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Ex-Jazz point Vaughn signs with Atlanta

Utah showed little interest in bringing diminutive guard back

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Jazz free agent Jacque Vaughn signed with the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, formally ending the former University of Kansas point guard's four-season run in Utah — and further evidencing the franchise's confidence that veteran John Stockton will return for an 18th NBA season.

The Jazz did not plan to re-sign Vaughn, their first-round draft choice in 1997, unless Stockton, the NBA's all-time steals and assists leader, opted against returning.

When Utah made no overtures toward Vaughn this offseason, he looked elsewhere, landing in Atlanta, where the Hawks are retooling with moves like their draft-night trade for former Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim and last week's signing of Seattle free agent guard Emanual Davis.

"I think it is a great opportunity for me to join a team that's made some great acquisitions this offseason and seems to be making all the right moves," said Vaughn, who averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 assists per game during his four reserve-role seasons with the Jazz.

"On the looks of things," he added, "it appears as if the Hawks are on the way up."

Davis, who stands 6-foot-5, addresses Atlanta's need for added size in its backcourt. Vaughn, listed at 6-1, comes off a season in which he averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 assists in 19.8 minutes per game as Stockton's primary backup.

"With Emanual Davis and Jacque, it gives us two completely different types of point guards, and really improves our versatility in how we will play," Hawks president and general manager Pete Babcock said in a statement issued by the team. "Jacque possesses tremendous speed and quickness, along with great character and work ethic. It really gives us a nice combination of players to run the point.

"We can turn to Jacque to push the ball," Babcock added, "and when we need more size on the court, Emanual adds that element."

Terms of Atlanta's deal with Vaughn, who re-signed with the Jazz last summer only after former Stockton backup Howard Eisley left for Dallas, were not disclosed.

Utah, meanwhile, intends to go into its October training camp with veteran John Crotty as the backup to Stockton, who recently told Jazz owner Larry H. Miller he plans to re-sign some time in September.

Miller has indicated the team no longer intends to carry three point guards, as it has in the past, though free agent Rusty LaRue, a former Chicago Bull who played in Russia last season, seemingly showed well enough during the just-completed Rocky Mountain Revue summer league to earn an invitation to camp in the fall.

Vaughn's departure leaves the Jazz with three free agents who played in Utah last season but have not yet signed elsewhere: starting center Olden Polynice, who opted out of the final year of his contract; reserve forward-center Danny Manning, whom the Jazz would like to re-sign if he cannot find a more lucrative deal elsewhere; and reserve forward David Benoit, who is not expected to re-sign with the Jazz.

Manning, who also opted out of the final season of his contract with the Jazz, reportedly is receiving new-found interest from the Dallas Mavericks.

E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com