer league team in Las Vegas and will be invited to training camp, which opens in early October.
The 6-foot-9 Fuller played four games with the Atlanta Hawks in 2003-04 and was in the NBA's developmental league last season. Fuller, who played college ball at Fresno State, averaged seven points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game in summer league play.
The 6-6 Taylor is an undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama-Birmingham who led the Wizards in scoring during summer league play with 13.6 points per game. He impressed the Wizards with his defense and ability to play both guard positions in Las Vegas. Taylor led Alabama-Birmingham to the third round of the NCAA tournament in 2004.
Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said the team had projected Taylor as a potential pick heading into June's NBA draft and would have considered selecting him with their second-round pick had Andray Blatche not been available.
"I liked what I saw from Donell," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said after observing Taylor in summer league play. "He's versatile, he's a very good defender and he can do a lot of the things we ask our guards to do. You're always looking to develop a young player with those kinds of skills."
A provision in the new collective bargaining agreement might aid teams as they develop players like Fuller and Taylor. The rule allows NBA teams to send players who are in their first two seasons down to the developmental league up to three times each season.
The provision will give players such as Fuller, Taylor, Blatche and second-year center Peter John Ramos, who appeared in six games as a rookie last season, opportunities to pick up game experience while still drawing an NBA salary.
The addition of Fuller and Taylor means that the Wizards have 14 players under contract for the 2005-06 season. The team also has the option of retaining restricted free agent guard Steve Blake, who is expected to sign elsewhere. Each NBA team is allowed to carry up to 15 players on its regular season roster.
Blake has drawn interest from several teams, including Cleveland, Miami and New York. Following last season, in which he averaged 14.7 minutes in 44 games, Blake said he would be looking to join a team where he could receive more playing time.
A second-round pick from Maryland in 2003, Blake has played in 118 games with 15 starts in two seasons with the Wizards, averaging 5.4 points and 2.3 assists per game. Veteran Chucky Atkins, who was acquired from the Lakers along with Caron Butler in exchange for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit, is expected to fill Blake's role as the primary backup to point guard Gilbert Arenas this season.