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June 27, 2012

Kidd-Gilchrist plays waiting game as NBA Draft nears

NEW YORK - He spent a season at Kentucky largely unaffected by the big stage, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will admit that right now, he's feeling the weight of a moment.

On Thursday night, NBA Commissioner David Stern will call Kidd-Gilchrist's name, and he'll stroll across the stage as a newly-drafted professional basketball player - one of six Wildcats expected to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"My life is tomorrow," Kidd-Gilchrist said Wednesday at a pre-Draft media opportunity at the Westin Times Square. "I think my life is tomorrow, and my dream, my dream as a kid."

It's a little easier on UK teammate Anthony Davis, but only a little, if you believe Davis, the presumptive No. 1 pick in Thursday's Draft.

He's playing along with the New Orleans Hornets, who own that top pick and are required to maintain some semblance of false mystery about it. So when a reporter asked Davis Thursday about the lack of suspense in his destination, the 6-foot-10 shot-swatter smiled and said, "How you know? You got a scoop? Let me know something."

Even with a virtual guarantee that he'll be selected first overall, Davis admits nerves.

"I won't lie," Davis said. "I probably won't go to sleep tonight."

He's probably in for a long Thursday, too, when he and his former UK teammates will have plenty to celebrate. Kidd-Gilchrist plans a post-draft celebration in New York City - he's busing in more than 100 friends, family and former classmates from St. Patrick, the Elizabeth, N.J., high school he attended - and five other teammates should have reason for revelry.

Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist will be off the board early. Forward Terrence Jones - who was not invited to the Green Room but is expected to attend the draft Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. - could be among the 14 lottery picks, and point guard Marquis Teague also is a projected first-round pick. Shooting guard Doron Lamb and swingman Darius Miller are likely second-round picks.

Only Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist will be invited guests on Thursday night, and there's precious little suspense for Davis, no matter how much he or the Hornets might suggest otherwise.

Though he deflected questions that assumed he's New Orleans-bound, Davis sounded on Wednesday like a player who's accepted his destination - and his new role as the savior of a down-on-its luck franchise that went 21-45 in a lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.

"Great city," said Davis, who was named Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four in New Orleans in April after leading Kentucky to an NCAA title. "Great coaching staff. Great organization. I just want to go in there and do the best I can. It's going to be rebuilding, but it's just a mental thing to see how your mental toughness is. You're going to be on a team that's trying to rebuild and might not win a lot of games, but in a few years (it could improve)."

Davis shook off the suggestion that he's an immediate game-changer for the franchise, saying he doesn't necessarily expect to make an immediate impact as a rookie.

"I know I have a lot of work to do," Davis said. "Guys have been in the league way longer than me. This is their job. This is what they do. If I do have an impact, that's awesome."

But at least Davis is virtually certain of where he'll be attempting to have that impact. There's much less certainty for Kidd-Gilchrist, who has worked out with the top four teams in the draft. Though he canceled a workout with the Sacramento Kings, who draft fifth, he admits he has "no clue" whether he'll be drafted in the first four picks.

"It's a hard feeling for me, because high school I got to pick (where to play) and in college I got to pick, too," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "It's going to be real hard for me. I don't know where I'm going to go, and I want to know, like, now."

Kidd-Gilchrist's stock seems to have fluctuated over the course of the week leading up to the draft - he's been projected everywhere from second to seventh - but Kentucky coach John Calipari, who plans to attend the draft, cautioned teams against steering clear.

"He will be the face of some organization in the next three to four years," Calipari said Tuesday on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, "and if people pass on him, he's one of those guys you pass on and look back and go, 'Oh my gosh, we passed on him?'"

There's a group of players who could fall an a wide range of prospective orders after Davis is picked first, and Kidd-Gilchrist said he's unsure where he fits in a group that also includes Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Florida's Brad Beal and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, among others.

"I don't really know what's going to happen tomorrow," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "But I'm going to get drafted, so that's good."

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