DATE: Thursday, July 17, 1997               TAG: 9707170682



DATELINE: CHARLOTTE                         LENGTH:   57 lines


Former Kempsville High School star J.R. Reid signed with the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent on Wednesday, more than four years after the club traded away the player it once had made a first-round pick.

``This is weird,'' a smiling Reid said at a hastily arranged news conference at the Charlotte Coliseum. ``I didn't know if this was a place I'd ever be at again.''

Reid, a former North Carolina star who played more than three seasons with the Hornets, is returning to the NBA after playing for a year in France. He averaged a team-leading 17.9 points and eight rebounds as PSG-Racing won the French league title.

Reid, 29, said he signed a two-year deal with the Hornets, but he refused to release financial terms.

Reid, who was the fifth pick overall in the 1989 draft, struggled from the start in Charlotte and never developed into the franchise cornerstone the Hornets had expected. He was often ridiculed by Hornets fans, and even Hornets owner George Shinn questioned his work ethic.

The 6-foot-9 forward was traded by Charlotte during the 1992-93 season to the San Antonio Spurs for forward Sidney Green and two draft picks.

He was dealt to the New York Knicks in February 1996 and became a starter. The Knicks nonetheless renounced their rights to Reid after the 1995-96 season.

``J.R. is exactly the kind of complementary player we were looking to add to our roster,'' said Bob Bass, the Hornets' vice president of basketball operations. ``I was with him in San Antonio and watched him mature over the years. He is still young, he's athletic and a real good fit into our system.''

His best year for the Hornets was his 1989-90 rookie year, when he averaged 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds while starting all 82 games. He played 230 games for Charlotte, averaging 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds.

In his first stint with the Hornets, Reid was a 260-pound center who had difficulty inside against bigger, taller players. This time around, he'll likely be called on to relieve power forward Anthony Mason, who led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring last season, when Charlotte won a franchise-record 54 games under first-year coach Dave Cowens.

``I think I can help these guys, and I'm looking forward to getting back here,'' Reid said. ``I'm a much better jump shooter than when I was here before. I didn't shoot much at all outside the paint when I was here. I think my game's a little different now than it was when I first came here.''

Reid said he had spoken earlier in the day with Cowens, who was an assistant at San Antonio when Reid was with the Spurs.

``He just said he needs a big body in there,'' Reid said. ``I'm ready. It's exciting to be with a team that wants you.'' ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


J.R. Reid, 29, a former Kempsville High basketball star, played in

France last season.

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