Joe Smith to sign for $8.6M today Bullets, Webber pursue long-term contract


Joe Smith, whose storybook career took him from relative obscurity in Norfolk, Va., to college stardom at Maryland to the hTC No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, will add another chapter today -- signing his first professional contract.

Last season's national College Player of the Year will become this season's highest-paid NBA rookie, when he signs a three-year, $8.6 million contract with the Golden State Warriors this afternoon in Oakland, Calif.

Because of the rookie salary cap imposed by the recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players association, Smith's contract seems minuscule when compared with the 10-year, $68 million deal signed by last year's top pick, Glenn Robinson of Milwaukee.

Smith is expected to make $2.6 million his rookie season, with a 20 percent increase for the next two seasons. Smith also has reached a verbal agreement with Nike, and recently shot his first commercial for the shoe company.

Smith was unavailable for comment yesterday.

* BULLETS: Discussions between Washington and the representatives of power forward Chris Webber continued into late yesterday afternoon as both sides attempt to iron out a deal before the start of training camp on Friday.

The Bullets are looking to sign Webber to a six- or seven-year deal. In today's market, Webber could wind up with a contract averaging more than $8 million a year.

"We had conversation and healthy dialogue," Bullets general manager John Nash said. "We hope to continue [today]."

While it's the Bullets' desire to have Webber in camp by Friday's first practice, Bill Strickland, one of Webber's agents, said he'll take his time ironing out a deal.

"Obviously, with the size of commitment on both sides, it's going to take awhile," Strickland said. "I'm optimistic [about finishing a deal by Friday], but I'm not going to let [it] drive my recommendation of this deal.

In other Bullets news, the team signed guard Brent Price to a one-year contract and had forward Don MacLean take a team physical yesterday. The Bullets expect MacLean, a restricted free-agent forward, to accept their qualifying offer this week. Price, out last year with a knee injury, joins his brother Mark on the roster.

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