Gugliotta will have pack of fans for Raleigh return

Washington Bullets forward Tom Gugliotta found out about his homecoming game about 2 1/2 months ago when Chuck Douglas, the team's assistant general manager and preseason schedule-maker, asked if he wanted to play in Raleigh, N.C.

"Of course, I said sure," the former North Carolina State star said.


So tonight Gugliotta will get to show the home fans how he has made the transition to the NBA when the Bullets play the Milwaukee Bucks at Reynolds Coliseum, his home court for four years with the Wolfpack.

"I've been really looking forward to this game," the 6-foot-10 forward said last week. "I'll have a lot of friends coming out to the game, so it'll be pretty exciting."


They should be pretty excited after Gugliotta's rookie season last year, in which he averaged 14.7 points and a team-high 9.6 rebounds on the way to being named to the NBA's first team All-Rookie squad.

That, coming after a four-year career at North Carolina State where, as a senior, he finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (22.5) and first in the league in rebounding (9.8) and three-pointers per game (3.1).

Exactly what position Gugliotta will play tonight will depend on who's healthy for the banged-up Bullets.

After Gugliotta played a season at power forward, Bullets coach Wes Unseld was hoping to use him at small forward this year to exploit his size advantage on the smaller players at that position.

But at times this preseason, Gugliotta has been the only legitimate power forward on the team (6-foot-8 free agent Kenny Walker has played some minutes there, too).

With Don MacLean, who missed four preseason games with a strained abdominal muscle, back with the team Gugliotta may get a chance to play more minutes at small forward tonight.

"I think he's made a good adjustment," Unseld said about Gugliotta's change in position. "I still think watching him after five games he's going to have to play a little more [power forward] for us. We have a choice as to where we can play him."

As Unseld plays his regulars more and more with the regular season approaching, Gugliotta's numbers are getting better and better.


Last Sunday against Philadelphia, Gugliotta scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. He followed that on Tuesday with a 14-point, 16-rebound effort in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I feel comfortable playing either position," said Gugliotta, who has an off-season home in Raleigh where he takes summer classes at N.C. State. "I'll just play where I'm needed."

NOTES: Tonight's game is the only one designated as a home game on Washington's preseason schedule. By the end of the eight-game preseason, the Bullets will have played just one preseason game in an NBA arena. . . . With Tuesday's one-point loss to the Lakers, four of Washington's six preseason defeats have come by six or fewer points. . . . After missing a game last week with a bruised knee, Rex Chapman has come back to average 22 points in his past three preseason games. He scored 26 against the Lakers. . . . After tonight the Bullets will conclude their preseason schedule on Saturday when they play the Chicago Bulls in Memphis, Tenn.