As the 2006-07 NBA season officially opens today with media day, the Hornets enter training camp with a much more proven roster and far fewer questions than this time a year ago. The team's only question mark appears to be Marcus Vinicius, this year's second-round pick out of Brazil. Who is he? What can he do? Can he contribute? Vinicius finally signed with the Hornets on Sunday. Listen to how the Hornets' brass talks up the 22-year-old small forward's shooting ability, and you can't help but think he has the potential to compete for playing time from Day 1. When Hornets coach Byron Scott and general manager Jeff Bower talk about Vinicius, they describe a player who is equally adept at slashing to the rim as stroking 3-pointers. They talk about a 6-foot-9, 220-pound player who is talented enough to create his own shot and one with enough basketball savvy to be a quick study in his first NBA season. "It's no doubt in my mind that the kid has skills," Scott said. "What we saw in those (pre-draft) workouts was no fluke." But then they temper expectations. "He's in the developmental stages," Bower said. "His first year in the league will obviously be a big adjustment and change from what he's used to. But we look at him down the road as a player that could develop." How much development he needs is the question. He averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 assists in 35 minutes per game for his Brazil club team. But how does that translate here? Is he polished enough to average 10 to 15 minutes, or is he a Developmental-League sized project? "That's too early to say," Scott said. "I have no idea about Marcus as far as being a rotation player this year. I think when we made him our second-round pick we were looking forward to the future and not so much this year. But maybe in a year or so he could really step in." Or, as Scott pointed out, his development could exceed everyone's expectations under the tutelage of Peja Stojakovic and Desmond Mason. Still, he has to show enough to warrant minutes over not only those two, but Rasual Butler and Linton Johnson as well. More than challenging. Scott has a solid nine-man rotation already in place before you even mention the names Vinicius or fellow rookies Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons or free agent signee Jannero Pargo. That said, don't be surprised if we hear little from Vinicius this season. Trips to Tulsa aside.
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Marcus Vinicius takes a break after a pre-draft workouts for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets at Transformation Fitness Center on June 1 in Edmond. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN