CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets prepared for th Washington Bullets yesterday, but they talked about another team: Nevada-Las Vegas.
Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said on ESPN Sunday that he believes UNLV could compete strongly with the Hornets. Pitino, former coach of the New York Knicks, went so far as to spell out matchups if the two teams played. The Hornets didn't know whether to laugh or be insulted, but they were confident that it was ridiculous to think any college team could beat them.
"He wouldn't want to bet on that," said Hornets forward Kenny Gattison, when told of Pitino's statement.
The Hornets, who play the Bullets tonight at the Charlotte Coliseum, seemed particularly ticked that Pitino singled them out, actually talking of matchups player by player. Was Johnny Newman surprised, particularly considering he once played for Pitino in New York?
"No," Newman said, rolling his eyes as he walked to the locker room. The implication was clear. Newman thought Pitino's contention was ludicrous.
Hornets rookie guard Kendall Gill specified just how ludicrous.
"If my 1989 team at Illinois was still together from when I was a junior -- we could have beaten UNLV," said Gill. "Me and Steve Bardo in the backcourt, Nick Anderson against Stacey Augmon, we'd give 'em a game.
"You guys know the pros is a whole different level. Rex [Chapman] and me against Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt? Come on. Newman against Augmon? And J.R. [Reid] against Larry Johnson? Johnson could be a great player in a couple of years, but think of all J.R. knows [from two years in the NBA]."
Gill was told that Pitino hadn't mentioned Gill, implying Bogues was still the starter at point guard.
"Shows how much he knows -- he doesn't know who starts here," Gill said. "He's just lucky he didn't mention my name."
Hornets vice president Allan Bristow took a more diplomatic stance. He thought the discussion was so hypothetical it served no purpose.
"It's not going to happen, so it's just barbershop discussion," said Bristow. "It just drags one down to pull the other one up."