Gugliotta looks like good fit Bullets' rookie forward displays his versatility


BOWIE -- For rookie forward Tom Gugliotta, yesterday's initial three-hour practice with the Washington Bullets was a cram course in catching up with coach Wes Unseld's offense, meeting his new teammates and finishing the long day by completing the required 1 1/2 -mile run.

For general manager John Nash, yesterday served as a refresher course.

"It's been so long since the last time I watched Tom play, I forgot why I liked him so much in the first place," Nash said.

"He did a good job of rekindling my memory. It's only a first practice, but, in a lot of ways, Tom reminds me of [Indiana Pacers sixth man] Detlef Schrempf. He's very versatile for a guy 6 feet 10."

There was much to like about the way the former North Carolina State star performed in his Bullets debut, particularly the way he endured Unseld's Marine-style endurance test after missing the first two weeks of practice while negotiating his seven-year, $17.5 million contract.

"I was really encouraged by his condition," said Nash, who made Gugliotta the sixth selection in the 1992 NBA draft. "You could see he was ready to compete."

But the positive vibes he emitted in the Bowie State gym went far beyond his conditioning. When Unseld spiced his lengthy workout with a controlled scrimmage, Gugliotta exhibited a wide range of skills.

Showing his potential to play small and power forward, Gugliotta launched feathery jumpers, filled the lanes on the break, drove aggressively to the basket and found the open man with a well-timed pass.

Defensively, he contested center Pervis Ellison for position and initiated switches to dissuade guards from cutting to the basket.

"He's got skills, that's obvious," said Unseld.

Assistant coach Bill Blair said: "Tom is quicker than I thought he was. He also showed me he can put the ball on the floor and take it to the hole."

Gugliotta also quickly grasped the Bullets' basic plays.

"I was teaching him plays for two different positions, and he picked it up fast," said Blair.

Catching his breath after practice, Gugliotta said: "Obviously, I'm a little bit behind the rest of the guys here mentally and physically. But everyone here made me feel welcome, and the other players were patient in explaining the plays."

But Gugliotta, who averaged 22.5 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Wolfpack in his senior season, looked extremely comfortable working in Unseld's motion offense, which stresses constant movement with and without the ball.

"I enjoy playing this upbeat style, looking to take whatever the defense gives you," he said. "I just have to get my game under control."

Gugliotta will have to continue his learning process mainly in games. The Bullets play the Milwaukee Bucks in Lexington, Ky., tonight, the start of an 11-day trip that includes five other preseason games.

With fellow rookie forward Don MacLean, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers last week in the swap for John Williams, Gugliotta adds outside shooting to the Bullets' offense.

"With these two new guys, I may just have to revamp some of my thinking," said Unseld.

The additions apparently have created a positive atmosphere in the locker room.

"I liked what I saw of Gugliotta today, and also what Brent Price and Don MacLean have shown so far," said Ellison. "Now, we can put five guys on the floor together who can all shoot the ball and give the defense something to think about."

"I definitely think we'll be better, but whether that will equate into enough wins to make the playoffs is another question. But we can't put too much pressure on the rookies. It's up to the four veterans -- myself, Harvey Grant, Michael Adams and Rex Chapman -- to lead by example."

NOTES: G LaBradford Smith (hamstring) and G Price (groin pull) did not begin the exhibition swing, but were expected to rejoin the team shortly. This will afford Unseld a longer look at free-agent G Tom Garrick, who has been impressive at the point. Because of 12 players with guaranteed contracts, it probably will take a trade or injury to open a roster spot for Garrick.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad